Words to Live by: ‘I Am Fine’

Words to Live by: ‘I Am Fine’
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“I am fine.” Three words I know as rote. I say them frequently and without hesitation. I utter them as much for others as I do for myself. My reality is too much for most. At times it is too much for me. This packaged response is almost expected. And that is OK.

Social norms are different for someone with chronic illness. I learned from a young age to hide behind packaged etiquette, conversing with a social grace far beyond my years. I felt the safety of idle chitchat. Little did I know this would become an art form.

What does it mean to be fine? It depends on the day, and at times, the hour. It means I am saving you from details that might make you uncomfortable. The persistent pain, sleepless nights, and exhausting dawns are my norms. Yet, they are impossible to understand. And I do not expect you to. I say I am fine because I have to be. I choose to be fine because I want to be. I pray to be fine — it sustains me.

I say I am fine because I am weary. I begin my fight from the moment I open my eyes. I harness precious energy and focus intently on tasks I once did without thought. I am holding onto “fine” in hopes it will someday be true. I can only control my reaction and thoughts. Hence, you can bet I will hold onto hope every chance I get. If my narrative is fine, then so too am I.

I am weary of being anything less than fine. To admit my truth would be to open a faucet that is so hard to shut. Almost immediately, the trickle of well-meaning platitudes begin. Clichés belong in hallmark cards. They can level someone with MS. I have been told I do not look sick. That they imagine everyone wishes to look as sick as I do. That tomorrow is a new day. That I should be grateful I am not worse. I understand these are said without malice. However, it is often easier to avoid hearing them altogether.

The faucet is just warming up. Given time, everyone is suddenly a neurologist, dietician, physical therapist, and psychiatrist. I am told how to heal myself then asked why I have not yet done so. This is incredibly defeating. I do not want to have MS. I listen to my doctor. I do what I am told. I eat the best I can and move as much as possible. I am told to beware of this medication or that because they know someone who died of MS. I would rather not hear of anyone dying due to MS. Shocker, I know.

Ultimately, I am somewhat private when it comes to my struggles. If my pain or insomnia is bad, or my disease is on the prowl, chances are you will not know.

And that is fine.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. She is also an active advocate in the MS community. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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7 comments

      • Patrick says:

        Thank you for sharing. It almost brought me to tears knowing someone else goes through this. Sometimes It comforting to know that you’re not alone.

  1. Stephanie Beck says:

    Thank you Jennifer for this article. I was diagnosed at 18 and now I’m getting ready to turn 50. I can no longer hide behind my ‘I am fine’ scenario because when people see me in my wheelchair that ‘oh how pitiful’ look immediately shows on their face. For years and years I played the ‘I am fine’ card day in and day out. I was one of the best actresses there’s ever been. I let no one see me having a bad day. At night I was so exhausted from playing and acting like all was well that I would crash as soon as I walked into my house. Nowadays I don’t have enough energy to get out that often much less the energy to get into my previous playing fine mindset. When asked about how I am doing I still answer “I’m fine” because I don’t have the energy to discuss otherwise and I’ve learned that people don’t really want to hear the truth to that question. They ask as more of an obligatory question not because they really care.
    Newly diagnosed MSer’s should be offered a class on how to answer everyone’s stupid questions or how to comment when all the sudden everyone becomes a neurologist, dietitian, pharmacist or physical therapist.
    Your article was so well written and it’s sad that it touches so many of us and how we all have to learn those three words just to be able to leave our homes.

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Dear Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time not only to read but respond. I am better for hearing your perspective.

      I think it would truly benefit so many newly diagnosed individuals if they had a ‘stock’ answer. As you well know our disease changes and so do the questions. We go from shielding others to saving ourselves. I wish we could just start with the latter. We deserve that much. Energy is a precious commodity and you know what? So are we!

      I’m grateful to be surrounded by people such as yourself who reach out with their truth. You touched my heart today. Here’s to this article being irrelevant one day🙏🏻

      With sincere gratitude
      Jenn

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