“I’M FINE” IS CHRONIC PAIN CODE FOR
I FEEL AS BAD AS USUAL, BUT DON’T
WANT TO UPSET OR BURDEN YOU…
I’M TRYING TO MAKE MY
LIFE AS NORMAL AS POSSIBLE,
WHILE KNOWING THAT I’M NOT “UP TO IT”…
I NEED TO REST, BUT I AM PRESSING ON
BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO DISAPPOINT
OR ANGER ANYONE…
I FEEL LIKE A BURDEN AND SELFISH IF I
TAKE CARE OF MYSELF AS I NEED…
by Patti Hiscoe Battle
I used to resent this requirement of those who deal with chronic ailments. In fact, I used to get furious when I had to protect others from my suffering. Then I slowly began to understand that most people cannot handle seeing those they love suffer. Sure, there are the shallow, self-centered people out there who never really care how you are feeling when they ask but there is a handful of people who do care, very much. Now, those are the only people I want to protect from seeing the full force of my suffering. I do not want them to feel bad or sad about something they cannot do anything about. These handful of wonderful people would trade places with me if they could, even though I would never permit it even if it were an option, I know it pains their heart and soul to see me suffer. Now, when people ask how I am feeling, I categorize my thinking into three veins. One is for those who could stand there watching an artery bleed out on you and not offer a band-aid, (unfeeling, morons), those who are just simply ignorant of your ailment (mean well but haven’t a clue), and those who care very much how we are doing. The first two groups are usually satisfied and grateful for the answer of “fine” when asked, and we wouldn’t want to go into detail with any of the three groups for our own well-being. Hearing yourself say what you are dealing and coping with come out of your own mouth can be very depressing.
The final group, the one I care about just as much as they care about me, already know that when I say, “fine”, that I am lying but that is all I can offer them. I will protect them from this ailment with every ounce of strength I have left in me because I have found it is harder to be the witness of suffering than it is to be the bearer. Only people who suffer chronically or who have borne witness to a loved one decay and be vexed by increasing pain will understand the truth of this statement. It only matters what is going through my mind when I give the answer, “fine” to whomever is asking because it is how much I love the other person and strongly desire to protect that person that motivates my answer. Hence, one time I will give the answer with dismissive disdain and another it will be filled with love and a silent plea not to push further.
Disease, any disease, is suffering. There is not one worse than another even though we insist on saying, “but you have it a lot worse off than I do”, which is ridiculous. Suffering is a direct result of a broken creation and we are all bearing the price so try not to make the walk of another any more difficult than they are already experiencing. Ask in deep compassion but do not push the person beyond what they can share. A fine balance and an intense ability to read another person is required. If you do not possess this unique set of skills, then offer a smile, a nod and keep walking because faking that you care is a knife to the soul.