People love to play the my-situation-is-harder-than-yours trump card, don’t they? Yesterday I was at a bed & breakfast while on my way to a professional conference. Forced to share a table with two other couples, we naturally entered into the obligatory small talk. When the conversation turned to children, I made a joke about how tiring it is to have small children and how I was looking forward to the “relaxation” of being away at a conference. One couple immediately chimed in: “Just wait till you have teenagers!”
If these weren’t nice, well-meaning people, I would’ve punched them in the face.
First of all, literally everyone who has had teenagers to whom I’ve ever expressed my sentiments about small children has said this exact same thing, so they deserved to be punched for being so damn predictable. But beyond that, wtf?! Why must you tell me that you’ve dealt with harder things than me, even if it’s true?
People do this with countless topics…tell them you can’t eat like you used to without regretting it, and they’ll say, “just wait till you turn 40, 50, 60…I’d bet money that even in retirement homes, the 90-year-olds are telling the 87-year-olds that they have no idea what they’re in for when they reach 90!
Conversations about mental health are no different…
Person 1: “I battle depression.”
Person 2: “Just be glad you don’t have OCD on top of it! What I would give to only deal with depression!”
Person 3: “Hmph! I’ve got 5 diagnoses and take 7 medications.”
Blah, Blah, Blah…it’s not a competition, people!
Last night as I was watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, there was a funny scene where one character was feeling sorry for himself, but checked himself because his girlfriend, the main character, is in prison. But then the guy’s friend jumped in and said something like, “So what?! We all still have the right to feel sorry for ourselves even if we’re not in prison!”
This was intended to be funny, but it’s similar to the point I’m making here: Everyone’s situation is their own, and when we insist on trumping others, we are diminishing their experiences and struggles. I’ve heard it said that pain is entirely subjective; there’s no way to measure someone else’s pain. If you say your pain is at level 10, there’s no way for me to examine how accurate you’re being. I have to trust your self-assessment.
For me, having small children has pushed my broken brain to the brink of suicidal depression. It seems like being overwhelmed and not having enough time to myself feeds my depression. Thus, 7 years of bad sleep, crying babies, temper tantrums, oops-I-spilled-my-tomato-soup-all-over-the-white-couch, and all the other non-stop crap that comes with little people has nearly done me in. Maybe for you, having small kids is invigorating and life-giving. Good for you! Have 20 kids and get your own reality show. That ain’t for me!
So, if you’d like to respond with your story, I promise to make this a forum where your story won’t be judged. You are who you are, and it’s both beautiful and painful in unique ways. Own it, and don’t let others tell you you’re being a sissy.