“I have a migraine. It sucks so much.”
“Oh yeah? I have migraines Chronically and it sucks more.”
“Yeah? I have migraines 24/7 and it sucks the most-est.”
“Yeah? I have migraines 24/7 with a literal icepick in my head.”
“Oh really? I have migraines 24’7 with a literal icepick in my head that is currently being hammered in by someone.”
“I have it worse than that. I also have all that, coincidently. These icepick hammerers have to stop! BUT I also have fibromyalgia. So I win.”
“I have all of that and I broke every bone in my body. So clearly I win. Am I winning here? Doesn’t feel like winning.”
“I don’t know… I have all of that and Blisters on my Fingertips!”
Okay the pain game doesn’t get that ludicrous but it isn’t a good game to play, is it? Does my sucky pain suck any less for the fact that someone else may have pain that sucks more? No, no it does not. Still, have to cope with it somehow. Still, have to deal with it. I can relate to anyone’s experience of pain. And I can greatly empathize with those that suffer more than I do, which of course there are people out there that Do. But one-upping isn’t a fun game to play. You don’t want to minimize someone else’s experience of pain. Or illness.
You just cannot go around telling people with an illness or pain they have it Good because you have it Worse. We know, logically, people do have it worse. But this isn’t a game you want to win, now is it? Who has to endure more suffering? Yeah, not a game I aim to win anytime soon. How do you even know that you have it Worse? There are times I cope better than other times. No matter when in my health history I was in, there were times when I coped quite well and times I coped poorly. When I am coping poorly I am really suffering. I am really struggling. It doesn’t matter what level of pain I am in… I am struggling with Living with it. That is what I needed help with. Not someone saying, well, lucky you, you don’t have such and such or the level of suffering I have. Gee, thanks, that makes the hell I am in so much better?
Our experience isn’t invalidated because someone in the world is worse off. And I know we would be rightfully angry if someone told us ‘I know it is bad for you, but there are people who have it worse.’
So please remember when you talk to people in the chronic illness community try not to play the Pain Game. This isn’t a game of who suffers more. It is a community of people trying their very best to cope with the suffering they have and hopefully providing support to others so they can cope the best they can with a situation that sucks for All of us. Maybe we all can be construed as doing this sometimes. Sometimes we want to show that we can relate to their situation, but may come off as this accidently. And that can be forgiven. We do have core relatable experiences we want to convey. But you will recognize the Game when you see it. Someone mentions exercise for treatment, for example, and asks for recommendations to help her to do so or suggestions for types of exercise to engage in, someone else immediately responds ‘If you had pain like me, you wouldn’t even be able to handle exercise.’ Not helpful. Off-topic. Minimizing the other person’s pain. Not cool.
I get where it stems from though. We get immensely frustrated with our own suffering and we feel the need to express it, but we should remember to do so without minimizing the suffering or experiences of others. If someone is having a bad day, it is fine to also say ‘You know what? I too am having a day of suck when it comes to pain and illness.’ and even explain the suck. Just avoid the Comparison. Remember we Are in the same game, just different levels. Same hell, just different devils.
This applies to all chronic illnesses by the way. In every form. You can see the Game. Just remember illness affects us all. And we all have to cope with our illness.