There is always a temptation to make comparisons between your own situation and the situations that others are living in. Sometimes, it can be a jealousy or envy about someone else’s life. And it doesn’t just have to be about money, either. You can look at someone else’s life and wonder why they have what you want to have — whether it is a loving relationship, financial security or simply a slightly better situation than your own.
Other times it can be you (or other people) comparing your struggles with theirs. Just like the jealousy of someone, this is a toxic attitude to have.
My issues are just that — mine. It is unfair and unjust of me to say that my struggles are either worse than someone else’s or that someone has it worse than I do.
And the temptation to tell someone that they should just “try harder” because someone else has worse struggles than theirs is a not just toxic. It is bullshit. And it often makes the struggle worse, because the person struggling becomes overwhelmed with the need to “push harder” or “overcome the obstacles” before they are truly ready to do so.
I’ve actually had a few people tell me that I am just being lazy, that I need to push myself and “get back on the horse” about work. Because much of the issue relating to my ability to work has to do with emotional struggles (my depression and my anxiety), I should simply take my medicine and “act like a responsible adult.”
We have such an unhealthy attitude about mental illnesses. And worse, if there is an additional set of issues, we get told to just “take a pill” and “exercise more.” Adding physical issues that are difficult to pin down as to a cause or a cure (if there is one at all) such as fibromyalgia or chronic pain makes working with the mental illness extremely hard.
But again, I’m not saying that my combined physical and mental issues are worse than anyone else’s. Are there people out there who have it more difficult than I do? Oh, hell yes. But that doesn’t mean my issues are somehow “easy” to deal with.
I realized in late 2015 that I could no longer work in the industry I was previously working. What I did not realize until more recently (in the last month or two) just how much ability I had lost. I believe I said something about that in one of my recent posts, but I will repeat it here.
Up until late 2014, I was able to complete small, brochureware websites (5-10 pages, including usually at least one HTML form) within a 2 week period. More in-depth websites could take up to a month at maximum. My last website (with a total of 12 pages, including two HTML forms), however, was started in May of 2015 (negotiations took approximately 2 months to drill down to what was needed), but was not completed until October 2015. If I had been at my previous ability, that website should have been completed by the end of June. Essentially, I am working at approximately 9% of my “premorbid capacity.”
As much as the neuropsychologist’s tests proved that my worst cognitive impairment was related to memory, the fact is that we humans use our memory for more than just a virtual photo album. We use memory when we learn new concepts. We use memory to make sure we’re not repeating work that has already been done. We use memory to “connect the dots” when we are troubleshooting problems.
I’m working to retain my knowledge, by doing some minimal coding (primarily on this blog). I am attempting to keep up with the changes in my industry, since web design/development is constantly evolving. But, while my comprehension of the information is still good, my retention of what I have learned sucks.
But I’m trying. And to have someone else assume they know better than myself about how difficult things are for me, makes me quite angry. They aren’t living my life. They aren’t around me 24/7. Hell, even though my sister and I check in with each other, she only knows what I am struggling with if I communicate it to her.
Oh, she can do things like evaluate how much sleeping I am doing. And, honestly, there are more days that I need a 4 hour nap than days without it. When you work for a living, you can’t walk into your boss’ office and say, “hey, I’m going to go take a 4 hour nap.”
Even when I don’t need a nap, my endurance sucks. My energy levels fluctuate wildly. How much of that is due to the chronic pain and how much is due to my mental issues I have no idea. What I do know is what I am capable of in the moment.
I’ve done the “acting like a responsible adult” thing. I’ve pushed myself too hard and put my nose to the grindstone. This is actually the first time I have allowed my own body to tell me what I am capable at any given moment.
Do I want to be able to do more? Of course, I do. And I even have days when that little voice in the back of my head tells me I’m just being lazy. But if I actually want to completely recover as much as I possibly can, I need to take as much time as my body and mind needs to do so. But every time I push too hard, my body tells me — either by ramping up my pain levels or by popping up with other symptoms.
So, no. You don’t get to tell me that I am just being lazy. You don’t get to tell me other people have it worse, and are doing more than I am. You’re not living my life. And I am not living the life of somone else who may have more capacity than I do at the moment, even if they have “more difficult obstacles.”