Chronically Comparing

Sometimes I get really, really depressed. It’s not because of my bipolar, or because of the many chronic issues I have, it’s because I went to Face Book or Instagram and I scroll through all the happy pictures of all the amazing things that friends and strangers are doing. My Twitter still remains relatively untouched by these things because my Twitter is comprised of about 95% those dealing with chronic issues. But I still have to navigate other social media and I find that many times, when I am finished, I feel hollow. I feel as though life has really dealt me a pretty crappy deck of cards and I lose the optimism I try to have and start wallowing in why-me? Worse, I start comparing. Comparing my life to my friends and strangers and punching myself in the gut because I feel like my family is really getting gypped.

Example: A friend of mine recently went to Antigua with her family. They posted dozens of happy, beach photos with smiling faces, holding enormous drinks and my heart sank. Traveling is by far, the most difficult thing for me to do. So much so that it is something we only venture to do once or twice a year. I am already panicking over a trip to Virginia to visit my sister-in-law over the Thanksgiving break. About a thousand what-ifs start circling my brain like rabid vultures, eagerly trying to sabotage my trip. Even the most seasoned of us warriors can only prepare for so much and as my husband would comfortingly try to advise me, “You can’t worry about things you can’t control,” but I still try. You don’t want to be the one that says, “Pull over…” You don’t want to inconvenience your sister-in-law who is going to have a house full of guests with your sucky issues. You don’t want to be the “needy one.”

It’s easy to get drawn into comparing your life to someone else’s. I do it and I’m sure more than a few of us do it too. In fact, even those of us without chronic illness and pain can get drawn into it so don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, try to focus your attention on that which is good in your life and the strides and headways you have made. My friend may have gone to Antigua with her family, but I spent a wonderful weekend with my husband in San Antonio, that was completely spur of the moment. We didn’t sight-see, and spent a lot of time in the room, but you know what? It was GREAT! Also, put in perspective that what see on Face Book and Instagram is not all it’s cracked up to be. I recently wrote about what we hide on social media and that fits in here as well. Social Media is like an eternal first date. We’re always putting up our best smiling photos, our achievements and all our fantastic first-times. We don’t ever see pictures of our friend’s holiday with cranky, crying kids in the photos. We don’t see the four-hour car ride where one kid is crying, the other one is sick and mom and dad are exhausted.

Sometimes the comparison making is a little more insidious and we may not be as aware we are doing. For instance, several of my friends are in tip-top shape even after two or more kids. I click on post after post of how they’re keeping in shape: kick boxing, running 5k’s and the almost religious experience of- CrossFit. My idea of a 5k is scrambling to 2-3 doctor appointments in one day, after which I am exhausted. CrossFit is going to the grocery store and zig-zagging back and forth, isle after isle because I forgot something and probably will still have forgotten something when I get back home where part two of CrossFit is putting groceries away. But instead of sitting there thinking “Why me?” Which I have no shame in confessing I have done and probably will still do- think about what you do accomplish in the course of a day and week and be proud. You have to remind yourself that what you see on social media is only part of things, the things people want you to see. We all have our struggles and some might not be visible.

The last thing is more complicated. I don’t think anyone should compare what they have or what they have accomplished to someone else. We are all unique and we all have had to over come our own unique struggles. It is unfair to compare yourself and I think it takes something away from what you have accomplished if you’re suddenly comparing yourself to someone who did not have your life. I think it is even more important not to compare yourself to someone else when you are struggling with chronic illness/pain. I sometimes think people use comparison as some kind of bar for which they haven’t met when I think the bar should be set from within. For example, I used to compete in gymnastics and I used to run cross country. Though both were competitive sports, my sole focus was a better score than the last one in gymnastics, and a better time than the last one in running. The competition was always internal. So don’t worry about the things they can do just worry about the things you want to do and get there.

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