When People Try to Comfort You by Saying Others Are ‘Worse Off’


Recently, in the midst of a nasty flare-up of my Crohn’s disease, someone said (by way of offering comfort) I should remember “there is always someone worse off than you.”

Maybe surprisingly, I don’t take that as a comfort.

I’m always slightly baffled by the phrase itself and the insinuations that go along with it, if I’m honest.

Personally, I know that when I’m ill, I try to remind myself there are people out there suffering much more than me, not because it makes me feel better about myself, in a smug competitive suffering sort of way, but because it brings home how lucky I am to only have Crohn’s and not something much worse — something I struggle with, but something I can, for the most part, manage.

I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would relish the prospect of another human being enduring more pain and suffering than them just because it makes them feel better about what they themselves are going through. It’s just childish in my eyes. It reminds me of the playground and how petty arguments were started because one pupil had a better pencil sharpener than another (Side note: I was the Stationery Queen so I didn’t need to play those games).

There appears to be a strange class system in the world of chronic illness.

Some people seem to take a perverse delight in telling you how much time they have spent in the hospital, or how many surgeries or procedures they’ve had to endure. Like a warped game of Top Trumps where really there are no winners.

Of course, although this attitude is common, thankfully I’ve encountered more of the other end of the spectrum; where people just want to help, advise and care for others, not pummel them into submission with their woes until they submit and admit you are indeed the sickest person in the room. “I see your flare-up and raise you a bowel obstruction!” Congrats!

Ideally, if I could, I’d love to follow in Michael Jackson’s footsteps and heal the world, make it a better place, etc. But in reality all I can take are minuscule steps to try and help people understand that we are all in it together. I know that people look at me and often think “Thank God I don’t have that.” But I also know that some are filled with a bizarre envy, seemingly under some false pretense that as Crohn’s patients we get special treatment.

There are no immediate “benefits” to living with chronic illness, no red carpet at the hospital door and no gold credit card for the vending machines. We might be back and forward to doctors and consultants more often than most, but that’s because we need to ensure we manage our illnesses as effectively as we can. It’s exhausting. It’s not mentioned to get time off work, sickly brownie points or even worse, pity, because that is the last thing we want.

Most of us want to live as normal a life as possible, under abnormal circumstances.

If you are reading this and in disagreement with everything I’ve written then you are wrong. I jest of course, but I do feel it’s possible that you need to take a look at your attitude towards your condition before it overwhelms everything else in your life. Try to look at the world as a place where we try to lend a hand to someone in need, not show them how your hand is in much worse condition than theirs.

Trump them with kindness instead.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.