The One Phrase That Completely Invalidates My Struggle With Mental Illness


I’ve heard this phrase all my life. When I’d be young and hungry and complain that I was starving and kick up a huge fuss, and my mum would say “Some people have it worse, you
know.”

Of course, she was right. I wasn’t starving. Actually, I’d barely be hungry, I’d just say I was hungry so I could try to score a snack before meals. I never even paid much attention to the phrase until my teens when I was diagnosed with depression.

For a few years I understood; I struggled badly with depression, yet I still had a roof over my head, food every day, and wonderful friends and family, whereas (and pardon the cliché) for example, children in both under-developed and developed countries would struggle to have even one of the things I just mentioned.

It’s true that we often take our lives for granted. I believe that’s human nature. We have to consciously stop and think about our lives, and be so grateful for as much or as little as we have. For a few years, the phrase “some people have it worse” became a kind of mantra to me to make me think about what I should be appreciative of.

However, I am the first to admit I’ve become a bitter person. My depression is coming up to the 10 year mark, anxiety still takes a toll on me, and I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of years back. Anyone with even one of these conditions will tell you it’s not easy. Life is hard, and it is draining. That is why we are warriors.

Some people can make it through and still be amazing and positive, and I admire those people so much. I feel like my mental health battle, and now my fight with fibromyalgia, has drained me too much to stay positive; and most of the time I offer quite a bitter outlook on life. Soon after this change had taken place, I heard the phrase again.

“Some people have it worse than you.”

I started seething. Yes, I know some people have it worse, but that doesn’t mean I should feel invalidated. And I do. If I hear those words, I feel such a wave of crushing emptiness wash over me. It’s hard to explain the feeling of invalidation, but it is so disheartening that it’s impossible to forget.

I also think, if the concept exists that we shouldn’t feel down because someone always has it worse, then shouldn’t we stop ourselves from feeling too happy because someone else has it better?

Nobody can stop me from feeling the way I feel. I’ve been through nearly everything to try – medication, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – so an appalling, invalidating phrase is not going to do it for me. I understand people may think they’re trying to lift spirits by saying these words to someone who is struggling, and I’m glad those kind of people exist. But the stigma for mental health needs to be removed, and pointing out that we don’t have it as bad as other people is not the way forward.

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Unsplash image via Sharon McCutcheon


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