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Hearing People Talk About 2020 as Someone Who Was Already Housebound

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This year has been an interesting one. I’ve heard many people describe 2020 as hellish, a waste, a write-off, unbearable and other negative descriptors. For me, the pandemic hasn’t really affected my life that much. I was mostly housebound before the pandemic, with little social interaction; so all the restrictions haven’t changed my day-to-day. As a result, I haven’t felt the same negative feelings about this year that many others have.

The events this year have given most of the world a taste of what life is like for people in my position. It may not be exactly the same; they could still go out for walks, to the shops and they had the energy to do household jobs, but it did give people some insight into what the social isolation feels like. For many this has been tortuous and something they can’t wait to escape. I’ve honestly found it quite upsetting to hear people talk like this, as if the way my life looks is something terrible and intolerable.

When I find myself lacking empathy towards people for whom this is new, I have to cast my mind back to when I first got sick and remember how unbearable it all felt then. I couldn’t wait for my struggling to be over and to get back to my “normal” life. But as time went on and this didn’t happen, I learnt to adjust and to accept what was going on. Humans are very adaptable and over time we get used to all kinds of struggles. This is why this year didn’t feel so bad to me, whilst seeming awful to many others. My relative struggle was not significantly increased, whereas for those who’d been living active, social lifestyles, their struggle compared to previously was greatly increased, giving them a greater sense of unease.

It can be difficult for those whose absolute suffering may appear greater to find sympathy for those complaining about comparatively lesser problems, but it is important to remember that the way it feels for those people may be significant, and no amount of “thinking of those who have it worse than you” will make you feel better about your own situation. We can’t measure the suffering of others relative to our own, because it’s not; it’s only relative to their own experiences. Hardship is a very personal experience; one that different people feel in different ways, so it is impossible to truly judge the amount of suffering someone is going through.

We all need to nurture our empathy and listen to others rather than make our own decisions about what they are experiencing. Though perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for people to think a bit more before complaining loudly about things that many have been facing since long before the pandemic and for whom there is no end in sight.

Photo by Ardalan Hamedani on Unsplash

Originally published: December 29, 2020
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