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When We Stop Comparing Our Lives With Chronic Illness to Others

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Why is it that we feel this innate need to compare, to compete with everyone around us?

I am better than you because… My life is worse than yours because… My job makes me more important than you because… My health is worse than yours…. You have no idea what I’m going through because…

Why can’t we all just people? People who have hard s*** happen.

A bunch of hard s*** has happened to me.  My whole life has basically been a whole life of nothing but s***, yet here I sit, still alive, still doing my best.

With my hemiplegic migraines (along with all of the other types of intractable migraines I get), people will often tell me, “I have a headache, but of course it doesn’t compare to what you go through so I shouldn’t complain.”

What makes your pain less than mine?

You hurt.

I hurt.

We all suffer. We all have victories, big and small. A victory for a spoonie one day might be making it to the couch, while for a neurotypical person it could be making it through a 12 hour nursing shift that was hell.

Either way, we all have our battles, our struggles, our pain.  Chronically ill, mentally ill, healthy… It doesn’t matter. We all experience life’s hardships.

The other day I went in to the walk-in clinic for some x-rays.  As I checking in, I started going all stroke–migraine like, and it freaked a lot of the nurses out. By the time I walked out of there, I was back to myself.

There is a particular medical assistant there I can never quite read.  He’s a big tough guy, he works out a lot and just seems super hard and uncaring.

As I walked out, I said my goodbyes (they all know me well there), so I said goodbye to him too.  He said something of the lines of look at you, walking out of here like nothing happened. I replied something flippant along the lines of “you know me, I’m a miracle.”

He stopped, he turned around, and he said, “Believe me, Caitlyn.  We all know you are a miracle.”

I’ve been thinking about that for days now.  Tonight, at 12:30 am while I sit in the dark, I find myself drifting back to that comment.

And you know what, I am a freaking miracle.

You put anyone else in my body, my life, and they would not survive.  I’m like a cat with nine lives, never giving up, never giving in.

Right now I’m worried about my neurologist appointment tomorrow where I will find out if I am having seizures.

I’ve been on disability for almost three years now.

And in those three years, I’ve done amazing things — things that would have never been possible if I wasn’t disabled.

I’ve learned about service dogs.

I’ve written (and worked!) for The Mighty.

I’ve been published on Huffington Post and Upworthy.

I became a LuLaRoe Consultant. I now have a thriving business.

I’m not saying this as some kind of inspiration porn, some kind of “look at her and all of her challenges and how far she has come.”

I’m writing this because it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what you’ve done, what we have had to overcome, what our struggles and burdens are.

We all have them.  I have a lot.  You might have one or two.

In a psychology class I once took I heard the most powerful statement —“We have all had as much as we can handle.”

And I believe that’s true. We all have exactly as much as we can handle, and sometimes more things get piled on, but that’s when you dig deep and find your Inner Warrior and you press on.

Because if you are reading this, anyone who is reading this — We all have the most important thing in common.

We have not given up.

We fight.

We are survivors.

We all have as much as we can handle, and we do our best.

Sometimes Life wins; some days we win.

But as long as we do our best, I believe we will always win the war. It’s not the hours or the days that matter, it’s the life we lead. It’s being a good person. It’s putting good in the world even when you don’t think you have anything to give — a smile, a kind word. It’s carrying on despite the struggle. It’s realizing that we are all on equal footing and that we all have struggles, and no one is better or worse than anyone else. No one’s struggle is more or less, no one’s success is more or less. Some of the people with the happiest Facebook posts lead the most terrible lives. Don’t compare your behind the scenes to their highlight reel.

Be a good person.  Put as much good as you can into the world. Find your Inner Warrior. Don’t give up — be positive and confident.  Be empathetic, not judgmental.

That’s how I’ve come to believe we all have as much as we can handle.

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Thinkstock photo by Splendens. 

Originally published: August 1, 2017
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