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Telling Me My Pain 'Could Be Worse' Only Makes Me Feel Worse

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“Well at least you aren’t dying.”

“It could be worse.”

“You can power through it.”

These phrases and ones alike, though spoken with good intent, make me feel like I’m being stabbed. Saying “you could have it worse” is the equivalent of saying, “You can’t be happy because someone has it better.” Who would ever say that? I doubt anyone.


Society celebrates happiness and belittles pain. We are instructed to remain positive. Smile. “Fake it till you make it.” In theory that’s sweet and I wish with my entirety it were that simple. The harsh reality is it’s just not that easy. And when many people express their pain, whether emotional or physical, they are shamed. Oftentimes brushed off only because pain is invisible to them.

If you know and truly love someone, their pain is not truly invisible. If you love someone with an “invisible illness,” I urge you to genuinely observe them. Do they wince with movement? Do they look pale or glassy-eyed? Has their tone of voice changed and does their smile seem forced?

Just because we don’t wear a meter that demonstrates how high our pain level is doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. It’s there and it’s real so please don’t tell me it could be worse when society already shames me for being me.

Of course it could be worse – it could always be worse. That doesn’t diminish the agony inside. That little phrase piles a mountain of guilt onto the person struggling. Empathy is vital when loving someone with an invisible ailment. So is merely listening – not listening to respond, but actually listening.

Most importantly, we need your love and understanding. The world, our bodies and our minds may drag us down enough. We will get up again, but sometimes all we ask is for your helping hand.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv.

Originally published: July 6, 2017
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