Lauren Berichon
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Competitive Pain

Pain Should Never Be a Competition

My arthritic Thumbs in their splints

Pain. Whether it’s emotional, mental or physical, pain has the ability to take over our entire existence. As one of the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain and a slew of other health issues I can tell you this: pain should never be a competition. It should be validated for the individual. But this is not the case. I’ve spent so much time reading comments on my social media from people who also struggle with their own health issues and pain. Instead of feeling validated from the pain I’ve expressed in a post, I am flooded with people talking about their own pain and how their own illnesses affect them. Suddenly my words are used to build others' cases and it becomes an unintentional competition. Just because we have different ailments doesn’t mean our pain is that much different — and no one will ever truly know or understand the pain one suffers. All you can do is validate it by saying, “I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. I am thinking of you.” In that comment I am not taking away from the pain the individual expressed and I’m not competing by stating all of my own pain issues that end up making the person feel unheard and frustrated. It isn’t a competition!  I don’t need to hear all about your constant pains and ailments when I am already attempting to handle my own heaviness. When someone starts listing all the pain and things they can’t to as a response to a post I become frustrated. The point of my post was never to feel like my pain is "nothing compared to what others feel," but that’s what happens. I understand people think if they relate to others by listing everything they suffer with themselves as a way to try to make me or others “not feel alone,” but it does exactly the opposite. It makes me feel like I will never be sick enough for the appropriate validation. It makes me feel like their pain is more important than my own. It makes me feel like they don’t understand despite how they say they do, because they are so wrapped up in their own type of pain. But pain is subjective. It manifests in too many ways to know the exact form of it. To me, pain is pain. And I will always validate it when someone expresses it to me by never bringing my own issues up. I simply accept their pain and offer comforting words. There’s no need for me to go into depth about all the pain I am currently enduring because that person can only handle their own pain in the moment and it’s not fair of me to put it onto them. I never want to make people feel like they haven’t been heard. That’s one of the worst feelings, and it happens way too often in this life full of chronic illness and chronic pain. We are often overlooked in the medical field, and doctors can treat us with such disrespect it’s appalling. Of course, these are my personal experiences, but I know I’m not alone. 

I just believe there should never have to be a competition when it comes to being ill or suffering from chronic pain. Each person has their own ailments that contributes to their own pain. Its not simple. In fact it’s very complicated considering the many layers and degrees of pain.  We need to accept each other’s pain with validating words instead of projecting our own pain into them thinking it’s a way to relate and that it’s helpful. Because it’s not helpful. It disregards everything they’ve taken the time to say. 

Pain is not a competition. It should never have to be. But we live in a world where it is. And it needs to change.