Saturday, March 26, 2016

Comparisons

I hate comparisons. I think I always have. We seem to go through life being compared. Not as attractive. Not as clever. Not as sociable. Not as good....

There is probably nothing which can knock someone's confidence more than being compared to someone else in that way. And turn it around, what does it do to the other person? Make them embarrassed or do they enjoy it and become conceited?

Comparisons will always affect people in some way, which is why I hate them.

It's the same with health condition comparisons.

Most people who know me will know that I live with a lot of pain. Chronic back pain. Chronic rib pain. Chronic headaches. Chronic face pain. Throw in a few other regular aches and pains and I suppose I'd be as well changing my name to Chronic.

Trigeminal Neuralgia is known as one of the most painful afflictions. Some days I'd agree with that. But if I am in my bed, in agony, hardly able to walk to the toilet because of my back, then trigeminal neuralgia is a walk in the park on those days. I can't make a sweeping generalisation and say that one condition is worse than the other. Yes, TN might be up there in the ranks of being the worst pain in the world. But don't tell me that when my back has decided to give up on me.

A few weeks ago, I had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. Turned out I had kidney stones. All I can say is that at 3 o'clock that morning, had someone said, "but it's not as painful as TN," I might have done something really nasty to them.

I can't even compare my own pain conditions with each other, so how can anyone ever say that one person's pain is worse than or not as bad as someone else's? We can't feel their pain. So if they think their pain is the worst pain in the world, then who are we to argue? It obviously is the worst pain in the world to them at that particular moment in time.

Right now, my husband is an extreme pain. He has an abscess on his gum. He is on antibiotics and taking strong painkillers (which he nearly always avoids taking). I absolutely hate seeing him in pain. I feel helpless. I probably feel how he feels when I'm having a bad day. The thought of comparing his pain to mine would be plain crazy. If I were to say, "but I have TN, and that's the worst pain in the world!", would mean I am actually undermining his pain. Right now, I'm sure his pain is the worst pain in the world. How uncaring would I seem if I compared his pain to mine and suggested his isn't as bad?

Flipping that comparison around the other way, I have had people say things to me like, "I had a migraine last night, but I know my pain isn't nearly as bad as yours." It's almost as if people minimise their own pain because they feel it is trivial compared to my problems. But it's not trivial. Just because I live with chronic pain, doesn't mean I can't understand other people's pain. If anything, it makes me able to understand more.

Pain is personal. It's not only about the physical pain, but how people tolerate it. So if one person is coping with it, it also doesn't mean their pain is less than someone else's. And if they are having a bad day and not coping well, it doesn't necessarily mean that their pain is worse than anyone else's.

Living with pain isn't a game and it's not a competition. But by comparing pain, it turns into precisely that. It's not a game I ever want to be part of. And certainly not a competition I'd like to win. I don't want to wear that winner's medal.