“I was sad/upset/complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” 

photo by Ishtar

A fairly common bit of “wisdom” (pseudo-wisdom?)

It’s supposed to be a reminder to be grateful for the things you have by realizing that maybe what you have isn’t so bad.

A brief aside:

In May, I mentioned a site where another person with Bipolar had a list of the “worst things to say” to people with mental health issues.

Number 2 on the list was

“There are a lot of people worse off than you.” 

Number 3 is

“You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?”

To me, these are intimately connected, partly because of the “no feet” bit of common wisdom.

I “shared” a meme on my personal FB page today that said,

“Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better.”

A friend responded by saying it’s about perspective, and her life is pretty good even if she doesn’t have everything she wants.

And I get that. It’s great that she feels that way.

There are always things to be grateful for, and it can help to think about those things when you’re down. I’ve talked about working on Gratitude this year; I know it’s good psychologically and spiritually.

BUT. . . .

What if. . . .

Using the shoes/feet metaphor, my feet are bleeding because I’ve been barefoot so long.

So, yes, if I see the guy with no feet, I’m grateful I have feet, BUT, my feet are in still in pain. My feet are in danger of getting infected. I’m in danger of losing my feet.

And if you keep pointing the guy with no feet out to me, it doesn’t help me heal.

I still need shoes!

Continuing to show me pictures of people with no feet and telling me to be happy about my shredded, bleeding, cold, painful feet doesn’t help me, because I still need the goddamn shoes.

Am I taking the metaphor too far?

How about some Real Life examples?

I’m am extremely grateful that when I could no longer pay rent, my friend was able to let me sleep on her floor for 4 months, so I/we didn’t end up on the street. It was amazing that she did that for us, even though it put her lease in danger and strained our friendship at times.

But I was still in a position of being evicted from our home, having no money and no job and unable to see a way out at that time. I was still in a position of having no home for my daughter and trying to keep her in her school for some sense of stability. I am still responsible for giving my child that as a childhood experience/memory.

And then there was a great conversation with my therapist.

At the time, I was taking some hard classes and hanging out and studying with this one woman. She was smart, funny, and very hard-working.

And she was in a wheelchair.

I never asked what was wrong with her; I thought it was something neuromuscular, because she had some fine motor problems as well.

I was comparing myself to her.

I was trying to think, “At least things aren’t that bad for me.”

It didn’t make me feel better.

In fact, I felt guilty about trying to feel better about someone else’s misfortune.

I was talking to my therapist, and she told me to stop, just STOP comparing my situation with other people’s.

Yes, this woman had physical disabilities, but she also had a great support system that helped her with a lot of what she needed help with. At that time, my support system wasn’t all that strong.

Our situations were totally different.

And even though her life had challenges, so did mine!

By trying to compare myself to her, I was trying to minimize my challenges, minimize or erase my problems.

I was belittling myself for not being grateful enough for not being in that chair.

I was not honoring my own life, my own problems, my own path, my own feelings.

I was suppressing my emotions.

None of that is good or helpful for me.

Going back to the original statement that spurred this post:

“Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better.”

The point, I think, if I’ve got one, is

Stop comparing yourself to others!

That’s it.

Just stop.

Everyone has struggles, problems, bad things in their life.

You probably don’t know what they are.

Don’t be thankful that you’re not in as bad a position as someone else is.

Try not to be envious if you think someone else’s life is better (that one is so fucking hard, I know! Still working on it. . .)

Don’t tell someone else that they have nothing to worry about because so-and-so has it worse.

There is no better/worse.

There is only different.

Don’t tell me to be thankful that I’m not. . ..whatever. . . like so-and-so over there.

Don’t point out the guy with no feet.

Remind me of the good things I have, to help me think about those.

Remind me that my daughter is turning into a great human being.

Remind me that I *did* finally finish my degree.

Remind me of the times that I took risks and they panned out.

But don’t tell me to feel better because someone else has it worse.

Don’t point out the guy with no feet to try to help me feel better.

Because I still need the shoes!