Someone Has It Worse

Someone Has It Worse

“Someone has it worse”; I’ve uttered those words to myself and others more times than I can count. It’s my go-to method I use to not only push attention away from myself but to minimize the struggle I go through on a daily basis as I fight Multiple Sclerosis. It’s something I’ve done, literally, from the first day of my diagnosis. I’m certainly not alone in this behavior, as I hear it countless times a week when talking with others who battle this disease. As common as this line of thinking is, it can be pretty detrimental to your well-being.

A way to deflect reality

As I said, from day one, I’ve been uttering this. After the doctor explained the diagnosis to me over the phone, I thanked him, hung up, and then had to tell my parents. They were, understandably, devastated. I hugged them both and said,” it could be worse”, and rattled off a list of other conditions that I thought were probably worse than MS. It feels like such a natural way to deflect reality, to soften the blow. At that moment, I needed to say it as much for me as for them. I’ve kept on saying it, too. It’s nearly been two decades since that day and I still find myself uttering that phrase and explaining how there are people in way worse shape than me.

The unexpected repercussions of this mindset

While it’s true that yes, there are people that have it worse than me, the act of constantly minimizing my own struggle has had some unexpected repercussions. Over the many years of proclaiming that others have it worse, I’ve been trying to convince myself that what I go through isn’t that bad. That classic, “I just need to suck it up” feeling isn’t really very helpful. In fact, having this mindset for so long has really only made my struggle more painful. By constantly minimizing my struggle, I’ve become angry at myself when I’m not feeling well. Bad days become exponentially worse, because instead of only dealing with the tough symptoms of MS, I now have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I’m weak for suffering so much. That I should be stronger than I am.

Getting down on ourselves

Getting down on myself thinking I should be stronger when I can barely walk? When I’m in tremendous pain? When my legs are spasming uncontrollably? When I’m so fatigued I can’t move? When I can’t see because my vision is blurry? That’s ridiculous! Of course, there are people that are worse off than me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going through some serious shi…stuff, some serious stuff. Just because something is worse doesn’t mean what we are dealing with isn’t also very bad. I think it’s way too easy to get down on ourselves and fail to acknowledge that what we are going through is also no picnic.

Giving ourselves a little credit

Sure, living with MS is not the worst thing in the world, no matter what you have, there is always something worse. That said, it’s still not the greatest thing in the world. It’s still a struggle, for many of us, every day is a fight. Instead of trying to minimize that, I think we need to be proud of it. I am proud of it, because, you know what? Living with this disease isn’t easy, it sucks. Not everyone is cut out to live with this disease. I’ll even go as far as saying that this disease and everything I’ve gone through with it, has made me stronger, it’s made me tougher. It’s done all that by being hard, being tough, and not being easy. All of us that suffer through this disease deserve to give ourselves a little credit. We need to acknowledge that, yeah, this disease sucks, and we go through some tough times.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

View Comments (27)
  • 11Little
    3 months ago

    Devin
    Thanks for your thoughts. Anyone with a disability will mimic your words. The thought others have it worse than me sometimes creates uncertainty in me. Will I stay as mentally strong as I become that person who has it worse? Only time will tell. Keep positive and battle as long as you are able.
    Lloyd

  • Kokomom504
    3 months ago

    I am tired of having an incurable disease.
    Had my gall bladder removed because of gall stones, and now not much tastes good.
    I am married to a supportive man, but still not happy.
    I have SPMS , and can’t drive.

  • Maui
    3 months ago

    This really struck a cord with me. I find myself constantly saying the same things: “everyone is fighting their own little battle, and mine is not the worst”, “suck it up, there’s people dying out there and you’re here, living the best life you can”. Thanks for your insight on how it can be detrimental. I think having empathy is quite important, but I also need to learn to give myself credit for the successes in my life despite having MS, and to be kinder to myself when MS takes over my body and I need to lay low.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks so much Maui! That’s basically what I was trying to say, sure, other people may have it bad too, but that doesn’t negate how awful it is for you!

  • mikevallo
    3 months ago

    I never liked that phrase! Makes no sense. MS in all it’s stages sucks. After 40 years living with this beast, “it” finally hit the fan. Someone worse off than me would have to have their head nailed to the friggin’ floor!

    (I’m glad I can still joke about this. It’s what’s keeping me alive in my sorry state.)

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you mikevallo! Being able to still joke is pretty critical with this disease!

  • 2 months ago

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • SueK
    3 months ago

    I too have always felt things could be worse for me. So what’s wrong with that? They could! I know. I have struggled with far worse things than what MS has given me. I do not have a terminal illness. I am not paralyzed. I am not slipping away in excruciating pain, alone in a bed with no one to hold my hand. But there are many that have dealt with such things. Does having enough compassion to recognize that their pain is or was worse than mine truly mean that I am hurting myself?

    Being dxd with MS does not come with a purple badge of honor, like the ones our dentist or doctor handed out to us as kids for not crying. Being ill is not a competition. Perhaps it is because I never felt I was beaten down, cursed, given more than I could handle. I have what I have and if others have worse, it is has no bearing on me. Yes I have MS but I have no desire to wear it on my sleeve.

    Since when has counting your blessings become a weakness or sign of devaluation? Sorry, but I am a realist. Accepting I have a condition that would alter my life course was never a monumental challenge. It in some ways was a blessing in itself. It gave me the opportunity to change course, explore new horizons. Not dwelling on the downside of life is not self-deflection by any means.

    But, yes I know. Everyone needs the freedom to deal with their struggles in their own way. They have every right to feel and express their suffering without others judging whether or not it is authentic. They deserve the love and support of friends and family. I guess because these have never been issues for me, my views are different than most. I give myself credit for many things and dealing with MS is not at the top of the list. But that’s my experience.

    MS is NOT fake, but let’s face it, it is much better than having one of the many cruel and painful conditions others may suffer and die from. We have hope, while other’s have none. Our condition can be managed, while others can only be helped to feel comfortable till their final breath. And while I am not about to go run a marathon, I am fortunate to be alive, loved, supported and happy.

  • 2 months ago

    This is the best thing I’ve read in quite awhile! Thank you for writing this.I think you’re awesome.:)

  • Kokomom504
    3 months ago

    You sound like someone I can relate to.
    I have a crummy disease, but there are worse things out.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you for SueK, please understand that a great many people have had a more aggressive course of MS than apparently you have.

  • mollyculelove
    3 months ago

    I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this and said this over my whole life. I have been sick for 29 years with a chronic daily rare migraine condition and have been diagnosed with MS now for getting close to a year. I realized that it boils to what I can only describe as “sick guilt” many days when we can’t overcome our bodies to do what we want to in our minds and feel so disappointed. And it’s a very complex monster almost worse than depression. I remember ended I up hospitalized for 11 days after getting my MS diagnosis and all the nurses and doctors who came in to treat me asked me what I had, got the same speal..”well I have a .07 in a million migraine condition, Opthalmoplegic Migraines affecting my 3rd cranial nerve (optic) which gets paralyzed and makes my right eye go lazy and see double, and I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and my brain is covered in active plaques and lesions and Dawson’s fingers”. Whenever I got to the part about the MS I could just see this switch in their faces..call it pity, or fear or omg…but most people know what MS is. I’ll never forget standing next to the neurologist and watching all of these 30 lesions brightly light up on my brain where I once had 5 white matter spots. And this neurologist I had seen in the hospital just a year before in the hospital. His nurse saw my fear and shock over how something could so aggressively attack my brain this quickly and she stood there teary eyed. When I got out of the hospital and told my grandma about my disease and made her cry over the phone, I just felt like ok I’m going to keep this to myself. And it left me unable to tell people about my disease diagnosis after I left the hospital because I didn’t want to be looked at like…that. It’s almost been a year and I’m barely able to now start telling some friends about what I have and where I’ve gone and why I have a new scar (from my port). So I guess I’ll find a balance and the next time I try and say someone has it worse, I won’t. But next time I don’t want to tell someone about my disease, I will.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks so much for sharing that here mollyculelove. I very much get what you are saying when you say “sick guilt”. It’s a good term for it. I find I don’t often talk to friends and family regarding many of my issues because it’s difficult (somehow, writing for ms .net for anyone to read is somehow easier). I do think it’s important to find someone, whether it’s a support group, someone online, or a therapist (which I always recommend). I honestly even vent to my dog sometimes and it’s helpful.

  • zeus73
    3 months ago

    During the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I said to my therapist that I was almost ashamed about the text of my conversations with her and almost didn’t show up for my appointment because of my triviality in the whole scheme of things. With her and in most of my interactions in general, my text is so rarely about MS. She has questioned me about this at times. I will reply that I don’t like talking about my disease because it changes nothing, evokes what feels like pity which I do not want to wear, makes me a spot of dark rather than light and my voice rings in my ears like a whining siren. I’ve been told that I won’t let anyone comfort me. Maybe so.

    My therapist listened to me minimize my personal stuff in view of world events and then she talked about how that personal stuff – my perceptions, day to day events, relationships, observations, thoughts, successes, failures, challenges, health issues, family stories, responsibilities, plus all the rest – and how I choose to manage myself through these are about how I live and who I am. September 11th is in a different category, a huge and painful tragedy not ordinary in any way, with universal impact. It was significant but it doesn’t reduce or minimize the value of personal stuff in my life.

    I refer back to this conversation often when I think about my relationship with my disease and its weight in my life. Not always sure why but remembering this conversation helps me think through the constantly moving parts of living with MS.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks for sharing that zeus73! Wise words from your therapist!

  • chrissullivan
    3 months ago

    There’s a song I used to know when I was 17 or so. I used to play guitar. I miss it.

    Words and music by Arlo Guthrie

    This next song we’re going to dedicate to a great American
    Organization. Tonight I’d like to dedicate this to our boys
    In the FBI

    Well, wait a minute. It’s hard to be an FBI man. I mean, first
    Of all, being an FBI man, you have to be over 40 years old
    And the reason is that it takes at least 25 years with the
    Organization to be that much of a bastard. It’s true. You just
    Can’t join, you know. It needs an atmosphere where your
    Natural bastardness can grow and develop and take a
    Meaningful shape in today’s complex society

    But that’s not why I want to dedicate the song to the FBI. I
    Mean, the job that they have to do is a drag. I mean, they have
    To follow people around, you know. That’s part of their job
    Follow me around

    I’m out on the highway and I’m drivin’ down the road and I
    Run out of gasoline. I pull over to the side of the road. They
    Gotta pull over too – make believe that they ran out, you
    Know

    I go to get some gasoline. They have to figure out whether
    They should stick with the car or follow me. Suppose I don’t
    Come back and they’re stayin’ with the car

    Or if I fly on the airplanes, I could fly half fare because I’m 12
    To 22. And they gotta pay the full fare. But the thing is that
    When you pay the full fare, you have to get on the airplane
    First, so that they know how many seats are left over for the
    Half fare kids. Right? And sometimes there aren’t any seats
    Left over, and sometimes there are, but that doesn’t mean that
    You have to go

    Suppose that he gets on and fills up the last seat, so you can’t
    Get on. Then he gets off then you can get on. What’s he gonna
    Do?

    Well, it’s a drag for him. But that’s not why I want to dedicate
    The song to the FBI

    During these hard days and hard weeks, everybody always
    Has it bad once in a while. You know, you have a bad time of
    It, and you always have a friend who says “Hey man, you
    Ain’t got it that bad. Look at that guy.” And you at that
    Guy, and he’s got it worse than you. And it makes you feel
    Better that there’s somebody that’s got it worse than you

    But think of the last guy. For one minute, think of the last
    Guy. Nobody’s got it worse than that guy. Nobody in the
    Whole world. That guy…he’s so alone in the world that he
    Doesn’t even have a street to lay in for a truck to run him over
    He’s out there with nothin’. Nothin’s happenin’ for that cat

    And all that he has to do to create a little excitement in his
    Own life is to bum a dime from somewhere, call up the FBI
    Say “FBl?”, they say “Yes”, say “I think Uncle Ho and Chair-
    Man Mao and their friends are comin’ over for dinner” (click)
    Hang up the phone

    And within two minutes, and not two minutes from when he
    Hangs up the phone, but two minutes from when he first put
    The dime in, they got 30,000 feet of tape rollin’; files on tape;
    Pictures, movies, dramas, actions on tape. But then they send
    Out a half a million people all over the entire world, the globe
    They find out all they can about this guy

    ‘Cause there’s a number of questions involved in the guy. I
    Mean, if he was the last guy in the world, how’d he get a dime
    To call the FBI? There are plenty of people that aren’t the last
    Guys that can’t get dimes. He comes along and he gets a dime

    I mean, if he had to bum a dime to call the FBI, how was he
    Gonna serve dinner for all of those people? How could the
    Last guy make dinner for all those people. And if he could
    Make dinner, and was gonna make dinner, then why did he
    Call the FBI?

    They find out all of those questions within two minutes. And
    That’s a great thing about America. I mean, this is the only
    Country in the world…l mean, well, it’s not the only country
    In the world that could find stuff out in two minutes, but it’s
    The only country in the world that would take two minutes
    For that guy

    Other countries would say “Hey, he’s the last guy…screw
    Him”, you know? But in America, there is no discrimination
    And there is no hypocrisy,’cause they’ll get anybody. And that’s
    A wonderful thing about America

    And that’s why tonight I’d like to dedicate it to every FBI
    Man in the audience. I know you can’t say nothin’, you know
    You can’t get up and say “Hi!” cause then everybody knows
    That you’re an FBI man and that’s a drag for you and your
    Friends

    They’re not really your friends, are they? I mean, so you can’t
    Get up and say nothin’ ’cause other wise, you gotta get sent
    Back to the factory and that’s a drag for you and it’s an
    Expense for the government, and that’s a drag for you

    We’re gonna sing you this Christmas carol. It’s for all you
    Bastards out there in the audience tonight. It’s called “The
    Pause of Mr. Claus”

    Why do you sit there so strange?
    Is it because you are beautiful?
    You must think you are deranged
    Why do police guys beat on peace guys?

    You must think Santa Clause weird
    He has long hair and a beard
    Giving his presents for free
    Why do police guys mess with peace guys?

    Let’s get Santa Clause ’cause;
    Santa Clause has a red suit
    He’s a communist
    And a beard, and long hair
    Must be a pacifist
    What’s in the pipe that he’s smoking?

    Mister Clause sneaks in your home at night
    He must be a dope fiend, to put you up tight
    Why do police guys beat on peace guys?

  • maggydoots
    3 months ago

    Also, shared! #mssucks

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks so much maggydoots!

  • maggydoots
    3 months ago

    Amen. Nail on the head!

  • pecas88
    3 months ago

    reading this made me cry ..ive been fighting since i was 19 years old ..12 yrs now and those words have always come out of my mouth and i thank you so much for giving me the courage to admit that it is harder than i let on and i need to say it and realize it

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you pecas88! I was just a couple years older than you when I was diagnosed, I understand. It’s ok to admit it hard, because it is, harder than we let on. Hang in there!

  • MzT
    3 months ago

    Amen to that! I have said those words so many times to others and myself.
    Thanks for giving me the right to say this sucks and it’s hard and painful.

  • collena
    3 months ago

    In the beginning I used that reasoning to spout off “It’s not gonna kill me, it’s just gonna make me wish I was dead”. In retrospect I regret taunting the MS monster that way…

  • mascha
    3 months ago

    Thanks again for a great article. Yeah it’s a tuff disease and I have been thinking the same the moment I was diagnosed. It doesn’t help because the struggles are still there. In fact it makes it worse. I find it hard not able to talk about it to anyone, and MS being invisible makes it hard on top of it. It’s almost like it’s a sin to talk about it. People can’t handle it or choose to not want to hear, and then comes “ it can be much worse” or “ you don’t have it too bad” or count yourself lucky because it can be much worse. Yes it can but it’s still pretty bad the very day struggles they cannot see, or want to hear.
    If only they want to listen, then maybe they’ll understand.
    Thanks 🙂

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you mascha, I’m a big believer in talking to people about it, I feel like it’s necessary. Sometimes that person can’t be a friend or family member. Support groups and even professional counselors can be extremely helpful. I look at going to a therapist the same way I do my neurologist and physical therapist, it’s all important in fighting the disease.

  • Clarissa
    3 months ago

    Thanks for writing this, Devin. As usual, I think your comments are spot on. As I see it, the statement “someone has it worse” is a real two-edged sword. On the positive side, it can help me make it through a particularly challenging day or situation. For me, telling myself to “suck it up” is a my own weird version of a pep talk. Left leg not cooperating today? Suck it up, buttercup–you need to finish this work day so that you can make it home and relax. And when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I sometimes think about news magazine stories I’ve seen about people who have no limbs and still manage to accomplish so much. Surely if this is true, I should be able to handle MS.

    On the negative side, like you say, we can use the same phrase in a way that is detrimental to our own well being. My own example of this is the time that I minimized feeling crummy to the point of endangering my life. Because I don’t have much sensation from the waist down, it is often difficult for me to tell when I have a bladder infection. Once, I knew I was feeling bad, but I was at work and trying to finish a project. I kept brushing off my uptick in symptoms and feeling rotten as an “MS thing.” Around lunchtime, I called my husband to tell him I was going to leave work early, and insisted I just needed to come home and lie down. He said he could tell by the way I was speaking that something was really wrong, and he said, No, you need to call your neurologist right now, and I am going to come get you and take you to the hospital. In my addled state of mind, I was angry at him and thought he was being silly. Turned out I had a terrible infection that had moved up into my kidneys and a fever of 104F. My neuro took one look at me and got me to the emergency room. I was shaking uncontrollably and (apparently) not coherent. So thinking “someone else has it worse” that time could have cost me my life, if I had done what I wanted to do, which was drive myself home and then lay down without getting treatment.

    So, as with so many aspects of MS, the use of this statement entails a bit of a balancing act. It can help, but it can also hurt, and it is not always easy to know which it will be.

    Best wishes, Clarissa

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Clarissa, ALWAYS appreciated!

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