Yesterday I was sending voice messages back and forth with a dear friend, my soul sister really, when she started a new series of message that went something like this, “Oh my Gosh, I am so frustrated and I am about ready to lose it, and I am going to preface this by saying that in the grand scheme of things that things could be a lot worse. Like what your mom is going through, or like kids who have cancer…I get that everything could be way worse and my issue is nothing compared to how bad it could be, BUT”. She then proceeded to tell me about the stress and anxiety that has been on her shoulders for the last several months regarding the logistics of building a new house, while trying to sell their current house, and how it finally came to a head stress wise when she got a phone call from her realtor. She talked about how not only was the stress, time commitment, and delays in building taking a toll on her, but also on her marriage in recent months.
When I began collecting my thoughts to reply, it occurred to me that all too often we CAVEAT our pain or stress, by trying to rationalize that we are far better off than the person next to us and then we get it in our heads that the fact that others are suffering worse makes out pain less important. For some reason we feel the need to preface our storytelling of the pain, suffering, or stress that we are going through with “I know people have harder lives than I do” or “I know there are people suffering more, but”.
NO, girl. Just NO! There is no BUT. Your pain is your pain. Your life stress in this season of life is still stress. We all go through different struggles or trials this life, and none of them are more or less dramatic, stressful, or horrible than any other. They are just different. You do not need to caveat your emotions. Those events are still stressful in YOUR life, and there is no reason to belittle your life circumstances because you think someone else has it worse off right now than you do, in this moment. It doesn’t matter if the woman next door has two more kids to wrangle than you do or if your best friend’s mom is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, as is the case in my life right now. The pain or stress that is in someone else’s life does not make YOUR pain, anxiety, or stress any less. It is stressful in your life right now, and you don’t have to feel ashamed to admit that or apologize for it because it is just over building a new house or being behind at work. If something is taxing on you as a person, or your relationship with your spouse or kids, it is WORTHY of a conversation, no matter what the person you are telling it to is going through. We are in this together.
A few months ago when my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was giving an update to another friend on her diagnosis and treatment plan when after thirty minutes she finally mentioned something about life being stressful the last few weeks and how she couldn’t deal. As it turns out, she had been given some not so wonderful health news from her doctor. When I asked why she didn’t tell me sooner she said “because it is nothing compared to what you and your mom and your family are going through right now”. That is where most of us go wrong all too often, YES it still is something. Just because my family is going through something right now, does not mean that your friendship, health, or peace of mind takes the back burner. My stress or pain does not make yours nothing, it is not any less suffering for you just because I am going through my own life tribulations right now.
WHY? Why do we do this? I think that often times we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives that we think to ourselves “well if I am this stressed out, I can’t imagine how stressed out she is and I don’t want to burden her any further” and we use that to justify keeping that hurt or touch season of life to ourselves. But here is the truth, your emotions and life struggles are not a burden. You are not a burden! We have got to get it out of our heads that we are weighting down others by sharing our stress or pain. In reality, all we are doing is choosing to carry this load on our own, and let me tell you it is so much harder to carry that weight on your own. We need each other, in good times and sure as hell even more so in the bad times. Isn’t one of the benefits of marriage, family, or friendship supposed to be having someone to learn on for support and encouragement during those though times? I am pretty sure it is, so please stop keeping your struggles to yourself, at the expense of yourself. Your life struggles are still struggles, and you still need your life story to be heard. Your pain still matters, and it is not nothing.
I would sincerely love to start a dialogue around this topic in the comments. Better yet, if you have a struggle that you are willing to share let’s talk about it, share the weight of that burden, and find a path through it together. Regardless of whether you decide to share, just make me one promise: Make an effort to stop caveating your pain and reach out to others when you need to.