Compare and despair
Depression is a sneaky monster. It wants to make us feel lower than low. In reality, we have a choice as to whether or not we listen to it. It’s difficult when you feel low to look around at other people and observe how “easy” their lives appear to be. In reality everyone has their own unique challenges and struggles to conquer. The idea that one person’s life is easier than another is an optical illusion.
Pain cannot be compared; it simply exists. That’s why it is fruitless to compare yourself to other people. Human beings are naturally competitive, however it’s important to recognize that some forms of competition are unhealthy. When you find yourself comparing your suffering to another person’s, it’s time to curb that impulse.
A quick way to remember this is “compare and despair.” No good can come from comparing your sadness to another person’s. You have your own unique journey and no one can truly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. You are the only one who knows what it’s like to feel your feelings. Sure, we can empathise with others and try to see matters from their eyes, but we can never know what their inherent reality is like.
On the surface, someone’s life could look idyllic and without struggle or sadness. In reality, this is not the case. This individual may be suffering a great deal and they have not shared their pain with the world. Some people are better at hiding their pain than others. We cannot judge what is on the exterior, because we do not know what other people are thinking.
You are entitled to your experience and you own that. It’s not just about pain or suffering either, it’s about our triumphs as people too. Depression sneaks out into your consciousness when you compare your success to another person’s. You are special in your way. There are unique traits that make you, you. It’s important to celebrate your successes as well as the triumphs of others.
We’re in this world with one simple purpose: to find what makes us happy and fulfilled. Though the purpose may be straightforward, the end game is extremely challenging. Finding happiness is a lifelong journey. Ultimately the answer is within ourselves.
Whatever you do, remember that your success or happiness is not contingent upon another person. Happiness exists within yourself; you don’t need to look to another person to fulfill that need. Look inside and ask yourself: what makes me happy? What is it that brings joy into my life? Once you’ve answered that question, then you can seek out those things that bring light into your life.
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good day New York.
Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.