Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Your Pain is Valid

Last week I talked about people trying to outdo each other in terms of their health and disability issues.  Today I'm going to talk about almost the opposite.

Though I find myself doing it (even after I first came up with the idea of this post!) in different contexts but similar situations, I've always found it very weird when my abled friends are sharing their burdens with me commiserating (that's what friends are for after all) and they'll complain that their back hurts or something, then look at me and I'll see a look of horror and guilt flash across their face followed by profuse apologies.  As if they're not allowed to have a sore back or complain about it because my own back is so fucked up.  My best friend still does it even, though I tell her the same thing every time: 'Your pain is valid'.

I guess it's a social conditioning thing - we're not meant to complain about things they have (or you perceive they have) worse.  I suppose that makes sense with strangers - could be kind of rude and dismissive of their experiences in a way, but with friends? of course not!  I want my friends to be open and honest with me.  They shouldn't feel unsupported about something just because I have my own problems.  Everyone's pain is valid, and let's be real, you having a sore back doesn't make mine any worse or better, so let it out!  It's in the same vein as how knowing there are children starving in Africa makes little difference to how hungry or full you are.

In my tweens to early 20s I had issues in terms of friendships.  I had few problems making friends, but I had a hard time forming the close bonds I wanted.  Part of this I think was the age group - most people that age are discovering themselves, new found freedoms, and thus become absorbed in their own lives.  It's normal.  My health overall was not great at this time though (especially my late teens) so while others in my age group were getting fewer restrictions on their lives and lifestyles, I was getting more and more imposed on me by my own body, and I felt very left behind and isolated.  But I think part of it was also this concept of not being able to talk about your problems when others have things worse.  I am only making assumptions of course as I cannot know for sure what my friends around that time were thinking, but it's possible that they were perhaps hyper-aware that I had very tangible health problems and thus they couldn't talk about themselves much because they perceived their stuff to be of lesser importance.  And I think that disclosure of the good and bad between people is what's needed to make friendships lasting and close and supportive.

So to all my friends reading this, past, present and future friends.  You're allowed to complain about any even seemingly trivial stuff to me if it matters to you.  We can handle it together as you've all helped me handle my own pain whether you know it or not.
Your. Pain. Is. VALID.

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