It has taken me six months to feel brave enough to write this post! Seriously… every time I go to write it I think that people will tell me that I am imagining things, that no one does this, and so I pack it away and close my mouth. Then it happens again and I pull out this draft and start writing…. and then the same doubts push me to pack it away again.
But the simple truth is that time and again, I see it happening here, there and everywhere. it happens to me personally, it happens to people I know, and I see it on posts all over social media… It doesn’t have this name, and I am not sure that people know how to talk about it or what to do about it. So they skate over it and then leave it. No one wants to stand up and say: you know what, that comment wasn’t ok. That comment is simply illness envy!
So what is illness envy I hear you ask? It is that time when someone in the room asks me how I am going, or if I am having a good or a bad week. And someone else in the room pipes up (before I can answer) and says that it is all in my head, or I must just keep my chin up, or some other flippant comment, followed by them turning the attention to themselves and their own journey with pain. It comes across, whether they like it or not, as though they are envious of me and my illness. They appear to have a need to trump mine, or to squash mine, or to make out that they are worse.
And I am sorry people, but I don’t know how to respond or stop it, but it simply isn’t OK.
I know what it is like to be in pain for a seriously long time and not have anyone notice, I get that! And I get that when someone else gets attention for it then it is easy to feel invisible. But do they not know that what they are doing does not make other people have any sympathy or empathy for you when you do it. The attention showed to me in that moment (which might be the only “attention” that I have had in ages) is not going to go to you just because you steal it.
Hence begins a series on “envy” …
(Have you experienced this? On any side of the story? As the person who got trumped or as the person trying to give empathy to someone but a third party trumped your enquiry? Or are you the person who has this envy and can explain what is happening?) … I would love to hear from any of you!