This is very similar to Illness Envy and I think that it may actually be behind some people’s issues who suffer from Illness Envy. But it is important to recognize the difference because unlike Illness Envy which has no upside, Diagnosis Envy is hugely valid…
Envy is a really tricky word. We hear it all the time in the negative context and in most instances, I think that it is negative. But it is also a very real part of life and also somewhat justified: if a child hasn’t eaten in three days then they would be crazy not to have some envy towards the kid on the bench eating a massive hot dog. In the same way, I own that I envy people who are free of constant pain.
The problem only arises when we don’t recognize it and the outcome is that we hurt others, “steal” their empathy or their moment of comfort and try to make it our own. When we trash others or belittle them in the hope that we will be “seen” or “heard” instead, and that our own pain will be validated.
Last week I was in the doctor’s office, moving slowly with my crutch. I leaned up against the counter with the receptionist behind. She couldn’t see my crutch (though often she can see it) but I think that she had forgotten what I have and that I am in a lot of pain. A man popped his head in the door briefly and asked her a question then left again. The receptionist conspiratorily whispered to me: you won’t believe how much pain that man is in every day! He has this illness that means he is always in pain. Honestly, if that was me I don’t know what I would do… blah blah blah blah blah and on she went…
Um…. I didn’t say anything. It was insensitive and dismissive of my situation. But I didn’t envy her sympathy, I only felt sorry for the man. But I did feel very uncomfortable and dismissed. But it was easy for me because I have a diagnosis, I have my pain validated one way or another almost every day without having to say anything to anyone, and so it is easy to be without envy. But I know what it is like to
I didn’t say anything. Her words, her attitude, and her little gossip were insensitive and dismissive of my situation. But I didn’t envy him her sympathy, I only felt sorry for the man. I also felt a bit uncomfortable and dismissed. But it was easy for me because I have a diagnosis, I have my pain validated one way or another almost every day without having to say anything to anyone, and so it is easy to be without envy. But I know what it is like to not have a diagnosis and be envious of people like me on this side of the fence who do have one. I spent 3o years on that side and it is frustrating and hurtful emotionally as well as physically.
Diagnosis Envy is extremely valid in and of itself, we just need to make sure that we are sensitive with how we express it to others and the way we treat those on the other side of the fence.