When in the midst of a pretty nasty flare-up recently, someone said, by way of offering comfort, that I should remember 'there is always someone worse off than yourself'.
Maybe surprisingly I don't take that as a comfort and am always slightly baffled by the phrase itself and the insinuations that go along with it.
Personally, I know that when i'm ill, I try to remind myself that there are people out there suffering much more than me; not because it makes me feel better about myself, in a smug competitive suffering sort of way; but because it brings home how lucky I am to have Crohn's and not something much worse.
I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would relish the prospect of another human being enduring more pain and suffering than them just because it makes them feel better about what they are going through. It's childish in my eyes. It reminds me of the playground and how petty arguments were started because one pupil had a better pencil sharpener than another.
There appears to be a strange class-system in the world of chronic illness. Some people love to tell you how much time they have spent in hospital or how many surgeries or procedures they've had to endure. Like a warped game of Top Trumps. Where really there are no winners.
Of course this attitude is common, but thankfully I've encountered more of the other end of the spectrum, where people just want to help, advise, and care for others, not pummel them into oblivion with their woes until they submit and admit you are indeed the sickest person in the room. 'I see your flare-up and raise you a bowel obstruction!' Congrats!
Ideally, if I could, I'd love to follow in Michael Jackson's footsteps and heal the world, make it a better place, etc. Although he seemed to go slightly awry with that plan..
But in reality all I can take are minuscule steps to try and help people understand that we are all in it together. I know that people look at me and often think 'thank god I don't have that..' but I know that some are also filled with a bizarre envy, seemingly under some false pretence that as Crohn's patients we get special treatment. There are no immediate 'benefits' to living with chronic illness, no red carpet at the hospital door and no gold credit card for the vending machines; we might be back and forward to doctors and consultants more often than most but that's because we need to ensure we manage our illnesses as effectively as we can. It's tiring. It's not to get time off work, skive or get sickly brownie points or pity, because on the whole that is the last thing we want. Most of us want to live as normal a life as possible, under abnormal circumstances.
If you are reading this and in disagreement with everything I've written then it's possible you need to take a look at your attitude towards your condition before it overwhelms everything else in your life. Try to look at the world as a place where we try to lend a hand to someone on need, not show them how your hand is on much worse condition than theirs. Trump them with kindness.