The other day someone said those three immortal words to me. No, not THOSE words you old romantics, (although those ones are nicer); it was that three words that strike misery and resentment into the heart of every sick person;
“…Could be worse...”
Now, much like that other ‘three words’; “I love you”, being bellowed at you by a man peering through your window wearing a wig made of your hair as he’s forcibly restrained by police, “could be worse” leaves the person on the receiving end of it feeling a bit dejected and perhaps borderline terrified.
It implies several things to those of us dealing with illness every day, none of which are particularly cheering. In the main these are what I generally hear when someone tells me it ‘could be worse’;
1. You could be DEAD so cheer up eh?
2. There are SOOOOO many sicker people that you out there, so stop making a fuss.
3. You aren’t sick enough in the grand scheme of things so it’s probably best for everyone if you shut your whining mouth.
4. Stop being so dramatic!
5. I’m jealous of you for reasons I can’t work out for myself and don’t fully understand so I’m going to be unkind to you in a backwards way.
6. I don’t like you talking about your illness in my presence.
Fun eh?! Now I’d venture it’s quite clear to see why that phrase is not at all helpful or encouraging. If that is ever the intention when saying it anyway, (and I’m sure for some people it is!) It’s said as just one of those ‘things people say’ because they are raised hearing it and don’t know what else to risk in that environment. Much like casual racism and jokes about mother-in-laws before it, it’s tired and redundant and should have been exterminated before man learned to create fire. By the way I’m sure it was a woman who gave him the idea in the first place, a man can’t do anything by himself! Eh! hah ah hha ahaa. You know, that sort of thing.
So, by now you might be saying to yourself, ‘Kath, CALM DOWN DEAR, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just a figure of speech, I mean it could be wors…’
WOAH THERE TIGER.
Just hold that thought before I am arrested for grievous bodily harm. I may be sensitive and somewhat defensive about my condition, and that’s wholly my right. It’s not my right to get all up in your grill about it and preach in a holier than thou fashion about what you should, and shouldn’t say. This is just a friendly offer of advice and guidance in how little phrases which may seem insignificant to you can cause a world of frustration to others. I just feel it’s my duty to remind those of you with and without an illness that words can be cruel and hurtful and minimising something that to someone is a cause of massive devastation, isn’t smart.
When you are being flippant and making off the cuff remarks about someone and their suffering, remember, it could always be worse!
In the boot of a car. At the bottom of a cliff. With no life boat. And no chance of survival.