Proportional Pain and My Guilty Genes


Scrabble doesn’t come with a question mark, so we’ll have to make do without one

There once was a girl (A) who didn’t pass her cheerleader tryouts, and she was upset. There was also a girl (B) whose boyfriend dumped her, and she was upset. But then there was a girl (C) whose friend was dying of cancer, and she was upset.

Before us we have three (fictional) girls, and each is upset. Who, in your opinion, is most upset?

Please don’t answer that because it’s a trick question. I believe that it’s not fair to compare people’s pain because each is suffering in their own right. So yes, one situation seems way more serious than the others, but does that mean that the other two aren’t upset and don’t have a right to be? No. The fact that one person is worried about cancer and the other is worried about boys doesn’t mean that the one worrying about boys isn’t distraught and in pain, and you can’t discount that.

That said, I am human and sometimes I fail at upholding my own high standards. I look at this girl who is throwing a tantrum because she didn’t get the teacher she wanted for a certain subject and can’t stop thinking about girls in many parts of the world who have to fight to get an education, and often don’t win. I want to scream at her, “just appreciate what you have!”

But then those thoughts lead me to one of the most depressing inner conversations I regularly have. I know I’m suffering, and I know my pain is real, but at the same time look at the world, look at how many people live in terrible pain due to poor hygiene and distance from medical help, and see how many of them continue living completely normally. In comparison, I’m just acting like a baby. But those thoughts don’t make my pain go away and it still gets in the way of me doing everything people my age do.

So when I have these conversations, I force myself to the conclusion that it is important to keep things in proportion and not feel too sorry for myself, because compared to some my troubles are not that bad. I do think you need to keep going and try to pick yourself up, and that’s what I do. But there is also a real reason for sadness, and it’s okay to let yourself feel it.

When someone I know is suffering from a horrible headache, I bite my tongue and never let the “now you know how I feel all the time” escape. But I always think it. It’s not that I think their pain is lesser because it’s a one off thing, it’s just that it gets frustrating when people have no way to understand what I’m going through. I want him or her, for just a minute, to try to imagine what it’s like to feel what he or she is feeling every day and how hard it would be to manage.

Then I feel guilty. For not focusing solely on the person I’m with, but mostly for treating myself like I’m the top-sufferer, like I’m the most unfortunate. I promise you I do not forget how lucky I am to have everything that I have. But then after feeling guilty, I feel even guiltier because it’s almost like I just betrayed myself by my sort of accusation that I’m just exaggerating.

It’s exhausting.

So to girl A I say that there will be more opportunities in life and this way she’ll have more free time to hang out with her friends. To girl B I say that he’s a fool for breaking up with her and if she ever needs a wing-woman I’m her girl. To girl C I tell her how sorry I am and offer her my shoulder.

I allow myself only a minute to contemplate how it seems no one is ever that happy.


Yours truly,



Song Quote:

I find it hard to take, when people run in circles it’s a very, very mad world. -Mad World, Tears for Fears


Next Week:

My Relationship with Taylor Swift

Get ready to tweet along with me using #TaylorReadThis, because I need your help getting her to see it! So as of next Sunday when I put it up, we’re going to bombard twitter with this hash tag and the link to the post and try to get her attention. You with me?!


27 comments on “Proportional Pain and My Guilty Genes

  1. […] We who have gone through our daily battles, we who have lived in survival mode on and off for so long, and then when a loved one falls into his/her own valley: shouldn’t we be the best people for the job of lending an ear? But in stead, we listen to that little voice that says, “Are they kidding me with this?” Or, we try to give them our sage advice to protect them from what is coming. We may know some of what they are facing, but we aren’t them. They have a unique struggle, isolated from ours. Their pain, however similar or maybe seemingly less than ours, is relative to their own experiences in life. A struggle or illness that is tearing someone’s world apart, however lower on the pain scale we believe it is- still is shattering his/her life into pieces in ways we may never understand, and in ways we may never face. (see Proportional Pain and My Guilty Genes) […]


  2. abodyofhope says:

    I hope it is ok with you if I link this article in to an upcoming blog post about friendship. I have also shared this countless times with people in online conversation.
    This really touched me and then the blessing was passed on to so many people. Thank you!


  3. I really enjoyed this post. I like your thought process. So I’m curious your opinion on this question: who is to blame for pain?


    • Ella says:

      I realize it’s been four and a half years since you wrote this question, but somehow this is the first time I’ve seen it. So as my 21-year-old self, I’ll answer what 17-year-old Ella would have:
      The human body is to blame for pain. Without a body, there is no pain, physical or otherwise.

      Now, I would say that no one is to blame for pain. Pain is an integral part of the human experience. Some inflict it, and in those cases they are of course responsible, but as a whole, we as humans experience pain just as we experience hunger, cold and fear. We might not have a discernible source for the pain, and that might lead us to searching for someone to blame, but the sooner as we accept that pain is just a part of it all, the sooner we can try to rise above it and find meaning in the lives we lead.


  4. You write so beautifully, so glad I stumbled upon your blog on this cold morning:)


  5. Shannon says:

    Your writing is so eloquent and insightful. Thank you for sharing it with the world. Big love and gentle hugs, fellow fibrofighter. XXoo


  6. Dave says:

    Hi Ella,

    I think there are different levels of pain, and A & B are SO different to C. Given the choice, I’m confident A & B would MUCH rather be feeling their pain than swap with C. So there’s that.

    And of course you compare and feel how you feel. I wonder how could you not? Only Zen masters would probably be above at least a moment’s thought along these lines. So please don’t feel bad about that.

    The fact that you do consider others is a testament to you – there are many with NO pain who still only think about themselves.


    Liked by 1 person

  7. abodyofhope says:

    Reblogged this on aBodyofHope and commented:
    I think this blogger just crawled inside of my pain addled brain and sucked out my thoughts like a milkshake. Wow. I am constantly having these arguments with myself. I think we just did a Vulcan mind meld. Read below:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. abodyofhope says:

    Holy guacamole Batman! I think you just crawled inside of my pain addled brain and sucked out my thoughts like a milkshake. Wow. I am constantly having these arguments with myself- even the cancer bit- even the sick unfortunate souls in foreign countries bit- even the comfort your friends anyway bit.
    You are not alone! (and I think we just did a Vulcan mind meld.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hannah says:

    “When someone I know is suffering from a horrible headache, I bite my tongue and never let the “now you know how I feel all the time” escape. But I always think it.”

    That’s a quote I really connected with. I have chronic migraines, and have had a constant headache for the past two years, ever since I was involved in a car accident; whenever I hear someone complaining about how their “head is just killing them,” I always have to bite my tongue, and feel guilty about it later.
    I can really connect with everything that you’re saying, so thank you very much for posting it.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. So much of what you undergo is internalised, and there is no way, really, to share it or express it. To feel sorry for your pain is commendable in us, but we can only really understand if we share it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. pejasmine697 says:

    Reblogged this on sheknowsshewrites and commented:
    Here’s to a truly beautiful, selfless person who obviously has a winning approach to life. My thoughts are always with you, Ella.
    I think this is really insightful and everyone needs to take a thing or two away from this. Cheers


  12. pejasmine697 says:

    I love that you’ve taken the time to think about this and have decided to take the selfless route. Obviously, there’s a place for people like you when we leave here. A much better place. Stay strong.


  13. Kim says:

    So this 40 something year old woman has tears running down her face and just wants to say thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This was a truly insightful post. Big ups for being so honest! Guilt will manifest in bad ways, mentally and physically, so stay away from it. You feel how you feel. Never feel guilty about that. Who says you’re supposed to be pain free, or shouldn’t acknowledge your pain? No guilt in that, right?


  15. Divya says:

    Its such a wonderful post Ella !! Everybody is fighting their own battle and after reading your post, I understand how unfair it’d would be to compare. Now that come to think of it, I feel a larger section of the society still does compare and that includes me. Rather included me ! I have never been mindful of it before. Thank you for writing this !

    Liked by 2 people

  16. hafong says:

    You think and see very well. Feeling guilt is a very human thing. I feel guilty about many things but I know I am doing the best I can. Writing gives me relief and helps me see that the guilt is unfounded.


    Liked by 1 person

  17. kraftycatcreations says:

    Great post! We all have moments of needing to re-focus on the other person. Being able to recognize this and do it is not something everyone is capable of doing. Especially with chronic illness!

    You are doing great – do not doubt it!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Ivy says:

    Pain is just pain Ella. No comparing it, I agree. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes emotional, sometimes different measures of both. It mostly sucks. I wish you many pain free minutes, hours. Days, weeks, months, years!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. InfiniteZip says:

    This was such a wonderful post and a refreshing perspective:) peace and love, K


  20. jensine says:

    I’m with you on that …. pain is unique to the person who is experiencing it and it is unfair to compare. While yes one event may seem worse on the grand scale of things, hurt is always the worst for the person felling it, no matter the reason

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Aul says:

    I think you’re a really good person for even considering how you act and feel in these situations. This simple post, showed a lot of character, and I think what I saw was a very kind young woman trying to figure out how to be her best self.
    Thanks for posting :)

    Liked by 1 person

  22. DotedOn says:

    Dear Ella, I LOVED this post :). Try not to feel guilty. Guilt is painful and I think you already have your dose of pain (which I hope, diminishes soon). Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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