Suffering is a universal human experience. Humans suffer whenever they are denied something that they desire. The degree of the suffering is directly correlated to the degree of the desire.
Why is this important?
Suffering cannot be measured or compared. Because the degree of suffering is dependent upon the degree of desire, there is no way to compare the amount of suffering. Suffering is either present or it is absent. There are no degrees of suffering.
For example: Two friends are going on a trip to Las Vegas. The first friend is very excited about the trip and is looking forward to it. The second friend is only going because the first friend really wants to go. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the trip has to be cancelled. The first friend is devastated while the second friend is relieved. Same event, but there is a difference in the suffering because there was a difference in the desire.
Another example: A child’s beloved toy is broken. Their relationship with that beloved toy is the same as an adult’s relationship with a friend. Thus, that child suffers when that toy is broken much the same way an adult would suffer if a friend were hurt.
Does the child with the broken toy or the adult with a hurt friend hurt more? How would one measure such a thing? All pain is equal. All suffering is equal. There is no need to justify suffering, it is a human state of being. Because of this, whatever suffering we are feeling is valid.
When discussing chronic illness, it inevitably focuses on the suffering the illness causes. We think about what it prevents us from doing that we desire to do. We think about what it means we have to do differently from what we desire. And we think about what it makes us do that we desire not to do. Chronic illness denies us our desires and we suffer. Sometimes this means we have pain we wish we didn’t have. Other times it means we wish we could walk without using devices. It also means we wish we didn’t have to take medications or go to monthly doctor appointments.
This is suffering. None of us suffer more than anyone else. Each of us suffer depending on our desires. It is valid. Even if our pain isn’t as severe as someone else’s pain. Even if other people don’t understand why we suffer. Even if others don’t suffer when they have this experience.
All suffering is valid.
So, how about we put down the yard sticks and stop comparing ourselves to each other?