Competitive mental health

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Blanket rule, mental health is very difficult to compare. I try to abstain from it wherever possible because sometimes I don’t even fully grasp what I’m going through, let alone trying to understand the context and trials another person is facing.

But I still do it sometimes. And about 90% of those times, it hurts. Because there’s no clear perspective and I have a magnifying glass on my own life. And all of sudden, we go from comparing… to competing. Competing for attention and trying to justify why we have it worse than someone else. Listing off and exaggerating symptoms because of the fear of being overlooked. One-upping another’s misfortune. At the most basic level, we invalidate someone else to feel valid.

And who wins? No-one. Because if you win that competition, that means you’ve lost! And if you lose, you’ve also lost. Mostly, there isn’t a winner to the competition. Maybe someone will give up arguing, conceding that okay fine, the other person is having a difficult time. But secretly (or maybe not so discretely), they are harbouring hurt and bitterness in their heart.

Perhaps more nobly, one will surrender and try to help the other person… cheerfully neglecting their own needs and hurting themselves. They might excuse and forgive someone else; it’s not their fault that their own needs have made them a little blind to the troubles of others. This is a very common problem, and not just in terms of mental health. Social interaction is very psychologically complex and cues are hard to read for neurotypical people, never mind anyone even mildly neurodivergent.

Notice that in none of these scenarios have I elected one person to actually be better or worse off than another. That’s because even it were possible to accurately measure such a thing as mental ill-health, it wouldn’t matter! The truth is that both are struggling and we all have different thresholds and breaking points. People have different coping techniques with varying degrees of helpfulness and healthiness.

Stop the comparison and competition. Be there for each other. Don’t keep score of who helps and who needs help. Sometimes you just can’t look away from yourself to help others – everyone has those times. We can all be forgiving and understanding. Articulate your needs without invalidating others. Lift one another up and look after one another above it all.

Stay safe,

kp

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