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I would like to think that this doesn’t need saying, but sadly it does: we all feel differently, we all react to situations in different ways, and we remain happy/sad/angry for different lengths of time. We are all different!

It seems obvious when it’s put that way, but in real life it doesn’t seem to be so easy to remember. Yesterday I wrote about “The Oppression Olympics” where people try to “out-pain” each other (so to speak). It’s things like this that point out a fundamental lack of empathy that we all have. “How many times have you been sexually assaulted? Only 1? Well, I’ve been sexually assaulted 10 times”. Yes, this is terrible but being assaulted once is also terrible.

This issue of understanding is frequently found in mental illness. So often people are asked “why are you depressed? You have everything: a family, a job, a place to live, there’s nothing to be depressed about.” Not only is this missing the point–depression is a chemical imbalance, not just feeling a little down–but it is forgetting that we all react to situations differently and that we all have different things that make us happy or sad.

This is something also often associated with trauma. A person who has experienced a trauma will be told there is no reason for them to have PTSD or any residual problems because lots of other people experience the same kind of trauma with no problem. Or, lots of people experience it every day with no choice. I remember reading about a person who was understandably depressed at the loss of a friend. Someone responded to them that they were lucky they weren’t in a war-torn country where people had lost all their family and friends. Yes, people have it worse off. There is always someone who has had more bad experiences or who has seen more traumatic things than you have, but that doesn’t invalidate your experiences or your feelings associated with them.

We need to understand that everyone reacts differently to things, and that we all have a right to express our feelings or mental illnesses without being told that we “shouldn’t” feel that way because other people have it far worse.