I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s assertion that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Although I’ve tried to apply its lesson to my everyday life, on some days, I find myself trapped in a cycle of comparisons. In some situations I can control that comparison urge before it escalates into difficult emotion, but unfortunately, the chaos of chronic illness often complicates taking life one moment at a time.
Medical professionals constantly assess my health by using comparisons. They’ll place old and new ultrasounds next to each other and report new discoveries or unexpected plot twists in my physical health. Or, they’ll contrast blood levels over time and instruct me to provide reports about my health from week to week. This forces me to reflect on physical pain and discomfort, drawing attention to how much and how quickly my body has changed.
As frequently as I try to remind myself to remain in the present moment and evaluate my physical and emotional health daily, I can’t do it all the time. The difficult reality of maintaining an in-the-moment mindset is that sometimes comparisons are necessary, even when I don’t want to think about the past.
Yes, comparisons do steal joy. For example, I’m shattered when my medical team tells me about a health decline. I become overly anxious while realizing changes from one scan to the next. Worry grips my brain as I ponder what those changes could mean. At night, I ask myself what’s next.
Many people experience comparison’s thievery while using social media, but that’s not the case for me: I simply sign off or scroll past if I find myself comparing my situation with others. But I can’t sign out of or scroll past painful discussions with my medical team.
Instead, I must learn to receive medical information and reflect on paths forward, rather than compare myself with others or my past self. Changing my mindset to process new results or data and view them as opportunities to reflect, assess, and design a plan of action has helped in moments when I feel that life is beyond my control.
I am working on the ability to shift my mind from dwelling in upset to taking action. But this type of change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires several reminders from people who support me to convince me of how powerful action can be.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.
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