An illustration for a post about chronic illness and envy

DID: Chronic Illness and Envy

A few days ago I told my partner I envy people who can live their lives without DID.

He asked how envy made my life better, and I said, ‘It doesn’t. That’s the point.”

No one wants to admit to feeling envy, yet learning to manage envy is crucial to successfully managing a chronic illness.

These days I struggle with an old demon: raised in a culture of disdain for intelligence, intelligent little boys were beaten for ‘showing off’.

The beatings were especially brutal when they came from my Mother.

I’ve spent most of my life avoiding attention and playing second fiddle.

I’m not afraid of succeeding, I’m afraid to be seen succeeding.

I’m most vulnerable to feelings of envy when I’m struggling.

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.  Susan Sontag  1978

I’ve always had Dissociative Identity Disorder but I have not always been sick with it.

Prior to my diagnosis in 2009, I had a career, interesting friends, and an active life

One day I woke up and I was permanently too sick to go to work.

I told myself I hated the job, I told myself I’d find another job, I told myself I’d eventually get better, I told myself I brought it on myself, I did not have DID, I was burnt out and needed a rest.

Ten years later, it’s obvious that I’m not going to get well enough to work and I’m getting old, as in elderly.

The difference between fifty-seven and sixty-seven is like the difference between five and fifteen in reverse.

Whose body is this? Whose aches are these?

The problem is acceptance; I know I’m ill and getting old, but I still live in emotional denial.

I still expect myself to be healthy.

Knowing is not accepting and this is at the core of my envy and sense of frustration.

Accepting Envy

Envy is about someone getting ahead of you, someone doing better, someone possessing qualities that you wish you had. You think you are losing the race. You are falling behind. And you are feeling sad, angry, resentful, anxious and you just can’t accept it.  Psychology Today

It’s easier to be angry, or sad, to smother envy with somatic symptoms or to project it onto others.

We don’t want to admit to envy. We see it as a petty, selfish, sour-grapes emotion. So we hide it, we harbor it; we disguise it with claims of unfairness or with character assassination. And we may avoid the people about whom we feel envious. You might think, “I don’t want to be around him because it reminds me that they are doing better than I am doing.” Psychology Today

Finally, who wants to admit to wishing ill on the healthy?

Defusing envy is not as simple as not feeling it

Not letting yourself feel or validate envy makes it more toxic; repressed emotions express themselves in passive aggressive ways such as criticizing others, hostile and cynical comments, shaming and chronically feeling unappreciated.

The first step in defusing envy is acknowledging that it really does suck to be sick: life is already hard, and on top of it, you have a painful illness that saps your strength.

It really does suck to have an illness that interferes with your talents and goals.

The illness ends when you die; it’s a fact you have to accept.

In 2009, I could write a six-hour training presentation in less than a week while working full time.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I could walk for miles without panic attacks.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I thought I would be the clinical director of the agency I worked for by 2019.

That’s gone.

In 2009, I was still a young man.

Today I am old.

Acceptance is a daily practice.

Just for today, I can accept my life as it is, and I will let myself feel joy when others succeed.

Just for today, I can focus on my talents and take pleasure in my substantial accomplishments.

Just for today, I can forgive myself for being human and respect myself for having the courage to discuss my envy.

When are you most vulnerable to envy and how do you cope with it?

Rob Goldstein 2019


50 thoughts on “DID: Chronic Illness and Envy

  1. I identify with a great deal in your post, but although I suffer with chronic pain and bouts of depression/anxiety, I can always switch on the “gratefulness switch” when I count my blessings. Feeling grateful is a sure cure for envy. I do not envy people like my students their youth and vitality and freedom, but get close enough to them for a little to rub off on me. They recharge me and the adrenaline that results from teaching a class or working with them individually at a Starbucks or Burger King even eases my chronic pain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad to read this. Envy pops up for me when I hold myself to the same standards I used when I was healthy. When I relax my expectations of myself I find it easier to move toward gratitude. Helping others is a sure antidote to envy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing, Rob. It’s hard to imagine what you’re going through but I do know that although envy is a natural emotion how you deal with it can be catastrophic to your self-esteem and life. Also, what you tell yourself every day is extremely important. I know you’re probably tired of people telling you to be positive but that’s extremely important as well. Every morning look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how intelligent, happy, good looking, charming . . . you are. Lie to yourself if you have to and force yourself to smile as you look at your reflection. This will help you get through your day a lot easier. You’re a great guy–you just have to realize that. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Once again, your post has struck a chord with me. This will sound awful to say, but my husband just recently had surgery to correct a diagnosable condition and he is on the mend, and I am envious. Living with a chronic condition (that has stripped me of much of my life) that has no treatment, and little research, means I am not allotted recovery, nor even a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh dear…envy is being courted by rage. I’d best find my way out of this now…..

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You focused on a sensitive subject today, Rob. I admire your honesty. It’s not always easy to bare our souls to others and that comes from the fear of being rejected. When do I feel envy? When I am at a music concert in the audience instead of backstage where all the action is happening. That’s when I feel envy. There. I said it! Thank you for being you and embracing and sharing your talents, because my friend, you definitely have them! Have a great weekend! And, here’s to getting old. We are the lucky ones!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jan, thank you for leaving such an open and honest comment. I decided to finish this piece and post it after I read your Tuesday Tarot reading, and it’s been such a liberating post. We’re all human in when we’re locked into ourselves we forget that. I can see why you have that feeling of envy and I hope you know it doesn’t make you a bad person. Yes, here’s to getting old. I’m glad I made it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I found this post to be incredibly thought provoking, Rob. I have never considered envy in this particular context, always thinking of it in relation to physical possessions and lifestyles. I can see how a person could envy someone their health and mental aptitudes too. I suffer from chronic pain but I manage it and I have never considered wishing for anything to be different in my background although our family went through very difficult economic times. Changes the past would change the now and I love my family very much so wouldn’t take the risk, if you can understand that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Robbie, this is such a thought provoking answer. I completely understand you. All of the events of my life shape me who I am today and I think I’m a good person, if we define a good person as someone who works to treat other people with respect. I don’t always get it right but I will always try. I don’t regret my past, I regret the damage and the time it took for me to gain the insight, I needed to repair it. Acknowledging the impact of a painful experience is not the same as regretting it. Once I can acknowledge the reason for a fear I have a better chance of working through it. My goal is transcendence and my writing is part of that search. I don’t know what that transcendence looks like, but I have faith that I will find it. Thank you for adding to the conversation, Robbie. 🙂


  6. You’ve down well here Robert, to write about your DID’s so clearly and for me these articles are a learning eye opener…. My life as carer for my wife with MS, for over 30 years, has left me with a narrow Knowledge of other chronic illnesses and disorders……

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Defusing envy is not as simple as not feeling it.” I admire your ability to write these posts, Rob and I kinda envy your courage to post them. Your posts make me think, and the ability to make people think is almost a superpower today. We age, we slow down, we ache, but we still have superpowers.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Rob you are so brave to post this. I agree about the age thing, the aches and pains..I am 66yrs and today I feel every one of them and some.
    But we all just keep going, doing our best. You are so brave … Mother’s have a lot to answer for, I know …not my mother but my mother in law. I pray I have been a good mum, I try.
    Believe in yourself you are so worth it. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Willow. The world is full of devoted Mother’s who understand the job and do the best they can. I post this because It gives me clarity and may help someone else. I will do my best have faith in myself.


  9. Where to start! This just pisses me off, how could you be beaten for being smart, witty, talented, and successful at it???? I just want to scream at those that hurt you like that, and the mother in me just want to hold you and tell it to be the best you can be and how brilliant you are as an artist and person, and when you fail don’t beat yourself up too much over it, those failures are just stepping stone to comebacks!

    We all have envied something or someone at some point. The trick is not letting take over, or use it to springboard off of to your own successes!

    Going out of mother mode now. 😀Wait, how about a virtual hug first? xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The damage a community of bigots can do to the mind of a child is profound.

      Thank you for your comments on my work as an artist. I do have a sense of my worth as an artist. I realize, as I work through the question of envy in preparation for my therapy session tomorrow, the
      real issue is a pathological fear of success, probably because of those beatings.

      Virtual hugs are always accepted. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Old and sick. Yup got the shirt. You have so much to offer old sick one that just for today you should look back on the beauty you have created and bask in its glory. Well, maybe you should do that more often than just today. Envy eats the soul. Look for new ways to turn envy into art. I don’t carry your burdens but have had my time lashed to the mast. I wish I could take photos as you do. I wish I could put together beautiful digital art pieces as you do. Hell, I wish I was 67 again. It is true DID will leave you when you die, but there are many more beautiful things you will be able to create between here and then. Take heart, my friend.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. This is a thought-provoking post, Rob. You are right, it is better to acknowledge the feelings of envy rather than pretend they don’t exist. Anything repressed festers and turns toxic. It’s finding a way to leave it behind that’s hard. I envy people who are socially confident; I envy people who can articulate how they feel on a subject – be it political or academic – while I take forever to think things through and then don’t know how to express those thoughts. Sometimes, I feel so small and irrelevant and have to try to remember it’s not those other confident, socially adept people deliberately making me feel like that – it’s me. I’m not a brave soul.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow Mary. Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for pointing out how important it is to remember that other people are not going out of their way to humiliate us, unless it’s the President of the United States.
      I think you’re brave, Mary. But I know how it feels to feel like a coward.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a powerful post that explains the feelings that are inside when your life changes drastically. I did cringe being 57 and thinking about 67 that way. Repressing the pain and envy only makes it fester. It is still there. I can do social in small amounts now then recover, but i had to accept its different and doing it means anxiety so I pick and choose now carefully. Thanks for sharing this and bringing some light on your struggle helps others.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for adding to the conversation Denise. You’re right on point when you say repressing a feeling like envy makes it fester. I honestly think we have a duty to question our motives, especially when we behave in ways that are destructive of others. I write these posts to get the issue on the table and when I do, I begin to find clarity. My envy is fear and what I fear most is success. I may have exaggerated a bit about the 57-67 thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m very glad for you and your honest posts. Thank you:) I will let you know what I think of 67 when I arrive!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Good to read, that you are working with that feeling, Robert.

    I released that feeling many years ago. Decided that I wanted to live my life best possible with an positive attitude to the world. This helped me to be happy for other souls, when something went good to them and to share their joy.
    No matter how much or little of fx money, I have and have had, this was never able to bring me happiness for real, why I decided to be happy with, what I have. Later I found out to fight with myself to do, what I really wished to do with my life, no matter it hasn’t been easy at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. TI constantly question myself because that is the only way to prevent the damage of acting on subconscious impulses. My fight is always with myself, or that part of myself that wants to protect me from success. Thank you for adding to the discussion, Irene.


  14. Hi Rob,
    DID is something I don’t understand even when I have read most of the post you have written about it. I’ve gone online and read several articles and it still doesn’t help. It is beyond my comprehension. You should never forget how strong you are and you are a survivor. It’s okay to get frustrated and down. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience this periodically.
    With that said, I agree with your partner, if envy has no benefit, then leave it on the table and move on. You have way too much to offer the world to waste your time on it.
    God’s Blessings Rob – HUGS

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for the honesty of your comment, Chuck. I don’t understand it either. I understand how DID works and why it happens and I can recite the most recent research but deep down, I don’t understand which is
      why I keep tripping over my own denial. As for envy, blogging about it helped me to clear it. To some extent I post about DID as an extension of therapy, with the hope that my experience will help someone else.
      I was surprised by the plethora of articles on the topic of chronic illness and envy.

      Here is article from the Scientific American that argues how DID might explain the fundamental nature of reality:


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