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.
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.
In 2009, I could walk for miles without panic attacks.
In 2009, I thought I would be the clinical director of the agency I worked for by 2019.
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