Coping With Heartfelt Happiness That’s Laced With Envy

Dear Audy,

I’ve been seeing a lot more of friends than usual this month, being the one that holds my birthday. It’s been great catching up with people and knowing that they care about me enough to make the effort. That means a lot to someone who isn’t always able to get out and attend their functions and celebrations. It means a lot that I have great friends who understand and will come and visit me even when I can’t reciprocate. I am grateful for each and every one of you! If I am being completely honest, I must also tell you that I am in some way envious of each and every one of you too. This has nothing to do with you, personally, it’s a side effect of three years of CRPS and I’m still learning to deal with it.

20091025 Envy by Pensiero
Envy… by Pensiero

I have noticed that after I spend time with absolutely anyone that my body becomes somewhat hyped up and my mind becomes frazzled, often leaving me a bit upset or frantic for a while. It’s not at all to do with the person I am spending time with, more to do with just being ‘switched on’ for communication. Communicating can be complicated when you suffer a chronic illness. It can be hard to take in conversation when you are in extremes of physical pain and also hard to express yourself. I’m often left wondering how much honesty is too much honesty? When someone asks how I’m doing, how much truth do they really want to deal with? And how much do I want to share? Nobody wants to be the sad sack that brings other people down.

The plain truth is that I am in pain each and every day, this is a pretty sad fact that I can’t escape, so I usually try to mention it as little as possible when socialising. I don’t want to talk about the things that bring me down when I’m trying to have a good time. The only problem is, having CRPS is my entire life. I don’t have much else to talk about. Occasionally I will let a comment out that leaves people in the room making awkward, pitying looks, when that’s not my intention at all, I’m simply stating an honest fact from the life that I live. It’s confronting to see people react to my life with such pity or to see them squirm with discomfort when my intention has been to make a joke. It’s confronting to realise that my life has become something to be pitied when I spend so much time trying to focus on reasons not to look at it that way. It’s a little bit like having the protective bubble of half truths that I wear as armour bursting around me. I’m not faulting my friends at all for their reactions, just trying to give insight into how socialising can feel from the perspective of a CRPS sufferer. I can’t operate in the world with people who don’t realise that I’m in pain, yet I struggle to handle being pitied…it’s a hard juxtaposition to live with.

I like to hear stories from the lives of others. I like to hear what my friends have been up to, what they’re planning and the futures they are building for themselves. Unfortunately, there is a double edge to the sword that I cannot seem to escape. An evil, green-eyed, edge. Part of me is jealous of each and every one of you who is able to choose directions, try new things, carry out plans and create the lives that make you happy. I want that ability back more than anything. I don’t mean to say I don’t like hearing about other people being happy, I most certainly do. I love when my friends are doing well, I celebrate their achievements, feel proud of them and I’m happy that they are happy. It turns out that human beings are capable of being happy for others and jealous of them at the same time. It’s no use trying to make the happy part override the jealous thoughts, they just appear, they are there and I have to deal with them.

I deal in the same way that I deal with all the things that bring me down, I try to focus on my own personal present, remember the small things I have achieved within my boundaries and remind myself of the physical and creative goals that I have set in order to be able to step up to higher goals. I try to give little credence to the thoughts that will bring me down. It can get frustrating constantly reminding oneself to be proud of getting the laundry on the line and not jealous of other people you’ve grown up with jetsetting around the world or beginning amazing careers. Life is not best lived through comparison, however it’s not best lived through denial or secrets either. I’m still figuring out how to walk the lines with balance. I’m writing with the hope that friends reading will understand that I love spending time with them, just that there is an undercurrent of crap that I go through and that if I seem a little disconnected or vague it’s most likely because part of my brain is draining energy trying to resolve these parallel states of being….happiness for others & envy.

This has been a weird post to write. It’s an awkward topic, jealousy, we often don’t like to admit when we feel it but it’s pretty hard to go through life never admitting the undesirable stuff. I’m wondering if other sufferers can relate? How do you deal? I hope that no one interprets this post to mean that I don’t want to be told good news, or any news! I’m looking forward to the next time a friend has something exciting to tell me and I shall continue focusing my energy on logically dealing with my negative emotions so that I can enjoy the positive ones.

Love From The Green Eyed Monster,

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  • 9 thoughts on “Coping With Heartfelt Happiness That’s Laced With Envy

    1. Carly

      Hi Caf

      I replied before on my iPhone but it came up with an error.

      I can relate to what you’re saying.

      When I see people wearing strapless/sleeveless/backless/skin revealing clothes, who are comfortable in the sun, who are able to keep warm/cool, who are able to stand without pain, who are complimented because of their good looks… bascially people who have or can do everything I don’t and can’t do easily… I feel pangs of jealousy. Well, that’s probably not the right word. It’s more of a feeling ‘you don’t know how good you have it’. There are so many things I can do, which I am grateful for. But sometimes I wish I could just do some of those little things. Wear make up. Wear a pretty dress without having to wear longsleeves and stockings. NOT wear vaseline. Etc.

      Hang in there


    2. Carly

      ….oh and then there’s those people who truly do mean well that say to me ‘someone will come along for you’ or ‘of course you’re not going to be single forever’.
      They just don’t get how difficult it is being different.

    3. Todd


      I can relate to a great portion of this post. Although I do not have to endure constant pain, it is often hard to relate to others when a great deal of my life is consumed with the challenges that confront my disability of Cerebral Palsy and the minute tasks that confront me each and every day.

      Half the personal battle of coming to terms with my disability was getting over my jealousy of others. “Why am I the one who always stick to such a tight schedule? And why can’t I be spontaneous? Why do I have to be the one stuck in the chair for the rest of my life?” How I longed for normalcy.

      I guess this is easy to say given how lucky actually am, given that my condition always is, and will be constant, but I have learnt to embrace the gifts that my disability gives me. The fact that I know myself better than others know themselves, the fact that I do have unique experiences, the fact that I have met some extraordinary people I would not have come in contact with otherwise, and finally the fact that I know I can handle everything in life that comes my way.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a refreshing and honest way.

    4. Melissa

      You’re right, it’s tough to talk/write about the stuff no one wants to talk about! I can quite understand how two seemingly opposite states can exist simultaneously. It’s not a paradox that will end the world, just a dilemma to be dealt with day to day and a careful balance to be struck. So if sometimes one outweighs the other, that’s fine, the balance redresses itself later.

      Loved your flower photos. And would love to come to a’make up for not being at the party’ tea party.

    5. Maria (Tough Cookie)

      I try not to compare myself to others because our lives are so different. This is my life for now, however long now ends up being, and I have different rules and boundaries to live within. Accepting where I am in this journey gives me the right to be happy with my life as is. It can be hard to implement at times, but I always bring myself back to the fact that I can’t worry about what I can’t change. And my life has enviable aspects, too :-) Be well!

    6. Kate

      I’m with you on this, too. Recently we had a couple come over that we’ve been friends with for years. It was just before my husband did his first 5km fun run. The husband and wife do fun runs and marathons and triathlons all the time, so it was the topic of discussion while they were over.

      If there is one sport/activity I’d love to be able to do, it would be running. Before my RSD started, running was my thing. Cross country, long distance on track- all of it. It was my release and I was pretty damn good at it. But of course now that I can’t even walk properly from one room to the next, sitting at a table listening to my husband and our two friends talk about running for well over an hour, just ate me up inside.

      I ache to be able to do it again and I was so jealous that they can. After a while, after spending way too long feeling like crap because I couldn’t join in with the conversation at all, I left the table and went to lie down. I didn’t want to seem rude, but I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

      That’s just one example but there are so many other ways this is an issue for an RSDer- seeing friends buy their first home, getting car loans for fancy cars, swimming in their swimming pool even though the water is freezing, going to nightclubs on girls nights out- all those things I can’t do (or as a couple we can’t do) because of how our lives are at the mercy of my RSD.

      It’s hard to get our heads around it and not let it all bother us, because it’s healthy or helpful to think like that, but I think it’s involuntary sometimes.

      The hard, yet most important thing, is to let go of these things and step ourselves back. Wasting energy on what we can’t change right now is just silly. We do need to look at the positives and be happy for other people, without bringing it back to our own circumstances. Another prime example of when we need to look at the positives and keep working towards our goals of getting on top of our RSD.

      x Kate

    7. Jen

      You have this amazing ability to write exactly how I feel. It’s somehow something that I can’t transfere to paper/the same thought to blog page.
      If I could I’d copy and paste to my blog (I’ll link it instead) so that my own group of friends could understand what goes through my head with every outing/event/gathering organized.
      Always here for you! Xx

    8. Jeanne


      Wow! What a post!

      Well, I believe anyone who has a chronic illness or chronic pain (regardless of what it is) can relate to this post if they are being honest with themselves.

      How can anyone who deals with chronic illness/pain daily not have some occasions where they feel this way?

      Where they see others around them able to do things and/or go places they can’t… and wish they could have the same freedom and spontaneity.

      I have lived with chronic illness and chronic pain for 27 years now. I agree very much with what Todd said about learning to embrace the gifts that my disability (and illnesses and pain) give me. Like him, I believe I know myself better than others know themselves.

      Like him, I have had the great honor of getting to know some of the most extraordinary people I have ever met… people I have met because they share one or more of my chronic illnesses.

      These are people I almost certainly wouldn’t have met any other way. As he said, having experienced such adversity truly can give one a sense that he/she can handle everything in life that comes his/her way.

      It took me a long, long time to grasp the idea of having chronic illnesses and chronic pain as a “gift”. It sounds bizarre to those who haven’t been through the kind of journey that leads to such a perception/outlook.

      The fact that I can see my illnesses/pain as a gift does NOT mean the green-eyed monster has been packed away. I can totally related so much to this beautifully written post. There are times when I see the people around me making everything look so effortless and “normal” that I get tears in my eyes.

      It is very, very difficult for people who are not chronically ill to “get it” to any real degree. Even the most compassionate, well-intentioned people who are healthy or relatively healthy generally cannot fathom what it’s like to be chronically ill.

      Most people don’t “get it” unless it has happened to them. Some understand better than others, of course. Over the years, my circle of friends has become less healthy people and more fellow patients. I haven’t purposely rejected any friends for being healthy, mind you. :)

      It’s just that over time I have made more and more friends (via support groups or other means) who are chronically ill and automatically “get it”. They face the same struggles I do. So, if we make plans and they need to be changed at the last minute, it’s no big deal because we both understand and no one has to labor over explanations about why one person’s too sick to keep the plans as scheduled.

      It is incredibly hard to explain to healthy people what it’s like to be in poor health. This is especially true if the illness is invisible. The most compassionate of healthy friends may occasionally forget how sick a chronically ill friend truly is simply because they don’t see visible signs of it. Society has a strange way of assuming that anyone who looks young and healthy is young and healthy.

      Even those who know better can forget.

      By sharing your thoughts openly and honestly, you are giving a gift to yourself and others. Trying to hide a green-eyed monster behind a smile is exhausting, hard work.

      By sharing the truth about how you feel, you are giving others a gift… the gift of knowing that they are not the only ones who feel this way or, in the case of your friends, the gift of honesty about your feelings.

      Such honesty, I have found in my 40 years, either strengthens the friendship because it increases understanding and the healthy friends become more sensitive/aware… or it strains friendships where the healthy friend doesn’t know how to handle it.

      In the latter case, it may be sad to grow apart from people who are not open to increasing their understanding and sensitivity but in the long run it’s in everyone’s best interest to not “go through the motions”. If you have to hide your true feelings from your own friends, that’s not healthy for either party.

      This is an excellent post that captures feelings I have heard expressed by MANY over the years. In support groups I attended monthly from 1992 – 2008, I heard many patients talk about feeling this way.

      So, it is NOT just you and you articulated it very well.

      Job well done!


      P.S. The “Envy” picture was perfect. :)

      P.P.S. I got an error when I first clicked comments. Then it came up on the 2nd try. I can’t proofread this comment, though, because it won’t let me scroll back up above what’s currently on the screen. :( (I tend to write long comments). In any event, I’m going to take a leap of faith and submit this comment and just hope that it’s not full of typos. (I detest typos).

    9. Tracey

      Great post Caf! I love your honest writing and your emotive words… Most of all though, I love that you are always the first person to focus on the positive in ANY situation. You rock!! 8)

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