There has been a lot of discussion lately in the ALI community about “the Pain Olympics.”
I despise that term being applied to this community. I really, really do, and here’s why. By likening the comparison of ALI pain from one member of the community to another to an olympic sport, it is implied that there is a judge. Well, from what everyone is saying about “the Pain Olympics,” there is no judge of the event, so no one really wins or loses (which is accurate when it comes to pain). What sport in the olympics does not have a judge? Not a one. In fact, each sport in the olympics has specific criteria to which the event is judged, balancing out the playing field. What people so despise in the ALI community, and term “the Pain Olympics,” has no such criteria or playing field. It has no judge. It is not a sport at all and does not even resemble one, in my opinion (and I am aware that my opinion tends to be rather simple).
But taking it a bit further and beyond my literal interpretation of “the Pain Olympics,” I still tend to resent mention of it in the ALI community for other reasons.
We all compare our pain to those around us. If we don’t do it out loud, we do it in our own minds. This has been made abundantly clear in Too Many Fish To Fry’s post earlier this week. Her post was thought-provoking (and stirred up some emotions in myself) and what I liked most about it was that so many of us came out of the woodwork and admitted that yes – if “the Pain Olympics” is what everyone seems to call the comparison of pain, then yes, many of us have taken part in them in some capacity, even if just in our own minds. We admitted very openly that we don’t normally verbally state how our pain was worse than someone else’s via comments or hateful emails, but many of us have often thought, ‘I sure wish my road was as easy as hers.’
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with comparing our pain to the pain of others. I think it’s human. I think it helps us process what, truly, is going on in our minds and how those thoughts are affecting us. I think it helps us keep things in perspective for ourselves.
And I think it helps us find our own tribes.
When I was cycling for Matthew, I wasn’t blogging. I read a ton of blogs and could not get enough of them, but I wasn’t writing myself. I didn’t have a blog.ger or word.press account. If I commented, I did so anonymously not to hide behind something, but because I didn’t have anything to put my name behind. I didn’t really know how to comment and I didn’t do it often. But I did do it once on a blog that I found so offensive and hurtful to me, and I’ve regretted that comment from the moment I hit publish. It wasn’t even a “Pain Olympics” type comment, but it was a comment that stemmed from my own pain. (Comments that stem from our own pain should probably not be published!)
I quickly learned that I didn’t want to follow blogs belonging to people who weren’t in the same IF diagnostic camp as me. I needed to build a community for myself. I needed to learn from others before me what I could be doing with my own cycles. I needed to see others in my similar situation succeed so that I could feel like that was a possibility for me too.
I needed to find my tribe.
Blogs of people doing clomid cycles were off my radar, because clomid was not an option for us. People cycling with IUI’s upset me, because I wished so much that IUI’s could work for us too. I took them out of my “favorites” (because remember, I didn’t have a blog.ger or word.press account). Once we failed with our first IVF cycle, it was hard for me to read about people who were successful with their first IVF cycles, because that was supposed to be me. I didn’t whittle down my “favorites” because I felt my pain was worse than theirs, I whittled down my list because I needed to surround myself with stories that could lift me up, and not make me feel like a failure. I needed to read the stories of people who needed a few IVF cycles to be successful, and I wanted to revel in their successes because it gave me hope that I would get there one day too.
I found my tribe, for the time-being.
Now that I’m parenting, I follow all sorts of ALI bloggers with very different diagnoses and treatments than ours. I am at a place now where I can simply be truly happy for the gal who is successful with clomid or an IUI without thinking, “I sure wish that could work for me.” That thought has not crossed my mind in years, and it feels so good.
What we saw in Too Many Fish To Fry’s post was many, many women saying, ‘hey, I’ve been that bitter person and was able to move past it, but it was not easy at the time.’ I hope we can all remember what it was like to be in such a dark place, that even if we didn’t write nasty comments on blogs that triggered deep sadness and anger in us, that often times, we really did feel and think those things. It has been made clear that many of us have felt insanely jealous of someone else’s pain that we perceived to be far less than our own. It is obvious from the discussions going on this week that many of us know how these “hateful” commenters feel because we are ashamed of our own past similar thoughts.
When “the Pain Olympics” do come up again, rather than fuel the fire, I hope we can all be compassionate enough to take a step back and realize that many of us have been there, and that the pain that is being lashed out will hopefully pass for that person. I hope we can all remember what it was like to “find our own tribe” back then and appreciate the tribe that we get to be a part of today. I hope that rather than admonish a nasty commenter for “playing in the Pain Olympics,” that we will respond kindly to her with a comment wishing her peace and happiness.