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Michael Foglietta's Blog

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  • Writer's pictureMichael Foglietta

It could be worse...

This is a phrase I came to absolutely despise. Does telling someone it could be worse actually help them? Of course not. It is a simple platitude and can be degrading. It does not show understanding or empathy. I'm sure most people have good intentions and utter this phrase because they don't really know what else to say.

Granted, things can always be worse, but how is this phrase supposed to help? Am I supposed to think HOW it can be worse? Which in turn am I supposed to think of a way that it could be worse or think about people who are worse off than I am? Thinking about people who are worse off than I am then makes me feel better? Or is this phrase supposed to have this effect?

I heard this phrase most often during my first year or so after I got out of the hospital. I can remember people saying this phrase to me. The only thought I had was that the only way it could be worse is if I was dead. I was not in good shape for a long time. I could not think about, or compare myself to anyone else at the time.

I can't remember much, but I believe I was polite to whomever said this phrase to me. But I also remember thinking, how the f#@k could it be worse? I could barely walk, I needed help doing just about everything. I was 3000 miles away from my daughter. I could barely move my head. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, and so on.

No one can physically see someone else's pain, both mental and physical. For people suffering from mental illness or physical pain. No matter how bad it is, it is always the worst thing we can go through. For us, it can't get any worse. It is something that we have to deal with every day of our lives and it can be difficult for others to understand because they have never lived through it themselves.

Of course people empathize with us (mostly), but there is a great amount of pity and degradation on those afflicted with chronic conditions and disabilities. Discrimination can be obvious or subtle, but I see it quite often.

I was in an angry phase for a couple years after I got out of the hospital. There was at least one time when someone uttered this phrase to me, and my response was this; "Do you want to go through what I've been through?" The answer was always no of course. It was kind of rude of me to say it, but I said it.

If an event or situation affects your every day life in a negative way, it is automatically worse. Not, it could be worse. Instead of saying it could be worse, try something like; I'm sorry that you are going through this. This phrase shows empathy, respect, and caring.

Depending on the level of the relationship, you could continue by adding; if you need anything, let me know.

Hearing this phrase now is inspirational for me by replacing one word. Replace 'worse', with 'better'. Now the phrase reads; it could be better. Instead of thinking to myself how it can be worse, I think about how it can be better. It has a more positive outlook vs. a negative one.

How can I make my life better? How can I help others? I am trying to make life better for myself and my community.

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