Una's Blog


Una’s little world 31. You can’t compare problems

by Una Hearne.

So I have this friend Mary and if I listed all the challenges she has faced in life so far – well the truth is you wouldn’t believe me. You would think it was a rejected soap opera script, you’d probably start a go-fund-me page for her.

Her attitude, humour and fortitude are a constant inspiration.

In the early days of our now 25 year friendship we fell into a common trap – of automatically comparing our problems. As if in competition to be the most understanding. We said things like:

  • Sorry I shouldn’t complain, your problem is so much worse.
  • No, no not at all,  I’m well used to this, it’s much worse for you!
  • Here I am going on about this, you have real problems!

The other side of this trap which people get into is the competition to be the biggest victim and have the worst problems. ‘You think that’s bad, wait till I tell you what happened to me!’ Just as daft.

Both types of conversations are a waste of time and energy. Thankfully Mary and I figured out pretty quickly that nobody gets through life without challenges. More than this, it is not possible to compare the relative difficulty of these challenges.

Everyone finds different things challenging. You might long to give up your job, but I am bereft without mine. Also in chronic illness, isolation is a huge problem for some, whereas I relish the amount of time I have to myself. Even with exactly the same issue you cannot compare the impact on two different people.

What Mary and I realised is that your challenges in life are as tough for you as you find them. There is no way it ‘should’ be. It is the way it is for you. We now cheer each other on through the good times and the bad. We  support each other and make each other laugh. We are allowed to be absolutely who we are. And this is the way it is with all my heart friends – I know I have been particularly blessed with friends.

Here’s the kind of thing we say now:

  • I’m sorry you have to go through this, but you will make it, you always do.
  • It’s ok to be afraid, depressed or angry. You are allowed to feel shite and I’m here for you.
  • We will get through this together.
  • Just take it one day at a time, one hour at a time if you need. Your best is always good enough.
  • Sometimes, all you can do is breathe in and breathe out. And that’s enough.

That last one is the best piece of advice I ever got from anyone. Mary said it years ago and it has helped me through many a dark day.

Good friends are better than diamonds, I wish you all friends as precious as mine.

Una x


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