. One day when I was a child, I came to my mother in tears. I don't remember what I was upset about, but I do remember my mother's words: "Honey, If that's the worst thing that ever happens to you, you'll be the luckiest person in the world. Life is full of ups and downs, disappointments and successes, losses and gains. Everyone goes through them."
Over the years, when bad things happened, I hung on to those words. When I was devastated because a high school friend was killed in a car accident, I thought of other kids--ones I didn't know well-- who'd been killed, and I realized that their friends had suffered what I was feeling. When my first serious boyfriend broke up with me, and I was sure I'd lost the love of my life, my girlfriends assured me they'd gone through the same pain, but it didn't last. When our first child was stillborn, a friend of my mother was kind enough to send me a letter explaining that her first child was stillborn, too. She later had a healthy child and was now very happy. At a time when I was sure I'd never laugh again, she assured me that I would.
They say misery loves company, but what misery needs from that company is the knowledge that others have experienced that same things you are experiencing, and that they not only survived, but went on to enjoy life again.
That's called emotional support.
The key is truly knowing the "others" you're comparing yourself to. If you're looking at Facebook posts, realize that what you see there is what people want you to see. They're putting their best foot forward, sometimes even enhancing reality. Likewise, articles you read about celebrities usually concentrate on the "fairy tale" aspects of their lives--their beautiful homes and luxury cars, their romances, their"celebrity babies," their designer fashions, their exciting lives, etc., etc., etc. Remember you don't truly know them. In reality, many celebrities deal with histories of bad childhoods, broken or difficult marriages, children in trouble, stalkers, paparazzi, hangers-on who constantly try to get money from them, drug or alcohol addictions, bipolar disorder and depression, and yes, serious financial troubles.
We all have gifts and we all face challenges. The trouble is that we often don't appreciate the gifts we have, and we don't know about the challenges others are facing.
Media and advertising also invite unrealistic comparisons, seeming to promise that your life will be wonderful if only you buy their products. Last holiday season, I saw repeated ads showing a young couple in front of a huge beautiful home, raving about their two new vehicles, the combined cost of which was about $160,000. In reality, few young couples could afford such a purchase. But the subliminal message was: "You, too, can be as happy as this couple." In reality, "that couple" was two actors pretending to be deliriously happy. Few viewers will even think of that. They'll come away comparing their lives to the pretend lives they've viewed, and some of them will go deep into debt, believing they've found a way to be happier, not realizing that financial problems are a major cause of serious depression. Recent studies found that 16% of suicides can by attributed to financial problems, and the stress of high levels of debt leads to six times more cases of severe depression and seven times more cases of severe anxiety.
Remember that other people and the media aren't always showing you reality, and few things will really change your life, but the price you pay to acquire some things just might, but not for the better.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.