I remember reading somewhere that we are all here on this Earth to learn a lesson.
It’s one that is made for us, and only us. Like a special recipe concocted in the stars and implanted in our tiny developing foetus.
While it may sound a bit out there, it was extremely comforting to read that. For much of my life, I would compare my hardships, and pretty much everything else, to others. I’d look at those who seemed to “have it all together” and wonder if they ever struggled.
I felt envious as they seemingly sailed through life. “Why do I have to deal with this and not them? What did I do wrong?” But if I believe in this theory, then maybe they are not here to learn my lesson. They are here to learn theirs, whatever that might be.
This feeling of comparing hardships really exploded when my sister died of suicide in 2013. The pain of her loss was so intense I wanted to claw myself out of my body. It felt unsafe in my own mind. I really believed I was the only person in the whole world who experienced pain this excruciating.
I remember months after she died, I tried to go out and live a normal life. I lived in Beijing at the time and often went to bars and parties and watched people as if I was behind an invisible wall. Everyone around me seemed to be having the best time, and it made me feel so incredibly alone. It was like I was banished to another dark and miserable planet while everyone else merrily went about their life. It angered me that others weren’t suffering like me. I kept asking myself again and again, “Why me? Why my family?”
I was so absorbed in my own pain to recognise anything else in others. It’s been seven years since my sister died and now, I understand that while my grief is specific and particular, it is not unique. Along the way, I’ve met others who have been part of this club that no one wants to be a part of; the bereaved by suicide club.
I’ve heard their stories, and many have been so much more painful than mine. It reminded me that while things could have been different, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would have been better. This journey of learning that grief is shared by so many others has humbled me deeply. We all experience tragedies and heartbreak. There is no one in the world who doesn’t get hit with some kind of pain, no matter how happy and cheerful they may appear at the outset.
When we think we are alone in our suffering, we are not making it better for anyone, let alone ourselves. It only isolates us further and makes us feel even worse. Instead, it’s important to remember that we all have different paths to take with different peaks and troughs. We might reach heights so high and beautiful, but no one will ever quite know what that particular view is like. Only you will. The same goes the other way. There is no such thing as an easy path. Life is full of challenges and is hard on everyone.
If you ever catch yourself looking at others and wondering why your life couldn’t go as smoothly as theirs, remember that there are many people looking at your life wishing they had something about yours. It’s sort of like that quote, “Every time you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.”
It can be also applied to this situation. Someone may struggle their whole life with eating disorders and envy a particular model or celebrity for having a “perfect body,” not realising that this particular model is coping with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The list of struggles we can face is as endless as there are people on this planet. You simply never know what someone is going through.
I wish someone had told me this earlier. But maybe I wouldn’t have listened. Maybe this was one of the many lessons I needed to learn: keep your eyes on your own path—no one has better or worse; they just have it different.