Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins - Envy

I got the idea to blog on the seven deadly sins. While it's not directly related to mental health, it is. There are a lot of these sins attributed, in some way or another, to those of us who cycle. After all, we tend to be extremists and many of the deadly sins consist of normal feelings or actions taken to the extreme. I thought I'd address each of them as they often pertain to mental health, along with the misconceptions and the ways to deal with them.

Envy. People often get it confused with jealousy. It is not. Envy concerns something, or a particular characteristic of someone,  that you wish you had. For instance, a higher salary or bigger house or apparent happiness. It can also involve lack of something - I wish I didn't have this debt, this illness, this challenge. Jealousy, on the other hand, involves a third party - i.e. you're spouse is animatedly talking with an attractive person of the opposite sex instead of you, and you feel jealous. That attractive person is the third party. Jealousy is often based on the fear of something undesirable happening. People feel jealous when they feel threatened. Envy does not involve this.

If you ask someone with a mental health condition if they're envious of people who don't have to deal with it, I'd venture to guess that most, if they're being honest, would say yes. The exception, perhaps, might be a highly religious person who thinks they were given their illness for a reason and they're "right where they're supposed to be" (ah, how I hate this phrase). Even those of us who use our conditions for good - to advocate for awareness, to help support others - probably, at least on days of bad cycling, wish we didn't have to deal with our illnesses. In that sense, we envy the "normal" people. Just as a severely diabetic person with a massive sweet tooth probably envies those who can eat their favorite dessert while they can't.  If you think you're immune to this, next time you have the stomach flu, see how well you do not envying the people who aren't hugging the toilet for hours at a time.  It's natural to want to feel well, and frustrating to be ill and not be able to fix it.

Envy isn't all bad. It can drive us to work hard towards our goals. If you're envious of someone's job or position in life, it can help you to look at them as an example and find ways that you can get there. Maybe it's possible, and maybe it's not, but it can motivate. And perhaps you don't achieve what the other person has, but find something else along the way. In terms of mental health, envy of those who feel better can help us continue treatment even when it's difficult, even when the meds make us sick and we feel too depressed to get out of bed and go to therapy.

Where envy is destructive is when it takes us away from our true selves. I have been guilty of being envious of people who, by lack of condition and general genetics, have a relaxed, laid back personality, who are more spontaneous, who can continually be light hearted. I have, at times, tried unsuccessfully to achieve this, and gotten mad and frustrated at myself for not being able to. The reason is simple: I'm not made that way. Between birth-given personality and my cyclothymia, I cannot be as chilled and relaxed as the majority of people. I mean, I have to set alarms numerous times a day to stop and take medication. Nothing says fun and spontaneous by having a calendar alert and a days of the week pill box, right? I am naturally created to swing between hypomania and depression, sometimes several times a day. Inherently, this eliminates chill mode.

And so, in the end, the envy of something I can never be can eat me alive. Or I can accept it. I can use it to set goals, to push me forward, but not to try to change my personality, or my brain chemicals. Perhaps I'll always be a bit envious of those who don't have to deal with this. But I also know that we all fight our own battles, and perhaps they are equally envious of some trait of mine that they wish they had. I guess I'll never know. 

No comments:

Post a Comment