I’ve heard a lot of people belittle their experiences compared to mine. “I haven’t been through even half of what you have…”

It’s true that I’ve been through a lot. An astounding amount of crap has happened to me in my relatively short life. Here are a few of the big things with title case capital letters that I can plaster “SURVIVOR” after:

  • Meningitis
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Drug addiction
  • Prostitution
  • Homelessness
  • Sexual assault
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Mental illness
  • Domestic violence

That’s a lot of things to survive. Those are just the highlights.

But, you know what? I have never:

  • Served in combat
  • Lived in a country where I’m not allowed an education, job, or freedom because of my gender
  • Been stabbed or shot because of my beliefs
  • Lived in a war-zone
  • Thought that my only option for survival was to get on a flimsy raft and flee to another country that doesn’t want me

My point is, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter how awful you’ve had it, there is always someone going through worse right now.

All of my trauma is in the past. I’m not currently being abused, beaten, raped, shot at, stabbed, or prostituted. I have a roof over my head. I’m not controlled by nor beholden to a drug addiction, pimp, domestic abuser, government, etc. I can say what I want, as loud as I want. I can get an education in any field of study I choose. I can wear anything I want and expose my face in public. I live in a free country. I am free.

No matter who you are or what you’ve gone through, it’s easy to trivialize your experiences and downplay your pain by comparing it to others as I just demonstrated.

Stop doing that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: trauma is trauma. Whether it’s from getting shot or getting divorced, pain is pain. No one’s pain can make yours any less valid. If it hurts you, if it impacts your life, if you carry it around with you every day, it’s real. It doesn’t matter whether you think your pain is less severe than someone else’s; their pain is not yours and vice versa.

We all have our own unique brand. We have different ways of speaking, thinking, looking, etc., so why wouldn’t it follow then, that we’d all have different ways of processing trauma? We all carry our pasts around with us, whether we want to or not.

Your struggle is real, but no matter how terrible it is, don’t forget that it is not everything that makes you you. Your pain is real, but so is your joy and love and sense of wonder; and so are the clouds and stars and trees that gently sway in the afternoon breeze. Remember to look up once in a while.

You have survived all the crap that life has thrown at you so far, whatever it is. By using the gray matter in your brainpan to read and process these very words, you have proven yourself to be an evolutionary marvel. You have survived everything it took to get here, to this post, this sentence, this moment, where I am emphatically telling you that you are strong. You are a survivor in great big capital letters. If you’re able to read this, you have already won. You are alive. Give yourself a mighty pat on the back and keep it up as long as you can. High five, baby.