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There Ain’t No Party Like a Pity Party

Most sick and disabled people don’t want pity, but we do want fair treatment
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Reprinted with the kind permission of Jamison Hill.

Have you ever had something go wrong and then it snowballed into a million other things that went wrong? If so, you probably know what I’m feeling right now. You may even know a variation of the anger I feel and how it has led me to do and say things that have probably made matters worse and caused more things to go wrong. It’s the very definition of the domino effect.

But the thing I struggle with the most when things go wrong is feeling sorry for myself and complaining about it to other people. I haven’t mastered the art of acknowledging that things are not going my way while avoiding the bitterness and sadness that often consumes me, the people I talk to, and ultimately, makes the situation worse.

I don’t know how to say: X happened, I don’t want pity, now let’s move on. Well, I do know how to say it, I just don’t know how to stop there and not say anything more. I don’t know how to stop myself from expressing every detail of my suffering because it feels justified and it feels like the only way I can even remotely cope with what I’m going through.

It starts when I acknowledge that something is wrong and then dive deeper into sadness and end up sounding whiny and sorry for myself.

It’s hard to walk that line because I feel a need to acknowledge when things suck — I can’t pretend that being bedridden and unable to speak is normal. And I shouldn’t have to. There are programs that teach people not to acknowledge the physical symptoms of being sick. But just because you pretend something isn’t there doesn’t make it go away. In my experience, it only makes the problem worse because, well, I go a little crazy when I’m in excruciating pain but pretend I’m not. It makes me feel like what I’m experiencing isn’t real.

The other reason I don’t want to pretend everything is okay is because I want other people to know when I’m going through something. Not because I want their sympathy, but because it’s not normal and when you pretend that a sick person isn’t sick, when you pretend they’re perfectly fine, it can be detrimental to their health. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

The hardest part about acknowledging that things aren’t going well, and getting others to do the same, is it can look like I’m seeking attention and want pity. I don’t though. I think most sick and disabled people don’t want pity, but we do want fair treatment. We want to not have our struggles swept under the rug. But some healthy people misinterpret that as wanting pity and attention. But there’s a big difference. Wanting pity is getting satisfaction when someone feels sorry for you. I never feel good when someone shows me sympathy. If anything, I feel worse. I feel bad about myself and ashamed of my circumstances. Either that or I feel angry because I’m being patronized.

When life sucks my goal is to say: This is shitty, I want to fix it, or at least acknowledge that it’s not right and move on. I don’t want to say: This is shitty, don’t you feel bad for me?

And while I never actually say the latter, it feels like that’s what some people perceive. Or maybe my own insecurities lead me to feel that way. But more likely, it’s a combination of my insecurities mixed with some people being ignorant.

That’s just how it goes, I guess. I don’t have a solution to feeling sorry for myself, but I am actively trying to avoid it. I find it incredibly challenging to struggle, and acknowledge that I’m struggling, but not dive into the world’s biggest pity party.

The other day, for instance, it was difficult for me to acknowledge that I was too weak to even brush my teeth without letting the enormity — the thick weight of that statement — bear down on me like the profound weakness I was already feeling. But maybe that’s just how it has to be; for now, maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be; And I don’t know, maybe I’m meant to fully feel the weight of my situation.

BEFORE YOU GO…

1. Thanks for reading!

2. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be so grateful.

3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills and if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I’d be equally grateful.


Jamison Hill is a former bodybuilder now living with severe ME/CFS. He is a freelance writer working on a memoir and blogging at JamisonWrites.com. His work has been published in the New York Times, the LA Times, VICE, Quartz, Mic, Bustle and Men’s Journal.

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