I went to a graduation party yesterday of a dear friend. A dear friend in an odd way. We don't see each other all that much or even talk very regularly. But our connection is her son also suffers from a neurological disease, Chiari Malformation. At my darkest hour, I remember fumbling through a tear filled facebook message for answers or ideas of what brain surgery is actually like and what to expect from my husband afterwards. Her words were simple and kind and she basically said, "It will be okay."
At this party, I saw a lot of people I hadn't seen publically since TN struck my life. Many asked, "How is it going?" And I went to answer and I am always worried about putting it out there falsely, but also being too down or killing the vibe (as my students say when I bring it up in class). I kinda just nodded and said, "Good." She pipes up and says, "I always answer today is good." I needed that. Because it is true. It is a great way to look at it.
It prompted me yet again to do some sort of weird inner dialogue with myself. I was thinking back when she went through her son's brain surgery and how I felt helpless to comfort her. And the look I gave her. It was pity. It is how people look at me when they ask about it. I got to thinking, "NO!" We need to stop that. I need to stop doing that to others. Pity isn't action. Pity is about being uncomfortable. Pity is inaction. It provides comfort in the wrong places.
I will never ever look at anyone with pity again. We need to turn this needless and awkward emotion that creates a weird silence of no words spoken and just acknowledge it for what it is. Pity exists because bad things happen every single day and we don't know how to feel about it. We see and feel our own mortality in the pain of others and that is tough. Pity ends up being about those with the pain/loss comforting those without it on this notion that nothing bad will happen to them. And it just isn't realistic.
Look up statistics for suicides, cancer, random accidents, and tragic heart attacks. And I am willing to bet that to each of those people that this happens to daily are good people to someone who loves them. That means that bad, horrible sucky things happen to good people every single minute of every single day. My family is no different.
That also means that there is this misplaced emotion that if we put it to work could move moutains or even a speck of dirt. Of course, I can give ideas of how and I will. But this is my situation. It isn't everything and won't fix it all. But I would like to think I tried.
- If you know someone who suffers from a chronic pain or chronic illness don't look at them with pity. Why not resist the stigma that they are being too dramatic or making it up. Don't buy into the notion that they are addicted to drugs. If you hear someone say either of those things tell them no. Put your pity there!
- When someone suffers from facial pain just because you can't spot it on an MRI doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Just because drugs don't work doesn't mean it is a mental ailment versus a physical. Just because it is called the suicide disease doesn't meant they will kill themselves. It means they feel alone with a pain that is almost undiagnosiable. Take that pity and place it into awareness. Buy a teal ribbon, wear a teal shirt and tell my husband's story or someone elses. Just google TN stories and be prepared. Put your pity there!
- When someone loses their baby through miscarriage, still birth or unexplained reasons please for the love of God erase the pity look. It makes parents feel like they shouldn't talk about that loss. It feels like it is erasing a human being. Take that pity look and just acknowledge it is loss of a hope, a dream and baby. And don't worry, nothing you could say will be as bad as the pain that is felt when you lose a child. And really the same could be said for infertility. It is still very much the loss of the same…NO PITY. Put your pity in to supporting a SIDS campaign. Or supporting miscarriage and pregnancy loss month in October. Or do a March of Dimes walk. Put your pity there!
- When someone dies and you don't know what to say. Take that pity and just say I am sorry. Don't wait for a reaction for what to say next. I am sorry is enough. Because let's be honest there is nothing that will really help. Love your family. Put your pity there!
- And finally illnesses/disorders like; depression, OCD, ADHD, CP, Autism and ADD and the list could go on and on. Those are NOT life sentences. They aren't made up. They exist just like heart disease and diabetes. They aren't bad parenting, dramatic cries for help, attention seeking or can't be solved with a pill. Take that pity and realize life isn't simple. It is so very complicated and therefore people are complicated. And that is okay. Be okay with it. Put your pity there!
You shouldn't feel shameful for your pity. We all feel it. I just want to turn that pity into an action. The biggest action that you can take when you pity someone's circumstances is knowledge. Educate yourself and then you can better support. And appreciate what you have.
I don't want sympathy. I would trade places with no one. Nor would I go back into my life and redo things to avoid anything. It played out the way it was meant to so pity isn't needed. Instead of pitying me, create an action plan. Even if it is to enjoy your family a little more. Choose to smile. Choose to be grateful. Choose to live. And choose to love #lovealwayswins. My life is pretty good. I choose to focus on that.
And if want to help donate time, money or effort to all of these places that are turning their pity into action:
- Facial Pain Association http://www.fpa-support.org/
- Go Read for Women https://www.goredforwomen.org/wearredday/donate/
- Cincinnati Children's http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/giving/gifts/money/default/
- Teen Suicide http://www.sptsusa.org/giving.html
- American Cancer Society https://donate.cancer.org/index?don_promo
- SIDS and Kids http://www.sidsandkids.org/offices/act-region/donations/
- March of Dimes https://www.marchofdimes.com/giving/support-general.aspx