Please do not pity me I can do that for myself

19 Nov 2021
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For many years I pitied myself so much I did not need any more pity from others.

When I was first diagnosed with manic depression, as bipolar was called in the 1970s, there was extraordinarily little information or understanding till the late 1990s. Mostly people would say I was too young or too fat to be depressed.

When people used to say to me, “You poor thing.” when I had three children and was trying to cope with my mood swings, I agreed with them as I felt so sorry for myself. The thing is I did not need to be reminded how difficult I found life.

A friend made me a casserole and told me she did not understand depression but delivered once a week for a month a lovely home cooked casserole. This helped me much more than her saying I am sorry you feel so down.

The definitions of pity and compassion are similar, but the words are different. Pity means labelling someone and defining them by events in their life, while compassion recognises those events while respecting the person is more than their loss, illness, or life changing event.

After the fires I received pity, compassion and gave myself much self-pity. A friend whose adult child had died suddenly in her thirties told me that releasing her self-pity took a long time, but it helped her. It took me a while to understand what she meant, and I still have days full of self-pity but not as many as I used to have. I realised that for me self-pity meant anger and bitterness and my physical and mental health was suffering.

I was always comparing my mental health problems with people who had more severe health issues. I knew there were people still living in tents and caravans two years after the fires and families who had lost loved ones. Comparing suffering does not help as we only end up feeling guilty.

Do you find people offer you pity or compassion or both? Have you pitied yourself at times and does this help? Do you offer others, pity, compassion, or practical help?

Leah

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Mortimer

Nov. 19, 2021, 7:26 a.m.

Another cracking blog Leah! Pity as an emotion is worse than jealousy and criticism. Folk that wring their hands in sorrow whilst saying “oh poor you” are worse than useless practically; what you need, but may not realise, is quiet considered support. And as you say, self-pity is itself destructive. But, like any other emotion we find annoying and unproductive in ourselves or others it can be difficult to manage, especially if we are unwilling or unable to identify it.

Reply

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:53 a.m.

Mortimer thanks for your comment. I think like you that identifying an emotion is so hard. People may see they are comforting not pitying

Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:24 p.m.

Is criticism or self criticism an emotion? I never thought of it that way. I'm pondering .... haha thx

Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 9:53 p.m.

I think criticism can produce one to feel annoying, insecure, hopeless which I see as emotions. Maybe I confused your point. Moodie.

Daisy

Nov. 19, 2021, 7:50 a.m.

Wow Leah- what a great blog and questions I think having someone who you feel is on your side is a really good and warm feeling One time I was quite upset and said to a family member about my work problems they replied I don’t know why you are worried about your job when the rest of your life is such a mess. Definitely in that case the pity was not helpful and didn’t feel good. And actually although some things were bad not everything was. Another time a friend said to group of friends if I wasn’t with Dave I would probably only doing as well as You. (Ie she live in a big house compared to my tiny flat), I didn’t need or want her pity or public comparison. She felt she had achieved by obtaining her boyfriend but I wouldn’t want to swap. I was happy in my space. No pity needed. I think practical help really does feel like someone is on your side. Having pity bestowed on you can make you feel powerless having compassion doesn’t make you feel weak. Peoples words can heal - maybe the people giving pity are really trying to give compassion but just missing the target

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Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:55 a.m.

Daisy, I agree having people pity you can make you feel powerless. Thanks for your comment.

Orangeblossom

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:05 a.m.

Hi Leah, many thanks for your very honest, open blog about self-pity. Many years ago, when in my early 20s, my friend told me that my biggest problem was that I spent too much time feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t like hearing it & I think she found it difficult to say it to me. We are still in touch. I know that she cared enough to say it to me. It caused me to inwardly wilt as a result of my perceived suffering. Empathy & compassion are far the best as they can free us from the prisons we make ourselves.

Reply

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 9 a.m.

OB When I realised that I was selfpitying It took me a while to see how useless it was. Thanks for comment.

Bearofliddlebrain

Nov. 19, 2021, 9:15 a.m.

Hi Leah, As others have already said, another good blog. When we talk about these things here on Moodscope, it is so helpful for everyone, even though they may not be going through the subject - these things often arrive in our lives, or we can look back and see that we probably went through something similar….how we deal with these things as they happen to us or to those close to us, depends on our mental health at the time. I was picked on by a supervisor in my first ‘proper’ job as a young school leaver, didn’t know how to stand up to the bully. (Wasn’t depressed then, thankfully, or goodness knows how I would have reacted.). After a few months, I finally got demoted, was ashamed, felt less than useless. Thankfully swapped offices within the department and worked my way back up; but for years I would hold on to the ‘story’ and I’m sure I felt sorry for myself. (It’s a long time ago!!). Then one day it didn’t matter anymore. I had let it go. These days if I start to see it happening again…start to feel the same pattern forming especially by the retelling of different things that have upset me, to Mr. Bear or friends…I have to check myself and not let the self pity rise up. *** There’s a fine line between giving/showing compassion and empathy, rather than pity. I would rather ask and do what’s needed for the person who needs the help and support, rather than saying ‘You’ll be fine" or pulling the sad face and saying the wrong thing and offering help then walking away. I have a lovely friend who does the sad face, a lot, and doesn’t offer any useful or practical help, but she tries. She calls me her ‘wise owl’ and finds it easier to ask me for help. Thank you Leah, for helping to get the liddle grey cells working this bright, Friday morning (in the U.K. anyway!) Love and Bear hugs x x x

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Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 9:26 a.m.

Bear thanks for your interesting post. Don’t worry , you will be fi e, you are coping really well all those words really annoy me.

Jul

Nov. 19, 2021, 9:32 a.m.

Hi Leah. I am not sure my brain cells are working enough just yet to understand the differences between self pity, compassion and pity. All I can think of at the moment is that I use the word pity when I am suggesting a way of coping with people who are bullies and generally nasty. I say to myself or others who are affected that we should pity them. It's my way of coping and putting the bully into a slot which I can deal with. It also demeans the bully or would if s/he knew they were being pitied. I don't really feel sorry for myself but do think about circumstances in my life which I wish hadn't happened and the "what if" scenario. How are you feeling Leah at this time of the year which is nearing the month when your life was devastated by the bush fires? Frankly I think you have permission to show as much self pity as you feel. Jul ***

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Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 9:40 a.m.

Thanks Jul, It is difficult with differences in meaning with emotions. Thanks for being honest. I think I feel the loss more now but it’s not pity but acknowledge what I went through and how life will never be the same again.

Oli

Nov. 19, 2021, 6:28 p.m.

@Jul -- snap! I hadn't read this when I wrote my post. Thank you for mentioning it; quite similar. xx

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:47 p.m.

Yes Oli like the way jul describes dealing with bullies.

Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:25 p.m.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Liz

Nov. 19, 2021, 9:48 a.m.

Hi Leah, I found that I got the "how can YOU possibly have depression card. A sort of disbelief. What have you got to be sad about? A sort of shutdown. I hate the poor you kind of put down, it almost sounds sort of smug. I'd much rather someone acknowledged the fact in a different manner and offered help even if they didn't know how to. I have pitied myself a lot over the years but that kind of paralyses me. It almost sets up an expectation of failure in yourself and in others - this must be the way for the future type of thing rather than challenging self perceptions and those of others. You get stuck in this groove that is hard to get out of. My pet hate is people still imagining you are the same person and not changing the way they approach you or treat you - my brother still does this. They won't acknowledge that you have gone through difficulties and come through them. Like being the youngest child of the family still has these funny connotations - gets away with everything, doesn't take responsibility well etc etc. I would say that in my professional life being compassionate is a given but you balance that by being very practical too and helping in that manner you are focusing on things that they can't process because of grief. And there are other things that you can go through that can feel like a bereavement I would say. So in that sense, sometimes a friend's approach can be crucial in helping that other person to process what has happened and try to move forward when they are ready, if they can. I would say I don't like to pity people because that feels like I am being smug and thinking everything is alright for me but poor them. It doesn't make it on a level ground. Thanks as always for your thought-provoking blog. Hugs from the Highlands xx

Reply

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:01 a.m.

Liz I agree withe the points you discuss in your reply. I also find it hard when people don’t change when you have changed,

Teg

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:03 a.m.

Hi Leah We don't need pity, we require compassion which should include some understanding of our condition/situation. I suppose an ability to empathise from well wishers is also very helpful. I think we should remember, however, that mental health, by it's very nature, is not easy for non sufferers to comprehend. So we should not be too critical of those that are well meaning but fail to really help. Thanks for raising this interesting topic.

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Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:21 a.m.

Teg I understand mental health is hard to deal with for the person and their friends.

The Gardener

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:10 a.m.

Leah, whatever you say, I can't stop myself pitying you - feeling for you better? So many times I go round my large house, positively enjoying the treasures garnered over so many years, so personal, so shared, memories of people, places. And I think 'How would I have behaved in Leah's case'? And I cannot answer it. when Mr G was in such an awful state before going into a home people would pity me, how did I cope alone. I did not want pity, I wanted support, however minor, so I did not indulge in screaming hysterics, often very near. Self-pity is natural, also self-destructive because you are not looking forward, and it's the only way to look. And the admonishment that there are people 'worse off than yourself' is useless, you know that, but nobility is not high on the list in such a situation as you were in. You want to lash out at somebody. I presume you are in a 'safe' place now, but not where you would have liked to be. xx

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Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:25 a.m.

TG You have understood what I lost and the significance, I appreciate that. Thanks

Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:23 p.m.

To look forward means knowing where you are right now. To consider what you can do and do it. Not always easy.

Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 6:54 a.m.

That’s true Moodie

Oli

Nov. 19, 2021, 11:01 a.m.

Thank you Leah. I am not used to pitying people; it’s not an emotion which I’m prone to and I am grateful for that. However, this year I’ve been practising feeling pity for a reason. I’ve had someone consistently behave towards me in a way which I’ve found unfair and therefore hurtful — and I don’t like feeling hurt. I’d had enough but because of circumstances I can’t tell them to take a walk, and therefore I’ve been using pity as a temporary resting emotion on my way to complete and utter indifference. Indifference is my preferred option but it's difficult to feel when feeling hurt. But feeling pity is working for me. Now, when this person behaves poorly towards me me (and I’m familiar with the behaviours) I feel pity for him. The thrill for this person and those like him is being the puppet master; it's the buzz of control. By practising pity I retain my sense of identity and autonomy. That’s all I need for now. Pity is, I believe, a somewhat negative emotion and I'm trying to feel it in a healthy rather than an unhealthy way. I’m not particularly happy about feeling it and I would not like others to feel it about me — but of course what other people feel about me is none of my business!

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Jul

Nov. 19, 2021, 3:45 p.m.

Exactly Oli. See my comment above. If you have time. Jul xx

Oli

Nov. 19, 2021, 6:28 p.m.

Yes! See above.

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:50 p.m.

Oli thanks for explaining about how feeling pity works for you. I have been told so many tine not to feel self pity as it can be destructive. Both you and jul have described how it helps you. You say pity helps retain your sense of Identity. Are there any times when pity does not help you

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:53 p.m.

Jul you snd Oli have given me a lot to think about. There was media person who coined the term pity party that I feel gave pity a bad name. Can’t think of her name but she was big about 20 or more years ago and was American. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:56 p.m.

Oli, thanks for your comment. I think that I had been influenced by the anti self pity group and feel guilty if I ever do use pity to cope. I must admit in my difficult time in past 2 years I have used pity but then I am often to,d there are people suffering far worse than me.

Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:30 p.m.

you mean distain for other people's limitations we could do without haha ... yep sometimes necessary. I'm trying ..........

Jul

Nov. 20, 2021, 8:47 a.m.

Seen! Great minds...Jul xx

Leah

Nov. 21, 2021, 8:53 p.m.

Jul and Oli The more I read your posts the more ithey make me think.

Leah

Nov. 19, 2021, 8:59 p.m.

Thanks everyone for posting. I liked all the different comments and may be thinking of pity in a different light. Never to late to comment and I think this is an interesting topic to discuss. I wonder if more people have found pity helps them in some way ?

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Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:17 p.m.

I dont know. someone told me my depression is like being in a certain dream they cant get out of. Compassion or self compassion can be called self indulgent then it's pity? When I feel so bad I do want pity and I pity myself ... but that is part of compassion unless I should just pull my sock up and get on with it ... good idea in theory haha

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Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 6:56 a.m.

Moodie I suppose dies it come down to definitions. I don’t think see self compassion as self indulgent,

Moodie

Nov. 20, 2021, 4:12 p.m.

I'm still trying to get my head around the difference ... meantime it reminded me of this poem: 'My own heart let me more have pity on' By Gerard Manley Hopkins My own heart let me more have pity on; let Me live to my sad self hereafter kind, Charitable; not live this tormented mind With this tormented mind tormenting yet. I cast for comfort I can no more get By groping round my comfortless, than blind Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find Thirst's all-in-all in all a world of wet. * Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size At *** knows when to *** knows what; whose smile 's not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.

Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 9:54 p.m.

Moodie thanks for sharing that poem.

Moodie

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:20 p.m.

Just to add - self pity doesnt mean I'm not grateful or dont put my struggles in perspective. I'm saying acceptance of all of it. Not denying or pretending ...

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Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 6:58 a.m.

Moodie thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Moodie

Nov. 20, 2021, 4:05 p.m.

and you yours.

Yolanda

Nov. 20, 2021, 1:17 p.m.

Good afternoon my friend Leah of Moodscope and the others too. I remembered when I was more constant, reading and enjoying to do my test mostly; everyday your blogs Leah attract my attention and now that I came back to read and made my test almost everyday I feel better and almost happy for the way I manage my manic depressing illness. I feel to others compassion and to the people near me like my neighbor in the first flat of the building I live, I am felling angry and uncomfortable, because she is so disrespectful with my privacy, is a gossip person. Anyway, Thanks Lord and the NHS the last relapse I had I am more stable in my mind and body and spirit, I think because my Care Coordinator is a wonderful man who really is understanding and compassionate human xx with good sense of humor. Thanks again for your blog Leah. *** bless you all Yolanda Andrews

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Leah

Nov. 20, 2021, 9:51 p.m.

Yolanda thanks for your kind words and pleased you are back commenting.

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