What a Real 'Pity Party' Should Look Like
It always happens. You divulge your mental illness and inevitably someone talks to you about hope and perseverance. Now I’m not saying hope is a bad thing, because hope and perseverance have dragged me not only out of the depths of my despair, but also my bed sheets when every day feels like a Monday. However, no matter what you are feeling, people push strength, hope and “moving on” above any other method, but do you ever wish they’d join in on your “pity party?”
Now, stick with me, OK? Keep reading. Because I know before I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the term “pity party” bothered me for the longest time.
Having complex post-traumatic stress disorder, C-PTSD, and being prideful are not things that go well together; therefore, when people who didn’t understand my condition accused me of throwing a pity party because of the emotions I couldn’t control, I felt beneath them. They looked down on me as if there was no way they could possibly be in my shoes when, in fact, there is.
I have C-PTSD and the range of depression and anxiety that come with it because something(s) beyond my control happened to me, and reminding people I was victim of circumstance is a hard pill for them to swallow, because it makes them feel vulnerable. They decide how “damaged” I am, and immediately decide there is no way they could end up like me. But trauma happens all the time, to different people, from all walks of life, around the world; circumstance shows no mercy. This fact makes others uncomfortable, and sometimes leaves me feeling broken, and Lord knows how exhausting it is to be strong, to be hopeful all the time. All I want sometimes is to be validated. To be able to feel my feelings. For someone to sit there with me in the negativity. Someone to acknowledge that it’s a challenge to have a mental illness and all the little things that contribute to the everyday struggle.
Pity is understood as a negative, but can you imagine an actual “pity party.” Your guests arrive in sweatpants, nothing is decorated, there’s “I cant get out of bed today” snacks randomly on the couches and tables, and everyone comes together. Where people show up understanding the true definition of pity: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortune of others. They come knowing what you’ve been through. They understand your mental illness as soon as they walk through the door. They feel the weight of your anxiety, depression, your flashbacks and hypervigilance. They acknowledge that what you struggle with is hard, and it sucks. They feel bad, they want to help, even if it means showing up just to pity you. Can you imagine how glorious it would be?
Have you ever heard the saying, “When you are unable to look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the darkness?” That is what a real “pity party” looks like. There’s no inferiority, or ridicule, only compassion and support. People sit with you in the dark when you are unable to feel the hope people expect you to have.
For those of you that struggle with mental illness, I know how hard it can be to reach out, but don’t be afraid to ask people to sit with you in your dark and hopeless moments.
And finally, to those of you with friends and family who have these illnesses, validate them, let them feel all of their feelings and understand what pity really is so you can be there for them no matter how hopeful they feel.
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Thinkstock photo via RuthBlack