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The Difference Between Pity and Empathy When It Comes to My Illness

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pit·y: noun, the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.

em·pa·thy: noun, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

When I talk to you about my illnesses, I don’t want your pity. I want your empathy. I want you to listen to my feelings and what’s going on and validate them. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Most of my life is taken up by my illness. Whether it’s doctors’ appointments, physical therapy, mental health therapy or just needing to lie in bed from all the aforementioned appointments, my health dominates my life. I don’t need you to feel sorry for me about it, I just need you to do what you would do for any friend going through a hard time — listen and love me.

One of things I’ve heard a lot recently is “People want more for you.”

More for me how?  What exactly do I not have enough of?

I have a roof over my head, gas in my car, food in my fridge and health insurance. I have a wonderful, loving and supportive partner who has been on this journey with me for four years now and has never faltered in our journey. I have wonderful parents. I have a great service dog who is one of my best friends. I have a good, quality group of core friends that have been with me for at least the last 15 years.

So tell me. What am I missing?

A job? If that’s the best you can come up with, then I’m sorry, but that’s not “more” for me. I had a job. I thought it was my life. Guess what? I lost my job when I got sick, and yet I am still here doing well. A job is important, but my life is not less because I don’t have a job.

Better health? More energy? Less pain? OK, yes, I want that, too. But this is where you can empathize with me. This is where you see me trying my hardest and doing the best I can, each and every day. Some days, I can’t get out of bed for the majority of the day. Some days I can’t drive. Every day is a fight. But you empathize with my fight, with my desire to do better and be better and never give up. You don’t pity me and feel sorry me for being sick.

My sickness, my health, this whole concept you pity me for — it has opened up new life for me. I have become involved in projects I never would have been able to before, like training service dogs. I blog because I think maybe someone, somewhere can read this and relate. It may even help them. I have become an advocate; I have become a warrior.

At the end of the day, you can judge my life. You can feel sorry for me and want more for me. But it’s my life. And I happen to think it’s a pretty darn good one.

Follow this journey on Living Without Limits.

Originally published: September 13, 2016
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