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?

A Moodscope member.

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