I grew up with a chronically ill sibling. My sister Julie had Cystic Fibrosis. She took a literal handful of pills at every meal. Her breathing was compromised. I couldn’t tell you the exact number of days she spent in the hospital, but I can tell you it was a lot!
She had every excuse to throw herself a pity party probably once a week. Instead she cast aside her victim cloak and chose to don her survivor cape.
When you went to visit Julie in the hospital it was rare to find her in her room. She was often down the hall making friends with and encouraging other patients. Sometimes she even spread her sunshine to the nurses and staff.
Did she love her disease? No. But she also didn’t let it steal her power.
Just a few days before she died I was with her by her hospital bed. I asked her if there was anything she needed. Event though she had a breathing tube preventing her voice from working she managed to mouth the word “fun.”
So like ridiculous dorks I moved her hands around and sang Skinamarinky Dinky Dink.
What a waste it would have been if she had chosen to wallow in self pity instead of really live.
Having a poor me outlook stops you from being able to see the good in your life. Even if you are experiencing something joyful it’s tainted with, this would be better if…
Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality. ~John Gardner
Every single person who has ever lived has suffered. It’s an unavoidable part of being human. The greatness of this fact lies in our ability to grow and and move past our suffering.
Last week I mentioned that I am currently reading 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin. The very first thing on that list is “They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.”
Struggling through grief, sadness, anger and other emotions and dealing with them requires strength. Self-pity wants to keep us stuck in an alternate reality of why things should be different rather than learn to recognize the situation for what it is.
Healing must be done in the real world, but you still get to decide how the story is told.
My sister’s story could have been:
“I have a genetic disease. It sucks the life out of me and makes me whine and complain to everyone who will listen and have sympathy for me.”
“I have a genetic disease. There are some obvious downsides to this, but I am choosing strength to live well with it and cheering on my friends who are in the same boat as me.”
When you party with the poor me crowd you invite bitterness to the dance and bitterness steals your power. It invades your thoughts, takes over your conversations and wastes your time.
The cure for feeling sorry for yourself according to Morin is gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Say out loud what you are grateful for.
- Ask other people what they are grateful for.
- Teach your kids to be grateful.
My sister died and that’s a shitty thing. But I did not. I get to live and cherish the time I had with her. My childhood was richer because she was by my side. And the rest of my life will be abundant because I choose to really live it.