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Pity and Self-Pity with Bipolar Disorder

Recently, someone said I was pitying myself because I have bipolar disorder, and this person was judging me very negatively for it. The person said I was having a bipolar pity party, if you will. Not surprisingly, I felt this notion was far off the mark. I feel suggesting that pity about bipolar disorder from the self or others is always negative, is just plain wrong.

The Definition of ‘Pity’

When “pity” is used as a noun it is defined as: “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.”

Synonyms include compassion and condolence.

When “pity” is used as a verb it is defined as: “feel sorrow for the misfortunes of.”

Synonyms include sympathize with and empathize with.

(Thanks to Google for the definitions.)

So, pity is a type of feeling or a specific feeling. Got it.

Pity from Others About Bipolar

People with bipolar may be accused of encouraging pity or pitying themselves. Here's why pity isn't such a bad thing in bipolar.I don’t want the people around me to pity me on a regular basis. I don’t want them to see me and think how sucky my life with bipolar is. Not particularly because I care for my sake, but, rather, I don’t want them feeling that way for their sake. It wouldn’t be very fun or helpful for our relationship if they did.

That said, if a person actually felt “sorrow and compassion” caused by my suffering, I think I would understand that and find it completely reasonable. I feel sorrow and compassion for others and find that to be quite reasonable also. No, it can’t be an overriding thing, but I don’t think it has to have a negative connotation at all times.

Similarly, if a person wants to sympathize and empathize with me – a person with a possibly-lethal, life-altering illness – I don’t see that as a negative, either. In fact, as far as I can tell, advocates are constantly telling people to empathize with us.

In short, these are reasonable feelings. And feelings (in moderation) are really okay.

Self-Pity and Bipolar

Self-pity has a very negative connotation and, in fact, is seen as self-indulgent. Okay, I get it; if you’re sitting around feeling “sorrow” for yourself, you’re not moving forward. True, this is a negative thing.

But, seriously, I have been through 19+ years of hell with this illness. I have lost a lot. I have had to bend, almost to the breaking point, to make my life work with this disorder. Do you seriously think I’m not supposed to have some compassion for myself about that? In fact, therapists are constantly telling people to have compassion for themselves.

And do I feel sorrow for this illness I didn’t ask for and can’t get rid of? Yes, I do. I consider this to be completely normal. If you had cancer, I would expect you to feel pretty bad about it, too.

Again, I know you can’t sit in this place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t visit this feeling from time to time.

Pity About Bipolar Isn’t Bad

In short, I don’t think pity about bipolar is necessarily bad, I think it’s a feeling, and feelings shouldn’t be denied or judged. Too much of anything can be a bad thing, and, thus, too much pity can, de facto, be a bad thing.

That said, the word “pity” was pretty much invented because bad things happen to people and others feel bad about it. And that’s really just human.

Check out Natasha Tracy’s book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and connect with her on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Image by Flickr user duncan c.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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2 thoughts on “Pity and Self-Pity with Bipolar Disorder”

  1. I totally agree. A feeling is a feeling regardless of what it is. Denying that you feel a certain way or hiding it is not going change it. Lying to yourself and others will not help either. With bipolar, we tend to isolate at times and this is one big reason I do. I don’t want people to pity me. I don’t want my down mood to rub off on them. I do pity myself and my situation at times, but who on the planet has never done that? “Instead of pointing out my obvious emotions, why don’t you get educated about bipolar disorder and how to be helpful?” That’s what I would say to that person!

  2. Very well said. Not wanting to put focus on negativity is a good intention but like you said, “pity” (often negatively associated) is a feeling and feelings should be accepted as they are. They don’t need to be overindulged in (too much of anything, like you said) but acknowledged and addressed as the teachers they can be. Thank you for sharing.

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