Sickle Cell & Pity

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Here is a great question at the Sickle Cell Ning Forum.

Why is that when you go into a crisis people tend to give you weird looks and have pity for you? We don’t need pity but support…

I think people offer pity what they do not understand something. Like when a loved one dies, friends go to the family to offer condolences, but really…what do condolences mean? Condolences won’t bring the person back or ease the pain in the heart. But condolences send the message that I do care that you are hurting and that your heart is in pain. Conversely, to me, I don’t see pity as a bad thing, I see it as people telling me that they do care that I am in pain. Plain and simple.

Pain is something that all humans can relate to because everyone has had pain one time or another in their lives. Sure, ours might be more all encompassing, and overwhelming, but pain is a shared human experience.

When people tell me they have diabetes, I don’t give them looks of pity. However, when someone tells me they have an incurable cancer —I pity that. It comes from my interconectivity as a human and my acknowledgment of human frailty. I understand that they are going through a struggle, and I empathize  with them. When I was younger, I used to hide from the pity and kept my sickle cell a secret because I didn’t want pity. However, this just made it harder to deal with, since noone knew what I was going through, and when I needed support—I found it difficult to get any.

The kind of pity I hate the most is self-pity. That is the one that grates on my nerves. I hate to wallow in a ‘woe is me‘ moment. Sure, I have sickle cell..but there are other people in the world going through much worse and are still smiling. I”m alive, I’m surrounded by people that love me, and I’m blessed to have survived so much. 

I feel that with more public knowledge and education, we will be able to have sickle cell viewed as a disease and not as a death sentence.  Perhaps when more people understand sickle cell, they realize that it’s a condition with ups and downs, and when we are down, we do need more support. But at the center of it, we are just human, like everyone else.

So I guess on some level, pity is a weird form of compassion. I would rather have pity than have someone yell at me and call me a drug addict. I’m just saying…pity is the lesser of two evils. 😉

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