Glancing at people’s faces, the hardest expression to see is that of pity, especially when the expressions are on the faces of those I know and of those who know me. I didn’t recognise this particular look until that first week of lectures. I saw it everywhere. Then worse is when the look is said aloud, ‘I’m really sorry’. I get that those who know me are concerned and often the looks are of concern. I do not wish to diminish the concern people have shown me. But pity I find hard. I know I’ve been through an ordeal. I don’t wish what happened upon anyone. I wish it hadn’t happened to me. But it did. I wish this was a story that did not exist. But it does. During the first couple of weeks, from when I woke up with severe back pain and could barely walk to my second day in the rehabilitation hospital, self pity was never too far below the surface. Self pity was like a tide that tried time and again to wash over me, to pull me under. Not giving in took emotional energy I didn’t have. But I struggled knowing that self pity was a trap that I would find hard to climb out of. I was thankful during those early days for the friends, family, and co-workers I was surrounded by whose expressions did not reflect pity. Compassion, certainly; but not pity. They didn’t feel sorry for me, which made it easier not to feel sorry for myself.
Now it’s different. I live life now in public, not behind hospital doors. I know I have a walking aid now. I know my legs still don’t work properly. But if I look behind me, living in the shadow of what happened, then self pity will take over me. I will retreat once again. My goal is recovery, not staying where I am. Self pity, feeling sorry for myself now, will halt me in my tracks. Expressions of pity on other’s faces are hard because they have the power to stop me. To cause me to retreat. Looks of pity take courage to smile in return. And that kind of courage I may not have, not at that moment. Looks of pity are difficult to see because I’m trying my hardest to take it all in my stride. Pity is difficult to see because I see my brokenness reflected. I don’t need the reminder, I live with the brokenness every day. I don’t need you to say you are sorry now, maybe at first and maybe when everything falls apart, which it will, but I’m together now; at least, for now. So please do not pity me, please do not feel sorry for me. Because I am not sorry. I accept it and move on.