A few months ago a friend who was new to RecoveryLand verbalized a problem I instinctively felt at the beginning, but never gave voice to. When everything is different about your physical situation and as you adjust to being noticed in passing and actively observed you start feeling the fleeting glances and intent stares even if (a) you don’t have the visual skills to actually see them or (b) you’re just imagining people are looking bc you feel so terribly conspicuous and your insides cry out, I don’t want your pity!
Even after 3 years I still struggled with this idea. When I told Gen about my “interview” at The Gym when I said, You ready to let all this loose up in your facility? She laughed, called me crazy (takes one to know one) and said, You really go for shock value, don’t you?
Not even, I replied. Seriously, I was trying to give them a chance to tell me to go home and sit down quietly for my own safety. I told Coach R, That’s why I entered [the Running Gym] so cautiously. Experience has taught me to be prepared for people to be like, Quick!! Bring the waiver!!!
So I’ve practiced hard on signaling to the market prior to entering the Post-Rehab world. But around the time we went to Oregon I had that huge realization that I didn’t want my Game Face to become my Permanent Face. Remember that time I saw the ceiling at The Gym and freaked out? It took me a couple of days to eventually tell Mommy about it, and a couple of weeks later it happened again and I told Trainer D. I decided I wanted to practice talking about sad stuff bc it is what it is – it’s a part of me, and by talking about it I get to control how the memory exists in my own mind and how to represent it to other people.
My philosophy now is that although I don’t want your pity, it’s inevitable that sometimes people will in fact, feel sorry for me. This usually manifests itself in acts of courtesy many people usually don’t take time for. I decided I’m cool with that. Although I will do my utmost not to invite pity, it’s my job to honor the kindness motivating you to run and open the door for me, or to give me your seat.
There are some exceptions to the not inviting pity thing, e.g. when I’m so far gone I don’t care – I want you to feel sorry for me, and PS. Would you please carry me around, or choose someone on your staff to do so (you seem to have a superabundance of interns). But most of the time, when I’m feeling pretty well and thinking, hey, I’m lookin’ pretty good today (mobility-wise), and then the guy cleaning the floor leaves his mop to come hold my hand so I don’t slip (true story – ask Hannah and Boo Boo), I am really thankful that I still have the mental capacity to recognize that situation for what it is: Compassion.