Striking a Balance Between Self-pity and Giving Yourself Grace

Self-pity is impractical, while grace is practical, writes Ben Hofmeister

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner image for Ben Hofmeister's column

They say that if you happen upon other people talking about you, you shouldn’t listen in. I have no idea who “they” are. I’ve searched for a quote to give someone the proper credit, but have had no luck.

The most likely scenario that comes to mind is that I once read something along those lines in one of James Herriot’s books. Of course, I can’t find the passage now, but the point of this (badly) summarized idea is that you are likely to be disappointed by candid talk about you.

I have found this also applies to things written about you.

Even before my diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis, I kept a careful eye on my medical records and tried to always have the lead role on my healthcare team. For the most part, the other members of the team have been great. Most of them know much more about my various body parts and their ailments than I do, but no one cares about me quite like, well, me. And that makes me my best advocate.

Recommended Reading
An array of healthy foods, including fish, fruits, and vegetables is shown.

Dietary Changes Can Help Ease Fatigue, Improve Quality of Life

This is why I recently found myself reading a very detailed assessment of my condition and abilities, or lack thereof. It was incredibly in depth and, like most medical documents, a bit dry. By page two, it had begun to slip my mind whom I was reading about, and by the end, I was feeling sorry for this poor guy.

When it occurred to me that I was that poor guy, I was a little taken aback. I suppose I still sometimes think of myself as being independent and accepting help only for the sake of convenience. However, seeing my dependence in writing was almost like eavesdropping on a private conversation about me. Through that staccato medical prose, I was seeing myself through the healthcare team’s eyes and, like a look in the mirror on a bad hair day, I didn’t like what I saw. But I had to admit that it was me.

Learning to give myself grace

I don’t feel sorry for myself — OK, sometimes I do. I certainly did after I first came to terms with my MS diagnosis, and again after each new setback. With a chronic, unpredictable disease, it seems perfectly rational to me to feel self-pity sometimes. I’d probably be wallowing in it the majority of the time if I hadn’t learned the difference between feeling sorry for myself and giving myself grace.

When I first learned of the concept, my cynical side assumed that it was just this week’s positivity phrase, a new feel-good way to justify being lazy and miserable. Through the examples of others, however, I began to understand the difference. Self-pity is impractical, while grace is practical — and I always thought of myself as being practical.

I doubt anyone ever said my name and “productive” in the same sentence, but giving yourself grace is productive, while self-pity is anything but. I honestly get more done with the abilities I have by being realistic than I ever did by stubbornly pushing through.

If no one else has a claim on it, I think I’ll call this gracious practicality.

I like to encourage others to be their own advocate, and I like to think of myself as being my own best advocate. Advocates give grace to their charges. I didn’t understand that at first, but I’m working on it.

A good advocate will also call you out when you’re really just being lazy and drag you, kicking and screaming, to therapy, appointments, etc.

There’s a delicate balance between being both a patient and an advocate. Grace is what keeps the scale centered.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Christina Fougeris avatar

Christina Fougeris

Very well articulated. Enjoyed this post +++

Reply
Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks so much for reading it Christina!

Reply
Rick Sommers avatar

Rick Sommers

Hi Ben

Greetings from New York. thank you so much for your contribution .I like what you had to say and wish you well through this holiday season and beyond.

I was diagnosed when I was 33, which is 29 years ago ,hard to fathom and try not to feel sorry for myself but more so for the people who love me and try and make me safe and cared for. My theory as I've gotten older and wiser(?)..... everybody's got something & MS just happens to be the card I was dealt . I hope this finds you well and thanks again for your thoughts. Happy holidays from NYC, Rick

Reply
Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks Rick for reminding me. . .all of us what really matters.

Ben

Reply
Alice Lee Smith avatar

Alice Lee Smith

Thank you. I have been searching for a diagnosis for 7 years. Each year I became more tired and more weak, but was advised more exercise, better diet. And age. I am now 83. For a short while, one doctor prescribed 5 mg Adderall per day. That changed my life at that time. After 6 months and a change of doctors, no one would prescribe it anymore. I finally have a primary care NP who took notice and agreed with me that this was not normal. She suspected MS. I have an appointment with a neurologist at the end of December. Finally, I feel some hope. This may not be my diagnosis, but if it is, I am glad you are there for me to learn from.

Reply
Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

I felt the same. So relieved to finally have an answer. I hope your diagnosis is not MS, but I hope you get your answer soon.

Ben

Reply
MARIA HUBERT avatar

MARIA HUBERT

I am glad you let us hear your voice! More people could use your words and knowledge, not just people with MS. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I have struggled like you and this is the best explanation of what needs to happen if you are gonna survive your situation, by the grace of God as well. To your well-being.

Reply
Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks Maria, it's not much of a voice, but I plan on saying everything I wish someone had said to me.

Ben

Reply
Linda Lanter avatar

Linda Lanter

Grace has been very difficult for me to find this year. I had seizures due to benign brain tumor that couldn't be removed. I had serious falls and bouts of confusion. I lost the ability to drive or live alone. Losing my independence was brutal emotionally. I live with my son and family in Ohio rather than Ky. I still go through periods of anger and depression. I am doing better now and am adapting for the most part.
I learned about grace in church and I get help from my God to find some peace and strength to keep going on.
Thanks for this article. I am not a quitter and there is always hope when the sun rises for a new day.

Reply
Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks for reading Linda! You're right, don't ever quit.

Ben

Reply

Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here