I recently had my feelings hurt. It was during my eating recovery group and one of the women was graduating. The tradition was to go around to each of us in turn stating what she appreciated in us and wish us well. When she got to me, she said, “You have a lot of struggles. I hope you get past them.” Not, “You’ve overcome a lot of struggles.” Not, “You’re strong to have had to deal with so many struggles.” Just, “You have a lot of struggles.”
Now, I know I have a lot of struggles. I’m honest about my struggles and share openly to encourage others. Recovery groups are supposed to be a safe space to share, and mine stopped being that. I knew I was sharing a lot in group and the week before had asked if I was, “oversharing” and was told, “No, that’s what group is for.” This woman’s words to me undermined that truth.
Let me tell you, when you’re speaking to someone who’s been through a lot, pity is not an appropriate response. Maybe some people share for attention but most of us know our stories are a lot and we’re trying to process what’s happened to us, share a portion of our souls to grow closer to others, or want to help others who have also struggled.
I don’t want your pity. Honestly, I don’t want you to focus on my struggles, I want you to see my overcoming, because then you can know you can overcome, too! I share because I want you to know I’m not a freak, or someone to be afraid of. I’m a human being, just like you. I may need help sometimes, but I have a lot to offer. Acknowledge my struggles, but don’t dwell on them. Realize I am so much more than that rather small part of my life. See my strength and my compassion. See my vulnerability and my honesty. Don’t penalize me for opening up.
I told the group about my feelings regarding the incident and they were very supportive. One woman affirmed my feelings and said she could see my pain that night. They were grateful I opened up and didn’t quit. I like to think I made it safer for them to share. I want to use my pain, not be defined by it. I’m more than my struggles and so are you.