The Harm in Feeling Sorry for Yourself
Last updated: April 2023
My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was only 25 years old. I got engaged to my husband just a few days later. The first thing I did without my mom was plan my wedding.
I vividly remember sitting on the floor one afternoon amidst a pile of dirty laundry, sobbing for what felt like an eternity. I was sad, sure, but it was much more than that. I felt really sorry for myself.
Most anyone would agree that I had every right to feel sorry for myself because of what I was going through at the time and all that I had lost. But what I didn't realize then was the difference between feeling sad and feeling sorry for yourself or self-pity. While both are understandable, and even warranted, the latter is not at all helpful.
In fact, it can be harmful.
It's okay to feel sad
It's okay to feel sad, to miss your loved one, and to miss the way things used to be. It's okay to cry and have moments of despair. You are grieving your loved one while they are still alive. But feeling self-pity when caregiving is much more than that.
Feeling sorry for yourself leads you to feel hopeless, stuck, and wanting to give up. It is more than just a few tears or moments of despair. It is an overwhelming, all-consuming state of "why bother" or "must be nice."
It prevents you from finding any amount of joy or seeing anything good in your life. It puts all the focus on yourself and what you have lost instead of your loved one and what they have lost.
Alzheimer's is a devastating series of losses
Again, it is completely understandable to feel sorry for yourself when your loved one has Alzheimer's. It is a devastating series of losses over a prolonged period of time. That would make anyone have some self-pity.
But feeling sorry for yourself is not going to help you get through this. It's not going to make you feel better or more equipped to deal with the situation. And it's not going to help your loved one get the care they desperately need.
Self-pity and the potential harm
Instead, feeling sorry for yourself will just keep you stuck in a repetitive loop of negative and destructive thoughts. It can cause you to self-sabotage any situation that has the possibility of bringing you joy. It won't allow you to enjoy any part of your life or your relationship with your loved one. It can even lead to depression.
While it may feel good to mope around and be miserable for a while, do you think that will make you feel better in the long run? Do you think it will help you get through this difficult time in your life? Do you think it will be beneficial to your loved one's care?
If you're being honest with yourself, then I'm sure you answered no to all of those questions.
Stuck feeling sorry for yourself?
The next time you find that you are stuck in a bout of self-pity, try taking the focus off of yourself and putting it on someone else. Remind yourself of all the things you have to be grateful for. Do something kind for your loved one.
You're allowed to feel sad, but feeling sorry for yourself does much more harm than good. Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
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