Pity? Ugh! by Lisa Morgan M.Ed. CAS

**Content warning: suicide

I had a service provider working with one of my sons say they were ‘sorry’ to me the other day.  This person hadn’t done anything wrong – until their apology.  They were ‘sorry’ for the state of my life.  Sorry… for my life being the way it is as far as they understood it!

Yes, parenting as an autistic adult is difficult.  (I imagine parenting as a non autistic adult is difficult as well.)  Yes, growing up autistic in the 60’s/70’s was very difficult.  Yes, being bullied throughout my lifespan so far has been demeaning and harsh.  Yes, my husband’s suicide was/is very difficult to experience and process.  Yes, living as an autistic adult in 2020 is challenging, but… it has all made me who I am today and I’m ok with being me.  I don’t need anyone to apologize to me for my life, thank you very much!  Sheesh!

I loathe pity.  It’s so belittling.  I don’t need anyone’s pity.  Pity is the sorrow a person feels over someone else’s circumstance. Compassion is a synonym of pity and a much better word.  The difference, I believe, is pity comes from someone who doesn’t know me very much and compassion comes from someone who does know me.

Compassion is supportive.  It is part of being friends.  Compassion comes from knowing what’s happening in someone else’s life because you’ve walked beside them in whatever circumstances they face.  It’s not feeling sorry for someone and then walking away because you aren’t even a part of their life.

I have had several other people, mostly in the helping professions, apologize to me for my life.  They usually say ‘I’m sorry’ with a little tilt to their head and a very sad face on.  Honestly, it makes me implode with anger. How arrogant can a person be – to apologize to someone else – for that person’s life?  I happen to like my life!  It’s the only one I have, the only one I’ll ever get, and it’s mine!

Ok, I do have a life that confuses me.  On any given day, I am usually confused by something… whether it’s a look, a text, a decision… or driving down the road following a dump truck with a big orange sign that says, ‘Construction Vehicle – DO NOT FOLLOW’!  I’ve got to say – that dump truck gets me every time.  I don’t know whether to pull over or keep breaking the law!

But, I like that about my life.  I like that I have to think my way through my day.  If I didn’t have anything to think about, I’d probably feel like imploding… again. (sigh, lol)

I suppose from the outside looking in – my life might look difficult enough to warrant some pity from certain people – but honestly – I wouldn’t trade my brain for a typical one if I had the choice.  I am learning to really look at the good parts of being autistic – not just the deficits.  I could drive myself crazy if I just acknowledged the deficits.  I am who I am because of the life I’ve had.  I’m fine with me.

I don’t need or want anyone’s pity. They can keep it.  I don’t need or want anyone’s apology for the circumstances of my life. I’ll willingly give and accept compassion. I’m not going to apologize to anyone for who I am, and I’d like them to keep their apologies for a time when they really might have a reason to apologize.

About Lisa Morgan

After working as a software engineer for a few years in the mid-eighties, Lisa stayed home after her first child was born for the next thirteen years homeschooling her kids.  Now, four kids later and a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching, she has taught in different school settings for 15 more years.  After experiencing the loss of her husband of 29 years to suicide, Lisa authored, Living Through Suicide Loss with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Now, Lisa, an autistic adult diagnosed late in life, has become an advocate for other autistic adults who have had similar experiences.  She has started a conversation with several nonprofit organizations in the US to help enhance the suicide prevention and postvention resources to be a better fit for autistic adults, as well as, to spread awareness of the resources available to the autism community.