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One Simple Mistake: A Strong Reminder Coping is Always a Work in Progress

As people living with a chronic health condition like Migraine Disease we find ourselves dealing with frustrating situations all the time. After 10 years living with Chronic Migraine and more than 25 years dealing with Episodic Migraine, I usually find myself fairly well equipped to cope with most situations life throws my way. But I was recently reminded there is always more work to do.

I don’t want to get bogged down in the details because they aren’t really the focus of what I want to share, but some context is necessary.

This past Friday night around 7 pm I had the most excruciating light bulb moment. Every four weeks I fill a prescription from my pain management doctor for a long acting pain medication and a pain medication for rescue. I see him about every 12 weeks and get three paper prescriptions at each visit.

buddhagarden200This Friday I am supposed to fill the second of the prescriptions from my last appointment. That Friday evening I was thinking about the coming week and things I need to remember to do so I could start setting reminders in my iPhone. All of the sudden it dawned on me: I’d left those two prescriptions on the front seat of my car, forgetting to bring them in and store them in a safe, secure place as usual. Ordinarily not a big deal save one important detail: My husband and I had traded cars a few days before and he threw all the garbage in my car away. Including the papers on the front seat of my car. And the prescriptions. Since the trash had already been collected, there was no doubt they were somewhere in a landfill, soggy with precipitation. Oh no no no.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I immediately broke down into hysterical sobbing. I was just so mad at myself and so scared. On one hand my fear was reality-based. Pain management clinics aren’t exactly known for their rational, reasonable or forgiving policies. On the other, most of what I was saying to myself in my head was the nastiest, most horrible stuff you can imagine. Stuff you might say to your worst enemy, but no one else.

This tendency to berate myself is something I’ve been aware of and working on with my psychotherapist. But sometimes it’s hard to spot your tendencies when you launch into a deep-seated pattern. It certainly was for me on this occasion. Luckily I sat down to start writing about the situation and almost immediately got clarity about exactly what I was doing.

What really helped me work through my anger with myself was to think very specifically about what I’d say to another patient in the exact same situation. I would never berate or belittle another patient. And to do so regarding something so human seems absurd when you look at it objectively. Writing all that out and re-reading it was incredibly therapeutic.

A tool that has been helpful in my journey with this issue and probably planted the seed for the technique I employed is a book called “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind” by Kristen Neff. My therapist suggested it, and I’m so glad she did. Check it out and let me know what you think.

It’s not always easy for me to apply the kindness I’d show to another patient to myself. It’s not easy for any of us to apply our coping strategies during a crisis, especially when they’re new. Slowly, but surely, I’m finding it easier. I know with practice it will eventually become old hat.

After some rather silly back and forth with the doctor’s office, they finally did the right thing and wrote me a new prescription for May. They asked me to make an appointment in advance of when I need the other prescription, which I did without hesitation or complaint. Needless to say, the resolution was a huge relief.

Are you also someone who can relate to a tendency to beat yourself up? When and how does it manifest itself? How have you learned to cope and be more gentle and forgiving with yourself?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Yes, Diana. I know EXACTLY what you mean. This is one area that I am an expert in. When I make an error, whether it is a big deal or little one, the reproach is always the same – negative self talk. This too is something I’m working on, as you know, a work in progress.
    Thanks for sharing this. You’re right, it is good to know I’m not alone!

  • arden
    7 years ago

    Yes,I have had the undesirable skill of beating myself up. And I don’t think it is a stretch to say I have helped to precipitate a migraine in doing so. It usually happens when I have made a mistake or done something I regret. Then I pour on the poison of self-abuse, thinking terrible things about myself, how unworthy I am, what an awful person etc. etc. etc.You know the drill.
    Two things helped me get over this bad habit. First is to realize that though I have done some bad or stupid thing, that, in itself, alone, does not make me a bad or stupid person. I guess if you have a lifetime of refusing to repent, one might eventually change this evaluation. But most of us feel so bad about doing dumb things we want to change and make amends right away, yes? So then the second thing is to forgive yourself just as you must forgive others. Why should we treat ourselves worse than we treat others? We offend the Holy Ones when we harbor harsh judgements about anyone, including ourselves! So I now admit the error,mistake, whatever, remind myself it is not the end of the world, apologize to those I may have offended and forgive, forgive, forgive.
    Have mercy on ourselves, sister migraineurs!(and any brothers out there) The physical pain is bad enough. Let us put down our weapons of self recrimination and abuse which only makes matters worse.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    Thank you for your reply! It’s always so nice to know you’re not alone. 🙂

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