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Compassion for a Friend Easier than Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is something I’ve been trying to develop for a while. I’ve definitely made progress — Toni Bernhard’s suggestion to imagine what you would say for a friend in your situation has been invaluable — but I still slip back into self-criticism.

When a friend was sidelined by severe back pain this summer, pain that wouldn’t let up no matter how faithfully she went to physical therapy, did her exercises, used her TENS unit, or applied ice, I got an interesting perspective on Toni Bernhard’s advice. Instead of criticizing my friend, thinking she needed to exercise or rest more or work harder to feel better, my immediate response was to think how unfair it was that she wasn’t getting better even though she was following all the rules.

Based on my experience with migraine, if I’d have had that same back pain, I would have been overwhelmed by self-criticism, wondering what I’d done wrong, thinking I’d be able to overcome it if I tried hard enough, thinking I was lazy and weak. Why is it so much easier to have compassion for others than for oneself?

Read more in Compassion for a Friend Far Exceeds Compassion for Myself on Migraine.com.

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A Letter to Myself: Replacing Guilt, Shame & Self-Hatred With Love, Compassion

Migraine Awareness Month Blogging Challenge, Day 13: “You Are Beautiful” — Write yourself a love letter. Tell yourself how wonderful you are. Remind yourself of the things you have accomplished despite migraines. There are times when we need to be reminded of the good things about ourselves that others see that we may have missed.

Dear Kerrie,

Today you are hunched over on the couch, weak, nauseated and in pain with a throbbing head and hyper-alert senses. Many days are like this, though fewer than even six months ago. All those things you are worried about — not calling your niece on her birthday, missing physical therapy yesterday, not updating The Daily Headache or Facebook frequently enough, not figuring out Twitter etiquette, not calling your mom or sister or friends… — none of these change who you are fundamentally. You are still bright, caring, loving, ambitious, eager, strong-willed, kindhearted and funny. Migraine may prevent you from engaging in life and with other people as much as you would like, but it doesn’t mean you are selfish, self-centered, lazy or weak. No one loves you any less for your behavior (or lack thereof); your family and friends know who you are and that your illness dims your light. They do not feel slighted, they only wish you felt better. Now it is time for you to embrace their understanding and love yourself with the same compassion.

This is a perfect day to write this letter. Your mental ability is so compromised that you aren’t censoring yourself or even editing this post. Tears are running down your face as you write because you know you are right. You are loved and lovable whether or not you have chronic migraine — perhaps in part because you have chronic migraine. Do not hate or berate yourself for being sick. It is not your fault.

Your lack of connection to the outside world, your lack of accomplishment and productivity are not a reflection of your ineptitude. In fact, the amount you have accomplished, the degree to which you seize the day are remarkable considering how disabled you are. Take some of that overflowing compassion and empathy you have for others and give it to yourself. You deserve it. So very much.

I love you and am amazed by your ability to function with such a debilitating illness. That you maintain such a positive attitude sometimes astonishes me. Release the guilt, shame and self-hatred and you will be amazed by your strength and inner beauty.

All my love,
me

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by Fighting Headache Disorders.

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Doctor as Patient

In And Today is Another Day, physician and writer Richard Waltman chronicles his experiences as a cancer patient. Although our illnesses are different, the lessons of his journey are universal.

He also gives this important advice to other docs:

Now hear this: We are them and they are us. We get sick and we die. We want to talk about it, and we want you to listen. Extend your hand, make eye contact, and say something like this: ‘I’m sorry to hear your bad news. My thoughts and best wishes are with you.’”

[via Kevin, M.D.]