Friday, July 29, 2011

The Antidote to Self-Pity

As I began to examine my depression post-stroke, I recognized that I was full of self-pity. "I am too young for this." "I took care of myself, it shouldn't have happened." "There is still so much I want to do with my life." Etcetera, ad nausea. These thoughts always led to despair, but I didn't know how to turn them off.

I wondered, what is this instinct for self-pity? As a child, I received pity from adults when I was hurt, and that helped me feel better. Was that what I needed? I imagined sharing my thoughts and seeking comfort from others. But, wouldn't people soon tire of my complaints – as I had tired of them? And what were they supposed to say, anyway?

I turned to a wise girlfriend. "How do I get out of self-pity?" I asked.

"Self-care," she answered. "When the self-pity tape starts playing, do something nice for yourself."

I took baths with muscle-relaxing oils. I lay on my back in bed listening to audio books on my iPod. I scheduled play dates with my niece and nephew. During these brief periods, I did not reprimand myself for not doing my rehabilitation exercises.

After a couple months, I noticed that the self-pity tape was no longer playing as frequently. Now, when it does receive airtime, I know how to change the channel.


  1. I really like that wise answer from your friend.

    I need to think of what "self-care" might be for me.

  2. It looks like you have several antidotes: self-care, a gratitude list, and blogging. I also have several antidotes for depression so I get depressed for hours instead of days.

  3. Thank you for this, Marcelle. I noticed that I was thinking and feeling some of the same self pity feelings after being laid off from my job. "Why me?" and "My work was exemplary - this should not have happened to me!" It was suggested to me that I write about my lay off - and I did a mini 4th step using my Alanon - Paths to Recovery Twelve & Twelve - Step Four chapter questions as a template. I learned that I can let go of blaming the company for what happened, and resenting them, because those feelings were not helping me feel positive about myself and were not helping me to move on with the grace and courage I need. I also learned that just because this lay off happened it does not mean that I am broken. Cracked, maybe, but I am still a child of my Higher Power and this is an opportunity to change my attitude, learn something, and move forward in faith. Maya Angelou in her book of essays - Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now - writes "Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen." I also love your suggestion to do something nice for myself when thoughts of self-pity try to move in. That, and of course, gratitude are great tools! Good work, and thanks again, Janet McNamara (Saturday morning)

  4. Ausome thoughts. I can find something more rotten with somebody else but its a habit to milk self pity to no end.