Changing My Tune: Learning How to Stay Out of an Emotional Funk

Like it or not making errors in judgment or mistakes in regards to how we manage our chronic illnesses is something we all will do at one time or another. Diseases like psoriatic arthritis can be so unpredictable that it is impossible to predict all the activities that increase our pain. The reality is that everything we do increases our pain to some degree. However there are some ways to limit how much of a beating our bodies will receive by recognizing when to slow down or utilizing different therapies, mobility aids, or medications. Unfortunately, none of them are foolproof because of an ever changing level of pain and physical ability. For longer than I would like to admit, I have emotionally beaten myself up over every mistake or error in judgment that I have made that has resulted with additional pain.

Should have, would have

How many times have you caught yourself saying something like: “I should have used my wheelchair” or “If only I hadn’t forgotten my pain medication?” Sometimes I feel like my body can handle walking farther than normal, so I do it. Of course I pay the price with an elevated pain level. While I am obsessed with lists and usually remember to bring along the things I need the most - like my pain meds - I am human and sometimes forget an item or two. No matter what it was that I did to increase my pain I would always send myself into an emotional funk by constantly berating myself. As a result I fell deeper into depression and often felt like a failure. The guilt of making an error would eat at me for days and sometimes weeks. Unless I was willing to live my life in misery, something had to change.

Turning the tables

The problem with those beatings was that my focus was on my negative emotions and not the mistake or how I could avoid repeating it. It took a conscious effort to address my errors without emotion to be able to learn from them. For example: If I forgot to pack pain meds for an outing my brain would fill with thoughts like “I am stupid” or “I should have known better”. This doesn’t solve the problem. First I have to acknowledge my mistake. Then accept that I made an error and its consequences. Next I forgive myself. At that point my mind is free to think of ways to avoid repeating this mistake. When I last forgot my pain meds, I reminded myself that making lists and checking them before leaving the house is imperative. I am not perfect. I still make mistakes, but I have stopped emotionally torturing myself.

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