Torturing Myself as a Possible Coping Mechanism

Realizing there are parts of my personality (or at least habits or tendencies) that allows me to torture myself over things outside my control has been eye opening. Why in the world do I try to take on karmic responsibility for every bad thing that happens to someone I love, especially things that were especially disappointing to them?

I’d never really noticed I did this until the past few years in thinking about my relationship with my husband. When I can’t get him something he really wants or replace something he cares about that has broken, the most horrible feeling of guilt and shame comes over me. I feel inexplicable both responsible and helpless to fix the situation. It’s how I feel when we talk about times he didn’t get the same kinds of opportunities and experiences I had as a child despite his obvious interest in activities like sports and desire to hang out with other kids. But that isn’t even the weirdest part.

The weirdest part has been my realization that this is exactly how I felt as a child (and still feel, honestly) when my mom told me about disappointments she had experienced or we went through events in her part of our extended family that hurt my mother emotionally. I don’t want to get into it because those are her stories to tell, but we’ve been through some really difficult times and experienced some horribly painful losses.

I’m tired of feeling this way. I don’t understand where this comes from or how to stop doing it. Part of me wonders if it isn’t a little girl’s way of trying to explain why I’ve always had to deal with migraine disease. When I started experiencing it I was only about six years old, and I’ve always been convinced that migraines were my punishment for doing something wrong. Obviously, that’s not how it works, and as an adult, I full well know that. But somewhere deep down that little girl is still with me and finds it hard to let go of those old ways of relating to migraine disease. In general I’m all about whatever coping skills help get you by, but in this case copying this way causes more harm than good, and I need to move toward change.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.