Chronic Illness · Chronic Pain · Mayo Clinic · Mental Health · Personal · Recovery

What a Bad Moment Bag is and Why Everyone Should Have One

Do you ever forget the goal that you’re working toward or who you’re striving to become because of difficulties you’re facing – difficulties that can make you want to aim for something smaller?

I do. I’m constantly fighting doubt, circumstances, symptoms, or whatever else it is that’s keeping me from the courage and motivation to pursue my truest potential in life. And I know I’m not the only one feeling this.

One of the differences in my life post-Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center that keeps me going on this arduous and absolutely worthwhile path of living a full life, despite pain and symptoms, is my bad moment bag. It sits in the back seat of my car as my ever-present passenger, since I’m a commuter and I live at two separate houses. It’s something I reach into when I see myself facing a day that I am scared of because of higher-than-usual symptoms, challenging tasks back-to-back(-to-back), or something that I can’t honestly figure out, but is messing with my peace (anxiety, I’m looking at you). It’s something I grab when I worry that I’ll shrink back instead of rise to the challenges I’m facing that day. It’s something I root through when I see myself thinking about (or actually) falling back into old habits rather than putting into practice my newer, healthier, better habits – when I see myself wanting to cancel plans, quit when the going gets tough, take extra pain medications, skip going to the gym, and just stay in my house within the coziness of a blanket burrito (and sleep and watch Netflix way too much).

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[image description: a black and white hand-drawn figure of a person in a blanket that covers their whole body. They are sitting up, their eyes are little dots, and the handwritten text says “I’m staying in here until life makes sense.” Source: Oodley Doodle].
It’s a bag of reminders of where I’m going, not what I’m facing right now that’s making me doubt that journey. It’s a bag of little things to keep me going when I honestly think I can’t – short activities I can do or small moments that I can create that will help me to pause and breathe, but not slump into my couch for the rest of the day doing these things when I need to keep moving for now. And, on a similar note, this is why it’s called a bad moment bag rather than a bad day bag. I’m learning not to condemn a whole day to being bad based on how I’m feeling at any one point.

What’s in my bag?

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[image description: Items from my bad moment bag laid out on my dining room table. See the list of items below].
  • My difficult day plan, something I created during my tenure at Mayo Clinic for times like this. It’s a list of promises to myself, ideas for things to do in hard moments, and people I can call, among other things. I’ll write a longer post on just that at some point.
  • Mayo Clinic stuffed animal to remind me of the wonderful times I had with my cohort – a group of people so great that we all forgot why we were there most of the time.
  • Notebook of encouraging letters from my peers at the PRC. When I don’t feel like myself, it’s hard for me to like myself or look at myself how someone else might – with grace, love, and words of kindness. Others’ words can help me remember who I am when I’m at my best and who I am when I’m striving for growth. My peers from Mayo saw and understood what I was going through then and they certainly know now, too.
    • I have an electronic version of something similar to this, too – whenever anyone sends me a lovely message, I screenshot it for a rainy day in the future. Chances are that your words are somewhere in this folder, my friends.
  • Photo of loved ones to further remind me that I’m not alone.
  • Bible because reading the Word can help me regain a long-term perspective and remember that I am a beloved daughter of God, regardless of what my circumstances look like.
  • A music note to encourage me to listen to or even to create music.
  • Socks to push me toward the gym because, no matter how much I may dread going (I mean, it’s truly counterintuitive to exercise when you’re in pain and don’t want to), I almost always feel far better afterward. There’s a lot of evidence that exercise (that’s right for you – whatever that looks like) helps with fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and mood disorders and anxiety, AKA everything I face.
  • “The Nice Handbook” for if I want to make a difference in a community – no matter how small – as a part of my day.
  • Notes from my church members that I received while I was at Mayo because the prayers enclosed in them all came true in some form and it reminds me of what God has done.
  • Fidget toys like stress balls and Play-doh to keep my hands busy if I’m experiencing anxiety.
  • Bubbles to help me breathe slowly and deeply. You can’t blow bubbles when you are breathing in too quickly and shallowly. Deep breathing can – and will – help you be your own body’s ally rather than nemesis. Hence the “Breathe” bracelet as well that my biofeedback therapist gave to me.
  • Body lotion because… treat yo’self.
  • Blank “thank you” cards to express gratitude to people I love.
  • A lamb because it reminds me of my beloved sorority, Sigma Phi Lambda.
  • A pillow of the silly face emoji to remind me that life isn’t always as serious as I make it out to be when I’m feeling down.
  • A magic wand to remind me to believe in my own magic.
  • A cognitive behavioral therapy ABCDE thought log to help me reality check.
  • Coloring pages and markers to help me get out of my own head when I’m having repetitive thoughts about pain or anxiety.
  • Mascara and chapstick to help me look good (and hopefully feel good, too) because my natural reaction on high pain days is to wear super grubby things, and to some extent, I wore comfortable clothes for 3 years straight and people could tell how much pain I was in/how crappy I was feeling based on how many days it had been since I tried to look decent.
  • Chocolate and Jolly Ranchers (well… before I ate them) because I love them. They’re both a reward for getting out and getting back at the end of the day.
  • Handmade bracelets from past clients to remind me that heading into the helping professions is the right move, even when it’s challenging.
  • A flashlight to remind me to look for the light in all situations.
  • Sunflower because one of my nicknames is Little Miss Sunshine, and my sunniness is something that I love about myself. I can’t always make it happen, but it reminds me to look on the bright side, if at all possible. And, plus, if I can find ways to shine when much around me would tell me to darken, that is when I know the power of my own strength.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

So, my friend, what are you facing? What would be in your bag? How would it help get you up and out? Head to the dollar store and find things that matter to you and will remind you where you’re heading.

 

 

23 thoughts on “What a Bad Moment Bag is and Why Everyone Should Have One

  1. Sweet Ms. Emmie, you are so honest and have such insight! It takes a lot of strength and courage to face these times and to share your feelings. I love that you can seek the help you need at the time when it is difficult to move forward. In doing so, you help so many others see the ray of sunshine and hope when they are faced with darkness! God puts people in our lives for some reason, sometimes we can find the purpose of our meeting, sometimes it is more challenging to see the worth. no matter what there is value! If we are honest with ourselves, we can move forward and achieve anything our hearts desire! You are bound for greatness!

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  2. Oh how I love this post and these ideas! I need one of those bags! I love how honest you are in your writing. I especially love the flashlight. What a wonderful reminder. I love to find the silver lining in situations, but, sometimes in my own circumstances I get so mired up in the here and now. That is a beautiful quote you have at the end. I need to pin this for later. Blessings, Valerie

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  3. I can’t tell you how much I love this post! I have never thought of a “bad moment bag” but I can tell you I need one and I’m making a list of what to put in it!

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  4. So glad I found your site. I just ran across it on Pinterest. I will work on getting a bad moment bag. That is a great idea! Thx for your encouragement.

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  5. I love this article! I will definitely be putting together my own bag for those moments that come my way. One thing that I have turned to in the past is my Joy Journal. It’s a journal by Barbara Johnson that I purchased one day, not knowing how incredibly healing it would be in the long term. She included lists you could make of fond memories from the past, things that make you laugh, along with a joke here and there to make you laugh. I started writing in this journal after losing my mother to breast cancer. It is where I also put cards and special notes that I’ve received over the years from people that have been a part of my life and brought me joy. I drag it out on those days when I’m especially struggling. I also find it healing to journal, as well as spend time daily in prayer and reading my Bible. Praise and worship music also is a mood lifter for me as well. I also finish my day by thanking God for the blessings I had in my day. Even if the day was less than wonderful (as in overwhelmingly fatigued or painful), I can always find something to be thankful for.

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  6. I came upon your lovely article at just the right time, which must be synchronicity. I am recovering from breast cancer and having REALLY BAD back pain, sciatica and neuropathy in my toes which is a legacy of chemo I think.
    I think the bad moment bag is a great idea so I shall take a trip to Wilkos tomorrow and buy some nice things. Im also going to try and find a similar place if I can here in the UK, to the Mayo Clinic as it may help me through. Thank you for your inspiration and for sharing. Helen.

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