The Guilt of Chronic Illness - #chronicillness #guilt #mentalhealth
chronic illness

The Guilt of Chronic Illness

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Since I’ve been battling daily Hemiplegic Migraine, I’ve had overwhelming feelings of guilt about loads of things. Guilt about not doing things, letting people down, not living up to expectations, not being able to join in with events, having to cancel plans at the last minute, not being able to be depended on, not being a good wife, parent, daughter, sister or friend. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes the guilt feels like a storm cloud that envelopes me in its clutches. Breaking free just seems like an impossibility because I don’t know how to be the new me.

Before the Guilt

Before my health declined, I was outgoing, sang on the Praise team and was very active at church, went to every ballgame that the grands played, enjoyed watching football and NASCAR, liked working in my flower beds, absolutely loved shopping with my husband…the list could go on forever. Plain and simple…I was living a good, full life!

Skip ahead two years and you will find that I am isolated and socially uncomfortable, I am no longer physically able to sing on the Praise team and I miss more services than I attend. I have missed every game this season, I am not able to watch anything much on TV because of the flashes of the moving lights. It is impossible to work in my flower beds because I don’t have the energy and I can’t handle getting hot. And I no longer shop because it takes way too much energy.

It seems like everything that made me who I was has been stripped away. I am not sure how to be this new person…the person left in the wake of the sickness, weakness and pain. How do you stop feeling guilty when you can no longer be what you used to be?

What Feeling Guilt Means

I realize that what I am saying makes me sound depressed but I really am not…not at all. I am just trying to figure out how to be this “new” me. It is sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes. When you start wearing them, they hurt a little. As the day go on they hurt a little more until you have a blister. Eventually, the shoes will stretch out just right and you are comfortable again. But for right now it feels like I am still in the “breaking in” phase.

I hate to admit it but there are days when I could probably do more than I do but I am terrified of the blisters. What would doing more mean for my health? It scares me…then I feel guilty for being scared and guilty for not doing more.

How Do You Handle the Guilt?

How do you handle the guilt that comes with the limitations created by your chronic illness? What things have you done to make life seem ok again?

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  • Michelle

    What you’re describing isn’t just guilt. You’re mourning a loss. A loss of the person you were and the life you had. That’s completely normal for anyone newly sick. Be patient with yourself and understanding with yourself and your new limits. You’re on a new adventure in life and you’ll find new ways to bond and spend time with family. You said you’re a regular church goer and that’s fantastic. Lean on the Lord during this time and know that the feelings of loss will pass and the guilt when it comes will be less as time goes on.

  • Shelby

    I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and on my bad flare days, I can’t get out of bed and I feel incredibly guilty.

    Not having income also makes me feel like any burden to my husband and my friends..

    Lately I’ve been focusing more on my mental well-being and picked up watercolor painting; for the first time in years I feel like I have a purpose, and passion.

  • Erica Carrasco

    I was in this exact place until I started going to counseling. My physical self didn’t change but the way I viewed my life did. I had to find the right therapist, that was key. I went through a couple. As time went by I realized those negative thoughts were feeding into a temporary depression that only happens when I’m bed ridden. It still happens and I find myself going into a temporary depression and things get real dark. But now I know how to pull myself out mentally and in turn I started to slowly feel better. I learned that I was/do get caught in a cycle of migraine-stress-depression-migraine. In therapy I learned to negate the stress-depression factor with new thinking, thus, minimizing triggering a new migraine attack. I’m not always successful, but it’s so worth the work to cut down on this stress/depression trigger. Migraine itself is a depression trigger. Depression is a migraine trigger. The guilt, it’s now fading. And round and round it goes until you stab a stick in it. 😉

  • What Lexie Loves

    This is such an interesting post to me, particularly as I’m someone who has never experienced or come across close family members with chronic illnesses. Good luck – and I hope, over time, you manage to conquer the overwhelming guilt.

  • simplywendi

    Great post with a great question. Guilt………..I have had tons and tons heaped on my shoulders, especially while raising young kids while ill. Now that they are older (but still in the house) I realized all that time I felt guilty was a complete waste of my time and energy. It served no purpose and hurt me physically, mentally and spiritually. I wish I had a solution…………..other than, feeling guilty was pointless.

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