Guilt

The feeling of guilt is no stranger to many people who live with chronic physical illness. For some it is a pervasive feeling and for others it appears sporadically depending on factors like how often one's symptoms interfere with daily life, social functions, and personal or communal responsibilities. There are numerous experiences that can follow with a profound feeling of guilt.  Imagine desperately wanting to attend your best friend's wedding, being ready for it for the last year, and then a week before the event finding out that you have to immediately undergo another round of chemotherapy. How about another scenario? You are chronically exhausted from dialysis and do not have the energy to go on social outings with your friends, so instead you are always inviting them to your place.  Others, may have illnesses that require enormous amounts of rest, such as certain autoimmune diseases. People living with such an illness may be aware that they can only tolerate one of the two weekend events and that trying to push to attend both will result in a lot of suffering. These are only a few of the countless examples.

Although experiences of guilt may follow such situations, these situations do not necessarily require guilt...meaning YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT! Most people do not want to live with chronic physical illness. Most people do not want to suffer or feel like their suffering disappoints others. Sometimes people who live with chronic illness eventually say goodbye to the guilt. They realize that if others cannot understand that they do not like disappointing, then perhaps these others are not the right people to keep close by. The person living with the illness is already suffering and does not need other people to intensify this by inducing guilty feelings.

The process of letting the guilt go is not an easy one. Part of this process is becomming really aware of your own needs and of what you really can, cannot, want, and do not want to do. Sometimes guilt can persist when one's illness is used as an excuse to avoid dealing with things that one can actually do but does not want to. For example, a person may not want to help a friend move on a given day because s/he has already been invited to a party on the same day. Using the illness as the excuse rather than being honest with the friend and offering to help on another day, is likely to increase this person's feelings of guilt when that same person does have to cancel really because of the illness. The distinctions between what you really can and cannot do get blurred, as do your feelings about it. Therefore it is very important to be honest about what you are going through regarding how your illness limits you.  You will feel good knowing that when you are up to it physically you are doing right by others, and you will feel equally confident in your decision to rest when you are not feeling well. You will acknowledge with confidence that when you are resting it is because you need it and that there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Give yourself the same understanding and kindness that you give to another. Let go of the guilt and surround yourself by people who do understand. You deserve to stay honest and true to yourself and to your loved ones. If you do there is no reason for guilt.