Reasons We Feel Guilty About Having A Chronic Illness

Chronic illness manifests not only physically, but also emotionally. Among these emotions, guilt often takes center stage, casting a shadow over us when we are already navigating the complexities of our health conditions. This is quite common in our community. I can not speak for everyone, however a lot of these ring true for me and I know they likely will for some of you. Exploring these reasons helps us shed some light on the emotional toll chronic illness takes on us and emphasizes the importance of compassion and understanding.

Financial Strain

Often medical expenses and missed work or the inability to work due to our chronic illness can lead to a financial strain both on us and on our families, sometimes even our extended families and this can cause feelings of guilt. Over the years I often missed a lot of work and this meant paychecks that were not as good as they could have been. This would cause a lot of stress and make me feel like I was not contributing to my family as much as I felt I should have been.

Impact on Relationships

Chronic illness can cause a strain on any relationship whether it be with work colleagues, family members, or friends. Often there was a change in roles or lack of communication on my part as I struggled to just get by day-to-day. Decreased energy levels would cause me to cancel or postpone outings or events, which in turn caused people to stop asking me and left me feeling guilty and alone, causing a strain on our relationships.

Inability to Keep Up with Others

As mentioned above the lack of energy as well as the physical pain would result in me not being able to keep up with my friends and family or at work. Watching others lead active lives while I was struggling to even do day-to-day chores would make me feel like less of a person and feel guilty for not being able to keep up or participate in activities that I was once able to do.

Impact on Intimacy

I’m not going to lie, my chronic illness really took a toll on the intimacy in my relationship with my husband when it was at its peak. This was mostly due to physical limitations but also due to frustration and anxiety from past experiences. This often led to feeling guilty and frustrated and often taking it out on my husband in other ways such as losing my patience or constantly affecting my mood.

Inability to Fulfill Responsibilities

Chronic illness can interfere with work, family, and social commitments, causing us to feel guilty for not being able to fulfill our obligations or meet others’ expectations. Often we are left unable to fulfill our responsibilities such as finishing a work project or perhaps bathing a little one. We often have to rely on other people to help us fulfill those responsibilities and look to others for help. While there is nothing wrong with asking for help we often still feel guilty about it and wonder why we have such an issue fulfilling our responsibilities and comparing ourselves to others who may be healthier or have more energy at the time to get things done.

Missed Opportunities

It’s likely no surprise that all of this can lead to missed opportunities. We often miss opportunities in education and career advancement, causing us to feel guilty for not being able to seize these opportunities. We are often left frustrated and angry about the opportunities that we miss. These opportunities can even be on a daily basis from small things such as getting to relax for a few minutes before bed because we got all our housework done to bigger things such as the promotion or position at work that we were really hoping for.

So where does this leave us?

This often leaves us feeling isolated, overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and alone. This can exacerbate the challenges we already have with managing our chronic illness itself, leading to a sense of helplessness and despair. The combination of guilt and frustration can significantly impact our mental well-being and our quality of life.

There is always hope!

We can often find hope in recognizing and acknowledging that though guilt is a natural emotion, it is not helpful to us and that we can help ourselves by educating ourselves so that we understand that our chronic illness is not our fault and by recognizing that we are not to blame, this can help alleviate the feelings of guilt that we feel. We need to utilize support networks by connecting with others who are living with similar conditions and supporting each other through our journey.

We have to learn and practice self-compassion by learning to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding, especially during those challenging times when we do find ourselves feeling guilty. We need to encourage each other and become advocates for ourselves and one another. This can give us a sense of purpose and control, giving us hope. It is possible to overcome the guilt, find meaning and purpose, and live fulfilling lives despite the challenges of chronic illness.

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