Chronic Pain – How Can We Overcome the Burden of Guilt?

Guilt – the emotion which can come with chronic pain as an added bonus

We struggle with pain. We struggle with the stress of living with pain. And sometimes, we struggle with all-consuming guilt, which can ultimately affect both our mental and physical health.

Chronic pain - how can we overcome the burden of guilt. Thoughts of guilt, my fault, I'm a burden, I'm to blame.

Sometimes our guilt makes us believe we are a burden to our families. And very often there is only one person who is pointing the finger and making us feel guilty – ourselves.

Guilt is a huge weight to be shackled to. We can’t carry it around. Instead, we drag it behind us, slowing down our every move. We really don’t need that in our lives. Our pain gives us more than enough to cope with.

Pain is like a 4×4 gas guzzler. It wants more gas than we can afford. But guilt wants some of that gas too. Our tank empties quickly. We run out. We have to wait before we can afford to refill. And sometimes, we can’t afford to refill at all.

Our energy is a scarce commodity. We simply don’t have enough. If we could get rid of that guilt, it would free up some for another use. Energy to bake a cake, read a book or go for a walk, perhaps.

Guilt uses energy which chronic pain sufferers don't have
Energy is a scarce commodity for us

We can’t let guilt eat into us.

It’s a difficult emotion to stop though, isn’t it?  Perhaps some of the following reasons for it sound familiar :

  • We may be unable to work therefore unable to contribute financially to the household. Or if we can work, we often feel that we can’t pull our weight and feel guilty about taking sick leave.
  • We feel like we need to depend on other people too much, financially and physically.
  • We don’t have the energy or capability to do everyday tasks and chores or look after our families. We struggle to even look after our children.
  • We might be students, struggling with coursework.
  • We don’t visit people enough. We cancel plans. We think we ruin other people’s plans. We think we let them down. Our pain is unpredictable, so we are too.
  • We are always tired. We sleep a lot. We can’t exercise. We may have put on weight. We forget things and lose track of conversations.
  • We believe we’re not good enough – not good enough at what we do, and not good enough at being husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings or friends. We’re simply not good enough.
  • We just feel guilty – for no other reason than for being ourselves.

I feel guilty for being me

I will not feel guilty for living with chronic pain. It is not my fault.
I will not feel guilty for living with chronic pain

A few years ago, on another blog, I wrote those exact words – I feel guilty for being me.  I then shared the post with other people who suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, and so many people said, ‘me too’.

I don’t feel like that now. I refuse to.

Nobody should ever feel guilty for being who they are because they live with chronic pain. It’s not their fault. They didn’t ask for it. They don’t deserve it. And they shouldn’t feel guilty for having it.

12 suggestions which might help overcome this type of guilt

We need to rid ourselves of guilt. It’s unnecessary and unhealthy.

  • Make a list   Try making a list of reasons why you feel guilty. Study each reason and ask yourself if you could do something differently. Most likely, you’ll find that you are doing the best you can in which case you have no reason to feel guilty
  • Ask for reassurance   You might think you are a burden, but your friends and family most likely don’t. Explain to them how you are feeling. It’s always best to talk, rather than keep it to yourself. Doing that makes you feel worse.
  • Ask for help   If you are struggling to look after your children tell someone. And when people offer help, take it, without guilt. Never feel bad about getting help. You live with a chronic condition.
  • Set priorities   Decide what tasks and chores are most important. Everything else can wait for a better day. And again, ask for help. Don’t put yourself on a guilt trip for not cooking elaborate meals or having a toddler’s fingerprints on the windows. Those things don’t matter.
  • See your doctor   People with chronic pain, can often suffer from depression and anxiety, which can lead to feelings of insecurity and guilt. Perhaps meds and/or counselling could help.
  • Learn to say no – without guilt  It’s your pain. You know how you’ll suffer if you do something. If it’s worth some extra pain, you might want to say yes. If it’s not worth it, say no, without guilt.
  • Alternatives   If you can’t do something, try making alternative plans. Rather than go out for coffee with your friends, ask them to visit you. Do something that suits them and you.
  • It’s not my fault   Write those words anywhere you’ll see them throughout the day – on a post-it on the fridge or make it your computer screensaver. If you keep a journal, write the phrase on every page.
  • Be proud of yourself   You live with pain every day. It’s a constant struggle, but you try your best. Be very proud.
  • Love yourself   It’s ok, actually imperative, to love yourself. Spend time on yourself, be kind to yourself. Do something you love – a hobby, read, go to a spa.
  • Ask yourself this question   “What advice would I give to a friend in my exact position?” The answer would probably be, “Ditch the guilt.”
It's time for chronic pain sufferers to ditch the guilt
It’s time to ditch the guilt

I hope you don’t feel guilty because of your chronic pain. If you do, I hope you can work on overcoming it.

I’d love to hear what you think of this post – please leave me a comment in the box below.

Please follow my blog and click the share buttons. Perhaps we can encourage other chronic pain sufferers to ditch their guilt.


36 thoughts on “Chronic Pain – How Can We Overcome the Burden of Guilt?

  1. trish veltman

    I really enjoyed reading this. Conquering guilt is such a valuable lesson to learn – and feeling guilty is such waste of time and energy.
    Excellent suggestions to manage those feelings.


  2. Eugh, this is so spot on. I’ve felt a sometimes overwhelming sense of guilt, sometimes because I feel I’m not doing enough, other times for no reason other than that I’m sorry for being the way I am with no specific reason. Guilt can be utterly devastating. But you’re right, we didn’t ask for this, we shouldn’t apologise, we have every right to happiness without guilt. Great post! xx


    1. Yes, it is devastating and it can destroy some people. We deserve happiness. We have so much to deal with living with pain, we shouldn’t allow guilt to take away happiness.
      Thanks for commenting.


  3. Hi Shannah, I hope you are able to reassure your Mom. Some things she could work at herself, but getting your reassurance, will be a major starting point for her.
    I hope her pain isn’t too bad just now.
    Thanks for commenting.


  4. I can relate. When I was diagnosed with epilepsy and had my driving privileges revoked, I felt like a burden having to be driven around everywhere and felt a great deal of guilt about this as well. What I kept reminding myself is that if I drove in my condition, I would not only be putting my own life in danger but others’ lives as well.


  5. Kari Haywood Chairez

    I was the caregiver of someone with chronic pain for quite a while. I think, as a caregiver, we often struggle with what the other person actually needs from us. We don’t want them to feel guilty, but sometimes we need to know what is needed. In most cases, this person didn’t even have the energy to explain what they needed. It’s quite a struggle both physically and mentally!


    1. I often say that caregivers have a hard time. They don’t always get enough credit for what they do. It must be a struggle sometimes, especially if the person isn’t able to explain their needs.


  6. sjd68

    Guilt is a very difficult thing for people to deal with and it certainly is a tough emotion for many. Somewhere there has to be a balance. You should never feel as though you’re being a burden. I think some problems with guilt is caused by a lack of communication. Ask for help as you say.


    1. Mary, I have a post in my to-do list about just that. Pain comes in many forms, depression is one of them. It’s an illness, just like pain and also like pain, it’s not always understood.


  7. I don’t know any family who would consider their chronically ill loved one a burden. True family accepts you as you are and helps as much as they can. Sometimes, though, you do need to articulate your needs–they’re aren’t mind readers.


  8. rachaelthrive

    Very powerful post. I think a lot of times we tell ourselves stories and just assume others have those same perceptions.


  9. Hedy

    This is definitely a much needed post, especially with the lives that we live and the things that we undergo. I like that you offered some great tips to overcome this guilt!


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