Guilt – the emotion which can come with chronic pain as an added bonus
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.
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
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.
- Realistic goals Set realistic goals. Small achievements are huge victories. If you miss a goal one day, don’t worry – tomorrow is another day.
- 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.”
I hope you don’t feel guilty because of your chronic pain. If you do, I hope you can work on overcoming it.
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