PFAM Blog Carnival – Guilt

Drowning in Guilt

Patients for a Moment is a patient-centric blog carnival revolving around those living with chronic illness. Twice a month, bloggers are encouraged to tackle the theme with their own unique voice and situation. Those effected by chronic illness – doctors, caregivers, friends and family members are also thoroughly encouraged to participate!

This month Glass of Win is hosting and her theme is : GUILT.
You feel it, though you know you shouldn’t. In what ways, if any, does guilt come into play in regards to your illness and the way you must live your life? How do you try to overcome feelings of guilt?

One of the definitions Wikapedia gives for Guilt is: a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realises or believes–accurately or not–that they have violated a moral standard, and bear sole responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse.

The definition that Webster’s gives that I think fits most here is: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach

My disability is pretty hard to deal with sometimes, but the guilt that I carry around because of it is stifling.  Most of my disability is invisible, and that makes it harder, but I don’t think it makes it less real.  What makes it most difficult for me is being such a burden.

Yes, as the definition points out, I realize this guilt is mostly for imagined offenses, but it is very real to me.

I have this weight that is just bearing down on me every day when I think of how much I can’t do that my husband must now be burdened with.  Most days he has to do all of the house work, he often has to take care of my personal needs, I can’t drive so he has to do all of the shopping, take me to my doctor’s appointments, pay all of the bills, plus he has a full-time job.  I feel like I’m a useless husk of a human being, I can’t work, I often can’t even do for myself, what am I contributing to this life?  How could I not be drowning in guilt?  It is suffocating.

I used to be the friend who was there when others needed me.  I would bring a friend dinner, help clean their house if they were ill, help out when they were pregnant (or right after the baby was born)….now, I can’t do any of that.  I feel guilty that I often can’t even go to a friend’s birthday celebration.  When my husband is sick and I can’t help him, like he has helped me so many times, the guilt is nearly over powering.  (thankfully, he doesn’t get sick very often, and when he usually likes to just sleep.)

It’s funny, but one of the biggest things I feel guilty about is when I can’t cook dinner.  I know my husband doesn’t like to cook.  And I have celiac disease so it’s hard to eat out, plus we are trying to save money and not eat out as much.  We also hate to get things to go, all that wasted garbage that they send your to go things home in, it’s just such a waste.  More guilt.

I will often have a few days where I’ll feel better and I can get a few things done, and I’ll buy some groceries and start meals.  Then I’ll get sicker, and some of the food will go bad, and I feel guilty about that too.

How do I handle the guilt?

I go to therapy!  Actually, my husband and I go to therapy together!

My therapist keeps telling me that guilt is a useless emotion unless you are doing something that is destructive to yourself or others that needs to be stopped (like abusing drugs or alcohol, breaking the law…).  Then guilt can be a good thing and help you to stop, other than that, it’s useless.  I keep trying to remind myself of that.  I should not feel guilty for things I can not control.  I need to give myself a break, and I need to learn to ask for help.

My husband tells me how grateful he feels that he can be here to help me.  That makes me feel so wonderful that I have a husband that is so selfless and loves me so much.  But then I think, how many years can he put up with this?  But you know, that is not for me to decide.  He’s here, he loves me, he wants to help me.  If he needs help with this, he needs to ask, I should not feel guilty because he doesn’t ask for help.

My friends seem to understand.  Or at least they try, and the ones who don’t, well, I’m not too sure they should be my friends.  I would be there for them, if they don’t understand and won’t stand by me, then maybe they aren’t the people I think they are.  Some people are surprising me.  There are some people who I didn’t know would step up and be my friend through this and they are there.  I’m proud to say they are my friends.

I work hard when I am feeling well to make up for when I’m not.  I often feel better in the morning, so I’ve started cooking a lot more in the slow cooker, I just throw things in it in the morning, and it’s done that evening.  On days when I feel better I clean a little.  I don’t take on a big task, but I get something done.  (My husband argued with this point, but I said I’m trying to get better about this.  I used to start way more than I could finish, now I try to do a little at a time, so I can feel like I accomplished something.)

I’m learning to vent more of my emotions on the computer, this blog and other people’s blogs have helped a lot, so I don’t have all this guilt building up with nowhere to go.

I’m finding other people like me who have similar feeling and we are learning together that we need to not be so hard on our selves.

Even my doctor said I need to give myself a break.  This is hard.  I’m working hard even when it doesn’t seem like it.  I needed to step back from the situation and look at it as if I was a friend of mine and think about how I would feel about me.

I would think “Hey, she’s a pretty brave person who is doing her damnedest to make the best out of a very hard situation.  I don’t want to get in the way, but I wonder if she needs help?”  I know a lot of people are very busy and wouldn’t even think about helping.  Others are so afraid they will be bothering you.  But some people really would like to help, they just don’t know how.  I need to learn how to ask for help when I need it, and not feel guilty about it.  (I really hope my husband does too.)

The problem is a lot of people will say, “If there is anything I can do, just let me know.”, but they don’t really mean it.  What they mean is, “If there is anything I can do that is convenient for me on that particular day and time I will be happy to do it, but other than that…..well….not so much.”  Remember, when I said that I’ve found out that there are some people who probably aren’t my friends anyway….well, I don’t feel guilty about that.

This post is linked to Glass of Win for the PFAM Blog Carnival

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5 thoughts on “PFAM Blog Carnival – Guilt

  1. Hi!
    You have so many interesting thoughts – and I can really recognize them all. I´ve also been to therapy. I made it alone because I needed somewhere to ventilate my feelings, thoughts and of course all guilt that follows with this Mr Menière. Today I think I´ve left most of the guilt-feelings.Most days I also have left the feelings of anxiety and fear. I think I reached a point where these feelings ruled my life and the only way out was to let go and starting following life as it is. This illness is something you cannot control and I decided to not struggle so hard against it or against my life as it is today.
    The feelings of guilt has been hardest against my children. So many times I´ve not been able to do normal “parent-things”. So many times they´ve been disapointed and have tried not to show it, to spare me. But they´ve also learned a lot: how to communicate with someone with hearing disability, how to deal with disapointments, how to take responsibility for housework…
    My life is like this, today. Noone of us knows what will happen tomorrow. Focusing of one small thing to do every day and feeling proud of doing this small thing helps. It´s nice to have something ordinary to talk about when we eat supper!
    Yours
    Susanna
    (Another fantastic book is Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery)

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    • Susanna,
      I’m working hard to get to the point that you are at. Some days I think I’m there, then I’ll get over whelmed and realize I’m not.
      I’m so happy that you post on my blog, it helps me so much to read about someone who is at the stage you are at. It gives me hope, and it gives me the courage to try harder.
      thank you.
      wendy

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  2. Hi Wendy,
    All anyone can ever do is the best that they can. So many people out there don’t even come close to “the best that they can”. We need to be proud of ourselves for overacheiving on a regular basis. We push ourselves, often to the point of getting sick again. We also need to be proud of ourselves for asking for help when we need it. Pride is a growing, insideous disease that needs to be stomped out. Guilt is a wasted emotion but pride is a dibilitating one. When we ask for help we need to realize that this builds character not only in ourselves but in those around us. The need to be needed is a huge, normal human feeling. If we don’t let the people who love us, help us, then we are actually hurting them! Be proud of what you can accomplish on your own, but embrace those opportunities where we can allow others to express their love for us by lending a helping hand 🙂

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    • Thank you very much for that comment. I remember that it is a huge, feeling to feel needed, because I want so much to feel needed, but I forget that my loved ones want to feel needed too. I know my husband and my friends often feel so helpless when I am beside myself with my illness. I need to remember that I can help those who love me by letting them know how much I need them, and appreciate everything they do for me.
      Thank you again.

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  3. Hi Wendy,

    Thank you for writing honestly about your experience and feelings. Do you remember that old saying, “Friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?” Right now, I am thinking about what a profound impact you have made on my life, as a friend. And thinking about how much more empty my life would be without you there, and being thankful that you are.

    I read you saying, “I would bring a friend dinner, help clean their house if they were ill, help out when they were pregnant (or right after the baby was born)….now, I can’t do any of that.” I think those might have been helpful things for some people, at some point, but to me it seems like a pretty weird idea to measure friendship in deeds.

    Isn’t friendship about talking and listening and trying to understand and just being there? Relating to one another. Sharing each others lives, good times, bad times? Every journey has ups and downs, at the end of mine, I want to look fondly at the people who shared in it.

    You’re one of the best friends I know! You’re honest, sincere, and steadfast. You’re you, full of creative power and compassion, not to mention lots of love. I admire you so much, and cherish every special moment that we do find, to get together.

    And I need your help with an art project! Call me soon–I can’t do it without you!

    Talk to you soon, my dear! Call anytime. 🙂 And I’m working on a bread recipe that I’ll need some feedback on soon…
    Love,
    Emily

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