When Guilt Becomes Your Primary Diagnosis


Chronic illness of any kind can deal painful blows to our self-worth, none of which are deserving. The longer I live, the more I realize how I have stacked pallets of guilt on pallets of shame and allowed them to sit heavy on the decaying foundation of my self-worth. How many times have I let an employer, friend or loved one down? How many times have I been a burden? How many times have I let my health overshadow the joys in life?

How many times have I allowed the cancer of guilt to invade my healthy mind?

Regrets are real and I believe they have a healthy place when they are used to mend relationships fractured by the weight of our illness and the selfishness that sometimes occurs with such. Let’s admit it — we may get selfish when we are sick. It is necessary to seek forgiveness from both others and ourselves in order to move forward. Chronic illness often prevents us from performing as we would like. Our minds desire to do what our bodies refuse. Now that my children are grown and I’m more reflectful (not a typo — I’m full of reflection at my age), it is so easy to become regretful over the amount of activities my illness and anxiety prevented me from. I’m acutely aware my struggles overshadowed family times that should have been great fun, and for that, I am regretful; however, I can not invite Regret to make a home in my heart. Obsessing over Regret will open the door to Shame, and Shame ushers Guilt right on in.

Without realizing what has happened, Guilt, unchecked, can become our primary diagnosis. Guilt has the ability to incapacitate us in emotional, relational and physical ways, and she is a sneaky, silent killer.

I felt the sting of Guilt’s nasty right hook just this morning when the side effects from a seizure medication change meant I was unable to get out of bed to make sure my daughter did her therapeutic exercises. Hubby had to be both Mom and Dad, again. Score one for Guilt.

An unexpected jab hit when my husband wanted to pop into a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. Key words here are “pop into” because you know how we anxious CIBSs (chronic illness buddies) hate to not have time to plan for every possible disastrous, yet highly unlikely, scenario. Really? C’mon, we need that time to worry, or it just can’t happen. Can I get an amen?! So, I stated in my irritated, flat voice that there was no way I could handle the sensory overload that was in that place. Guilt sat in my lap as we ate our drive-through meal.

A couple of days later, Guilt left me bruised and in tears as I had to leave a reception after my sweet grandbabies’ dance recital. The lighting and sounds were firing up my brain waves, resulting in a nice healthy aura, the kind that sends you fleeing in some kind of hyper state of flight or fight.

You know what I’m saying. You hear the edge in your own voice. You hear the cutting irritation directed at loved ones. You make the same excuse for the millionth time, and you feel the sting of shame. Score another for Guilt.

If you have a story like mine, you went years with no answers, but plenty of symptoms. Like me, you may have been misdiagnosed… a few times. That in and of itself leads to great anxiety, depression and dysfunction. Perhaps even no function, in bed with covers over head for days at a time. As if those aren’t enough, we may start to heap on shame as we weasel out of social events, responsibilities and commitments. We are masters at disguising the fact we really are in no physical and/or mental shape to show up anyway. This all-too-familiar scenario sets us up perfectly for Guilt to wage war on that eroding foundation of self-worth. Hence, Guilt slides into number-one spot as she eats away at us like acid on flesh. She really is that destructive. Guilt becomes the disease.

I intend to rob Guilt of the power she has stolen from me.

Let’s break it down and choose to claim forgiveness for what has been, acceptance of what is and hope for what will be.

Guilt robs us of a few things.

The ability to see the positive. We are oh-so-much more than our illnesses. Let’s count the good moments and take them back from the hard grasp of Guilt. Is Guilt stealing your joy?

The ability to see our potential. I believe God created us to do great things! While it may look different from our peers, it doesn’t mean our contributions to this world are any less valuable than our healthy counterparts.

The ability to perceive truth. We can easily transfer our own shameful view of ourselves to others. We can easily tell ourselves we are failures when others do not see us in that light at all. We can easily see ourselves as incapable when in fact, we are entirely able. Are you seeing yourself as incapacitated?

The ability to live in the present. I believe Guilt is the rock we shackle to our ankles. It drags us under the surface of this moment into the abyss of the past. We hold the key, Truth, to unlock the chains. We choose whether or not to swim to the surface of the here and now.

Let’s choose to kick the curable disease of Guilt. Let’s choose to burn those pallets of regret and shame. Let’s choose to use the key of Truth to unlock these chains.

Follow this journey on Soultracings.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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