I Have to Learn to Let Go of the Guilt I Feel as Mom With Fibromyalgia

“Mommy, do you want to come on a walk with us?” 

My daughter asks me this every time she goes on a nature hike with her dad. And
every time my answer is no. She knows I won’t go, but I suppose she asks just in case one day I’ll say yes. So off they will go with flashlights and jars to catch lightning bugs, leaving me on the couch with my guilt and pain medication and feeling the weight of guilt on my chest.

Guilt can be a common symptom of fibromyalgia, especially if you’re a parent. Missing out on so many of your kids’ activities is a daily heartbreak, and the guilt can be overwhelming.  You feel guilty for not being able to go on walks, you feel guilty for being crabby, you feel guilty for getting them to school late because your medication makes you groggy in the morning and you feel guilty for your partner for having to make up for you.

Ask anyone with fibro and they will tell you they are constantly apologizing to at least one person in their life. Whether it’s children, parents, partners or friends, guilt might as well be classified as a symptom. I frequently decline invitations to dinner with friends, miss birthdays and spend a large amount of my time apologizing to them.

But I apologize to my children the most. I am sorry I can’t go on walks with you. I’m sorry we didn’t go to your friend’s birthday party because I just wasn’t feeling well and Daddy was at work.

Children are naturally compassionate little people and have a surprisingly good grasp on my illness they can’t even pronounce yet. When my kids want to lie down with me, they now know to ask, “Mommy, does this hurt you?” When I’m moving slowly, they ask, “Mommy, does your body hurt you today?” It brings tears to my eyes, and I wish they didn’t have to ask those questions. I wish they could flop into my arms without worry. They deserve a mother who can do all the mom things she’s supposed to, including cuddles and hikes and birthday parties.

It’s hard to not get lost in the guilt, but you have to constantly remind yourself that it’s not your fault. You shouldn’t apologize for something that is out of your control. When you explain your illness to your kids, you’re not making excuses because it’s real and it hurts. But a mother will do anything to protect her children from pain, emotional and physical, and it feels like I am hurting them when I have to opt out of activities or when I have to ask them to stop touching me because it’s too painful. What kind of a mother does that?

But then I remember I have raised intelligent, compassionate, loving and resilient little humans who get everything from me that I can give. Between their father and me, they get all the love they need. When they’re adults, they’re not going to remember mom missing out on nature walks, but they will remember how loved they were and are. I am not damaging them, but my guilt is damaging me, and I have to learn to let go of it.

All a mother can do is the best she can with what she’s got, and I’ve got a lot of love to give.

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