A young woman is standing in the doorway of her kitchen and is looking at the garden at sunrise

5 Truths to Remember If You're Feeling Guilty About Your Chronic Illness


If you are chronically ill, chances are that you feel (or have felt in the past) guilty about the fact that you’re sick. You can find yourself doubting whether you really are sick because of the way people treat you. You can feel as though you are having a negative impact on the people you love because you need more care than others, or you feel you are causing them to miss out on something. Or you can just feel guilty and not be able to explain why.

The important thing to remember is that it is totally natural. And it is OK to feel that way. Guilt is a perfectly normal and human emotion, and if addressed properly, I think we can use it to change our perspective on things.

If you, or someone you know, struggles with feeling guilty about their illness, as I do and have many times in the past, here are five important truths to remember on your chronic illness journey.

1. It’s not your fault.

While it’s true that people who don’t understand the challenges you face can make you feel like your illness is your fault, it is absolutely not. You did not ask to live life this way, and allowing people to make you feel that way gives them all the power. Don’t let that happen.

2. You’re not holding people back the way you think you are.

Because your abilities may be different than others’, it’s natural that you would feel this way. If you can’t do the things your friend/family member/partner wants to do, that is OK. Everyone has their limitations. The key is to be creative! For example, if you can’t go outside, bring the outside in! Build a blanket fort and eat sandwiches on the floor! Who cares if it looks a little strange, you’re having fun, and that’s the main thing! And remember — the people you love spend time with you because they want to, not because they have to.

3. The people who love you see through the illnesses and see you for you.

I can’t reiterate this enough. No matter how lost you feel, no matter how much you feel your illness has taken over, you are still a person. The people who love you can still see that, even if you find it hard. So don’t feel guilty about spending time with them when you’re having a hard day. They choose to spend time with you because they love the person you are, not the illnesses you have (though I’m sure they love all parts of you).

4. The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.

This is one of the hardest, but most important things to remember. If someone has a problem with the fact that you’re ill, ignore it. Don’t let it make you feel guilty. Life is too short to hold onto things like that, and it’s best to let it go, no matter how hard that is. The people who matter don’t mind that you’re sick, that you have to cancel meetings last minute or you can’t get out somewhere. That’s because they understand what you’re going through. And they love you all the same. Those are the people to hold onto, not the people who get angry at things beyond your control. Don’t let that bring you down.

5. It’s not a quick fix, but that’s OK.

Feeling guilty over your illness isn’t something that will go away overnight. It is something to work towards accepting. While it’s tough, it is also so rewarding to come to a place of acceptance, because to some degree, your illness is out of your control. Everyone feels guilty about things from time to time, but try hard not to let it consume you. Everyone is different, but more people than you would realize struggle with feeling guilty.

Just remember you’re not alone.

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