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20 Things You Don't Have to Apologize for If You're Chronically Ill

As someone who lives with chronic health challenges, how often do you find yourself apologizing? To friends when you have to cancel plans, to your spouse because you didn’t finish the chores you meant to do or even to yourself, for getting a life-altering diagnosis? You’re not alone if you’ve felt guilty about your body and what you aren’t able to do. But here’s the thing: Being chronically ill isn’t anything you need to apologize for. You haven’t done anything wrong, and you’re doing your best to cope.

Yes, eliminating guilt from your thoughts is easier said than done. So we asked our Mighty readers with chronic illness to share the things others in the community should never feel like they need to apologize for. The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about any of these things, think of this list as permission to go easy on yourself.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “Taking an off day. Not being ‘productive.’ Especially in the USA it’s drilled in you’re head you’re worthless if you’re not working AKA producing things. Your worth isn’t dictated by how much you work. You’re​ wonderful the way you are. So take care of yourself. Even if it means working part time, or not at all. Or staying in bed all day.”

2.For not being able to do what other people their age/gender/social status can do. And for not being able to do what ‘so and so’ with the same disease can do. It is OK to have different abilities, different strengths and different weaknesses.”

3. “On the days one feels good and has some extra energy, doing something that is enjoyable as opposed to catching up on the housework… These days are few and far between and I spent so much time and energy doing laundry, grocery shopping and taking care of everyone else that there was no time left for me to do anything that would make me happy… after all, I wouldn’t want to have to explain to others why I went and sat on the beach reading a book while the laundry was piling up!”

4. “Needing to rest. We are pressured not to rest from nearly every direction in our lives and it’s one of the most important things for us to do!”

5. “Crying out of frustration… sometimes (actually all of the time) chronic illness is too much to handle, and it’s better to just let your emotions out instead of bottling them up.”

6. “Canceling plans last minute and disappointing friends/family all because when you made the plans you were having a ‘good day’ which unfortunately didn’t last. I never know how I’m going to be from one day to the next but I always feel guilty when I simply can’t or don’t want to go.”

7. “Taking self-care time. It is crucial to our well-being that we allow ourselves time to invest in things that bring us joy or to relax and rest.”

8. “I won’t apologize for doing the best I can. Some moments I feel invincible. Some moments I feel powerless. I live moment-by-moment and can only judge what I can or can’t do in that moment. I can’t apologize for something I have no control over.”

9. “Having a bad day. It’s not something that can be helped, and you are not lazy just because it was a day when your illness cropped up and made it so you aren’t able to do anything. It’s not ‘lazy’ to take care of yourself. I know I can’t function when I have a migraine, or when my depression acts up. Sometimes the best thing I can do for myself is take the time to feel better.”

10. “For feeling hopeless or negative about the future… I can’t stay positive and hopeful, especially when the pain is at its worst. There are days when I am going to break down and feel like I can’t go on; please don’t get mad or try to silence me because you don’t like what I am saying because it makes you uncomfortable or try to fix things because you can’t fix this. Just listen and be my shoulder to cry on.”

11. “For being sick! We didn’t choose our illnesses, we can’t cure them, we can only live with it. I hate having limitations because of my illnesses, but they are there and trying to push myself beyond my limits doesn’t do anyone any favors!”

12. “Talking and posting about their illnesses. Those who aren’t affected day in and day out by chronic illness do not realize how it affects everyday life. Not only that, there are over 7,000 rare diseases that not even trained professionals have heard of. It is essential that we put a face on chronic illness and give it a voice, and the easiest way to do that is humanize it by sharing your struggles. When you share your story, you are subconsciously are showing those struggling that they are not alone, and you are also giving others permission to do the same.”

13. “For not getting all the housework done some days. This is my biggest issue because I hate resting and even when I feel bad I’m still trying to do housework when I really should be resting. It’s a mental fight daily between what my body wants to do and what my mind.”

14. “People with chronic illness and/or mental illness shouldn’t feel guilty about taking their meds. Medicine is there for a reason and many of us need it to survive. People with a mild headache take aspirin without any guilt, why should we feel guilty about taking our own meds?”

15. “Speaking up when someone’s comments or questions are making you uncomfortable. Also if you do not want to talk about your disability at all that’s completely OK. If you are going to someone’s house or somewhere new you shouldn’t be afraid to voice your concerns.”

16. “Not doing hair and makeup. My skin hates everything. I look very different without make up. People think I am dying when I don’t wear makeup. I work very part time and when I don’t where makeup my boss wants me to work less because I look so different.”

17. “For wracking up debt and hospitals bills and continuing to seek an answer. ‘I’m sorry hunny, no, I didn’t get any answers this time either.’”

18. “Having to park in a [disabled] spot. I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a form of dysautonomia and I recently got a handicapped parking sticker. I have used it all of three times and gotten looks two of those times. Why? I don’t look sick. It’s an invisible illness so sure, I may look normal but little do they know, inside my heart is racing, legs are weak, out of breath, maybe light-headed, dizzy, hot, etc. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to the people who want to judge me just by looking at me.”

19. “Not being able to do the things I once could, even a year ago, without lots of breaks. Not being the same person, I feel like I’m constantly changing due to my illness and trying to get the old me back.”

20. “Allowing people to see them unwell. And how those people react to our realities. That should be a guilt free venture. Allowing them to see our truth so they can better understand us, but almost all of us feel some kind of guilt or shame in our own realities, despite not having caused it.”