The Mighty Logo

4 Reasons Why Someone With Chronic Illness Might Feel Guilty

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Today, I had to cancel plans with a friend… for the fourth time in a row. She had a baby a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to go see them due to my painful flares due to interstitial cystitis. Since I got sick, I have hung onto guilt and felt like a terrible friend. I have had to cancel or change plans more times than I can count, based on how I was feeling. I miss my old self — the one who didn’t have to plan her life around how she was feeling, and even if she did go out, there wasn’t a time limit or restrictions.

Many people living with a chronic or mental illness experience guilt when it comes to their health and well-being. This seems unbelievable, doesn’t it? Without your health you have nothing, so to feel guilty about taking care of yourself and trying to get healthy again seems unbelievable. But, in reality, many of us struggle with feelings of guilt every day.

If you don’t live with an illness, you may be confused as to why someone would feel guilty about their condition. Below are a few examples of the guilt I have felt in the last few months:

1. Canceling plans or cutting them short.

I feel like I am letting family and friends down when I am unable to leave my condo or have to deck out because I feel a flare coming on. Often, the pain or fatigue I feel is not noticeable, which makes it hard for others to understand why I’m always canceling. I don’t want to say no, but I have to. If I push through the pain, it can cause a flare up.

2. Not being able to work.

It’s already hard enough to let your friends and family down, but it feels terrible to let your boss or co-workers down as well. Not being able to go into work causes me fear, anxiety and stress. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to be on leave, and a team who has supported my decision to take time off for my health. But, I feel an unbelievable amount of guilt when I have a good day or two; I start to think I’m feeling good enough to try going back, but then I’m knocked back down by a flare. That seems to snap the guilt away pretty quick, but it always seems to creep back in.

3. Feeling like a financial burden.

Not being able to work has cut my pay down significantly. I have a great family and boyfriend who I know will help me if I need it, but I don’t want to feel like a burden on anyone. Insurance only covers so much. So, the majority of my income goes to physiotherapy and medications. Financials have always been a stressor for me, so being off work amplifies my fear about not being able to contribute to my future. I’m sure this is a familiar story to many of you reading who have taken time off work.

4. Food restrictions.

Since I’ve been changing my diet, I feel guilty when it comes to meals with family or friends. Illness can make us feel guilty if we’re always saying where we should go out to eat or what we can or cannot buy at the grocery store. Likewise, when visiting someone, it can be pretty uncomfortable to have to ask what is being served or to bring your own food. It can make you feel like a snob, which then leads to guilt.

Guilt may always be there but I am slowly learning how to let it go. I have to remember I am the most important thing in my life and my health comes first. Without my health, I am nothing. So, taking the time I need to heal is what I need in order for me to get my life back and I should never ever feel guilty for putting myself first.

Have you ever felt guilt and shame over your pelvic pain or chronic illness?

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas from Pexels

Originally published: February 23, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home