The Guilt & Shame of Chronic Pain

*Although there is some depressive statements in here, please do not worry. I have no intention of leaving this earth anytime soon!*

I didn’t choose to be riddled with arthritis and to have faulty connective tissues. I didn’t ask to be in multiple car accidents or to require multiple surgeries. This I know. That said, had I taken better care of myself, these issues may not have become so bad.

Had I done my physical therapy like I should have when I separated the growth plate in my ankle as a kid, my legs wouldn’t be so drastically different in length, leading to chronic low back pain from years of pressure. Had I focused on my posture growing up, maybe my spine and knees and hips wouldn’t always hurt.

Had I eaten food with all of those NSAIDs I probably wouldn’t have had an ulcer. And if I had listened to my body it probably wouldn’t have perforated. Had I not pushed myself so hard after the surgery I probably wouldn’t have had a seizure. And if I did more exercises and ate better, my arthritis might not cause me so much trouble.

I fight with myself every single day. I keep so many symptoms to myself – even from my husband – because of the guilt and shame. It’s hard to separate the uncontrollable with the controllable. Every new symptom that pops up (and they seem to be endless) I just berate myself over.

I constantly feel like a burden. I wonder why my husband even stays. I am almost brought to tears every time he has to change his plans to take care of me or when I see the fear and frustration in his face with every new symptom. And the frustration isn’t toward me – it’s from the helplessness that he feels. And then I feel even more guilty for causing him to be afraid or frustrated.

Although I am putting a lot of this on myself, society doesn’t help. As an outwardly-healthy-looking 29 year old woman I come up against disbelief and belittling comments on a regular basis. “It can’t be that bad.” “Oh, please, wait until you get older!” “I wish I was as healthy as you!” “All you need to do is *insert random unhelpful advice here*!”, etc.

Even friends and family members can make me feel awful without meaning to. I’ve had family members allude to the fact that the reason I’m having so many health issues is because I just don’t pray enough.

So, when the outside world is telling me that either nothing is wrong with me or that what is wrong is entirely my fault, that just adds to the guilt and shame I already feel.

Logic and emotion are in a perpetual war in my head. On the one hand I know that all of the above is true. On the other hand I know that I didn’t do any of it on purpose and I can’t change the past.

I know that I am not a burden on my husband and that he loves me and doesn’t mind taking care of me. I know that the people who truly matter care about me and do not think of me as a lazy liar, either. I know that I am doing my best and that I am strong and resilient. I know that I contribute to our household and my marriage.

Having an invisible illness and/or being in pain all of the time really messes with your head. You have to mourn the person you once were and the person you thought you would be. And while you’re mourning them, you’ve got countless people telling you that you’re wrong somehow.

It’s a constant battle that just adds to the pain and frustration of being ill. Chronic pain and illness brings along with it plenty of guilt and shame, but it shouldn’t. We as humans are more fragile than we like to think. We all think that we are invincible or that “that can’t happen to me!” That is, until we aren’t and it does.

I know it’s hard, but try not to beat yourself up like I do. Know that you are worthy of love and kindness and that you matter. Of course you should try to stay healthy, but don’t let anyone make you feel inferior because of your illness.

One thought on “The Guilt & Shame of Chronic Pain

  1. Hillary, everything you write is SO powerful and full of truth! I am so glad I am able to read what you share and I always agree with you!!!! You really are an amazing person and I hope you NEVER forget that!!

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