You know that feeling of utter guilt that hits you dead in the stomach when you know you’ve done something questionable? Or those seemingly endless thoughts that convince you that everything is your fault? Guilt and helplessness often sink in when you become chronically ill. Maybe if you had eaten better or if you had exercised more, you wouldn’t be here, right? You find yourself thinking of all the things you should have done better during the times when you were able.
Then you start thinking about the people around you. Oh, how you’ve let them down. Some people – the ones that you used to be so close to – aren’t even in your life anymore. They left shortly after they found out this wasn’t “just a cold.” It wasn’t something you’d recover from. You went from being the fun one, the one who always had a plan, and the one they could always rely on to the one they don’t even talk to anymore. You bailed on them too many times and you got too caught up in your own situation that they grew tired of you and your new ways. You’re different. You changed. Your days now consist of struggling to wake up in the morning, possibly still struggling to work, going to various doctors’ appointments and doing your best to smile through it all. You don’t want to be different so you pretend to be normal.
For the ones who remained in your life since you became ill, you think of the extra stress and burden you’ve put on them. Going to all the doctors’ appointments, the countless visits to emergency rooms, racking up medical expense after medical expense. Rather than finding you being productive, they often find you lying on the couch for hours on end. You watch their once joyful faces become grimmer by the day. Maybe at one point they remained hopeful. But now they ask themselves how did this happen to you. Sometimes, they even wonder if it’s real. You can see the concern in their demeanor, but you also recognize their doubt when it creeps in. After all, not too long ago you were able to go grocery shopping, clean the house, go hiking, have fun with family and friends and enjoy more nights out than nights in. They’re disappointed. Maybe they’re not disappointed with you, but they’re unhappy with the overall situation. Who wouldn’t be? Perhaps some days they really are disappointed with you – though you really try not to believe that. It just adds to the overwhelming guilt.
However, once those thoughts settle down, you remind yourself that this isn’t your fault. This wasn’t your choice. You didn’t willingly sign up for this. You didn’t cause this to happen. You remind yourself that this is your new normal and you didn’t have any say in the matter. It wasn’t up to you. To those who stick around and are learning that this isn’t your fault as the days go by…you can only do your best to have faith that they’ll continue to stay, because ultimately you are still you. Different? Yes. But you’re still the same person they knew before you became ill. You still have a lot of love to give regardless of the pain you’re in. You still sparkle regardless of the dimness that may glaze over your eyes. Those who love you, and I mean truly love you, will see how much you still have to offer. Your strength and perseverance even when you want to give up is what makes you unique. It’s what makes you a fighter. It’s what separates you from the rest. You’re a warrior in your own right.
Chronic illness may be the extra weight we now carry with us, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us any less worthy. You are not a burden or a disappointment. You are beautifully and unapologetically you, and no one, not even your chronic illness(es) can take that away.
All love ❤