Monday, May 4, 2015

Guilt Kills - Self-love Heals

One of the most daunting challenges that those with ‘invisible’ chronic disease face, is that of emotional well-being.  It might be assumed that this is due to the stress of living with constant pain and fatigue, or even because of the lack of support and understanding; while these issues certainly factor in and do need to be addressed during treatment, there is one emotional stressor that is often overlooked.  For many who live with diseases like Fibromyalgia, there is a nasty emotion that gnaws away at the spirit and destroys an individual’s hope for a brighter pain-free tomorrow.  In time the harboring of this emotion can cause deep and unrelenting depression.    The truth is guilt kills…

I realize it’s odd to think that a person suffering from a physical illness would feel guilty about it but truth be told one of the most common things I hear from those suffering from Fibromyalgia is how guilty they feel…

How guilty they feel because they can’t do all the things they want to do for their family.

How guilty they feel because of all the times they’ve had to say to no to invitations from friends.

How guilty they feel that their spouses have to work twice as hard to provide for the family.

How guilty (and yes deeply ashamed) they feel that they never have anybody over because their house is a mess (too tired to clean but not too sick to care).

How guilty they feel that there are times when their husbands can’t touch them and they know that intimacy is important to the success of a marriage.

How guilty they feel that they can’t tell their family and friends how guilty they feel; they know that their family wants them to be honest but they would feel really guilty if they gave their family and friends more things to worry about so they keep their secrets and feel guilty about it.  Etc…

How guilty they feel…  The list is long of reasons that they feel this way and if they only knew the secret that their families are hiding they might be more willing to let go of some of that guilt.  I had a fascinating talk the other day with a young woman whose mother has been suffering from Fibro for years.  Here is the daughters guilt list…

She feels guilty because she can’t take the pain away and make her mother better

She feels guilty because when she was younger she didn’t’ understand why her mother was so edgy and why sometimes her mother couldn’t do things so she resented her mother for being sick.

She feels guilty because she has a full time job and she knows that her mother could use more help around the house but she doesn’t have time to do everything she wants to do for her mother.

She feels guilty because ultimately she knows there are a whole bunch of things that her mother feels guilty for that make no sense and she can do absolutely nothing to ease her mother’s guilt.

She feels guilty because she never really tells her mother this; she thinks that if she did it would add more stress to an already stressful existence, so she keeps the secret and feels guilty about keeping the secret.  Etc…

Of course women aren’t the only ones affected by this poisonous emotion; over the years my husband and I had some extremely candid conversations about how being the husband of a woman who has fibro has affected his emotional well-being.  Here is his guilt list…

He feels guilty because he can’t take the pain away…

He feels guilty because he wishes I was healthy and he knows it’s not my fault but he still struggles with having to live within the limitations of my disease.

He feels guilty that a wonderful night of love making can result in a full next day of pain, and he feels guilty that he still wants to make love even though he knows the cost.

He feels guilty that he can’t make more money, or work more hours or do more around the house so that I wouldn’t feel like I have to work even though he knows that my work is my passion and without it I would probably just lie down in a corner and die.

He used to feel guilty about not openly sharing these feelings of guilt with me; he says he didn’t want to add more emotional burdens onto what he considers already heavily burdened shoulders.  Thankfully we are both over that now and instead of feeling guilty, we both feel supported and trusted. 

I even had a close friend and fellow film maker tell me how guilty he felt that he didn’t do more for me in the past so that I could have been less stressed, even though, the only reason he didn’t do more is because I didn’t tell him I was sick and needed the extra help, which of course now I feel guilty for and so on and so on…

I mean seriously… does it ever end???

It has for me; only because I realized how dangerous guilt was. 

The thing is, there isn’t really anything to be feeling guilty about, and as indicated above, there are a whole lot of people hiding feelings of guilt for absolutely no reason; in fact they are all feeling guilty about the same thing, a disease that they can do very little about and had no part in causing the acquiring and suffering of.  Sadly, all of them feel that keeping these emotions to themselves will ease the emotional cost to others when in actuality it is in the sharing of our deepest more vulnerable emotions that we find the path to healing. 

The truth of it is that your body can’t heal if your heart is broken and there is absolutely no quicker way to break a heart than to stab it with the razor sharp blade of guilt.  So… since we’re all feeling guilty for the same thing, and since that thing is out of our control, can we just agree to let it go, to be more open and honest with those we love and put our energy towards more positive pursuits like finding the things in life that bring us joy… because just as surely as guilt kills, so too does self-love heal; so please, let’s just all do more of that.

Niki Norlock, author of Truth - My Synchromystic Journey

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post! I've witnessed this in many family members who suffer from debilitating chronic illness. It's so beautiful you are raising awareness about the complex emotional and psycho-spiritual layers of chronic illness. Such important work with the rise of complex, confusing and often mysterious toxicity related illnesses. xo