Guilty of having a chronic illness

Yes, I am guilty of being ill. And we can feel this guilt acutely.


  • We don’t perform to our standards
  • When we don’t perform to what we think society’s standards are
  • When we don’t perform to other’s standards
  • When we cancel plans
  • When we miss work
  • When people try and tell us it is somehow our fault, in whatever way, we are ill and some weird part of us believes it
  • When people literally tell us we should feel guilty about something we have no control over
  • We are told we are lazy, not productive or trying to get out of work and we feel guilty like we Own that stigma


And we feel guilty for being chronically ill.

We have no control over it. We didn’t choose it. We are doing the best we can and sometimes it never seems sufficient for our own judgments and that of others.

Guilty of having a chronic illness

Part of this is internalized stigma

Part of it is the fact we internalize the stigma we encounter. We are told in many small ways we are lazy. That we just do not want to work. That we are a burden. That we are not productive enough. And these Stick. Some of these things we hear just stick to us and we internalize it.

Part of this is our own guilt

We feel like if we were not chronically ill Things Would Be Different. So we feel guilty for all the things we cannot do and ignore all the things we can. We can feel guilty we are not ‘pushing through the pain’. Or that we are not coping as well as we think we should be. If we just pushed through it all… surely we could perform the way we want and others want. And when it doesn’t work that way, we blame ourselves.

We have to stop doing this to ourselves

We are not to blame for our illness. There is no shame in being chronically ill… like we failed to do something others can somehow avoid. We don’t deserve it, but we do have to cope with it all the time. This isn’t something we can control. This isn’t something we can force away by pushing through it or taking vitamins. And We Are doing the best we can.

We must:

  • Acknowledge what we can do, instead of what we can’t
  • Acknowledge any progress we make in treatment and coping
  • Make small achievable goals
  • Align our expectations with our capacity to function
  • Understand deep within that we do Not Own the stigma of others
  • Acknowledge we are doing our best
  • Drop the guilt when we feel it. Counter it with another thought. ‘I’m doing my best’.
  • Accept our level of functionality and productivity


See more posts about chronic illness

Chronic illness: Knowing the past is fearing the future

Denial and chronic illness

Chronic illness and worry

7 thoughts on “Guilty of being chronically ill

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