When you are healthy and suddenly become chronically ill there are a lot of adjustments that we have to make. When we are chronically ill and become worse, again we have to find that place of acceptance and coping.
But sometimes we blame ourselves. Like it was something we could have avoided. Like our body has betrayed us in some way. And sometimes this leads to denial where we try to continue on as we were, but then feel the price of doing that.
We know we are not to blame. We know that logically. But that doesn’t stop us from punishing ourselves for being chronically ill.
We punish ourselves in so many ways. Too many ways. Sometimes internalizing the stigma we hear from others that tell us we should blame ourselves.
I have to tell you the guilt that you couldn’t make a plan or can’t work or can’t be as functional as you want is implied blame. If I do something wrong, I am to blame and I should feel guilty. But we did nothing wrong. We are not to blame. We should never feel guilty for self-care and taking care of our wellbeing.
Guilt is just completely unnecessary but we Feel it all the time. Because we compare ourselves to our ‘old self’, ‘other people’, our ‘fictional self in a fictional future we will never have’ and ‘what society tells us we should be’.
Failure to meet expectations
There are times when we fail to meet what our expectations are. What society’s expectations are. Or the expectations of others… such as the workplace. And Yes, guilt dives in here too. And so does Shame. I feel ashamed I cannot be the person I Ought to be. Or Should be. And maybe if I just pushed through the pain harder and longer… I would be the person I should be. But instead, we fail more because we have exceeded our limits immensely and we often get sicker from the physical, mental, and emotional stresses of that. And we punish ourselves for it.
Until we accept realistic goals and expectations… and that, my friends, is hard to maintain. We have goals and ambitions. And not being able to achieve certain things makes us blame ourselves and our bodies and makes us feel weak.
We often blame ourselves for not being strong enough. That we can’t cope emotionally or mentally sometimes, makes us feel like it is our own weakness for not being able to cope. And we feel weak for not being able to ‘push through’. We know other people with chronic illness, even the same illness, do work for example. And we might not be. So surely that is on us, right? No. Illnesses vary in intensity and symptoms and comorbids, none of us are the same. Jobs vary in accommodation, stress, and atmosphere… some may be toxic and we get sicker in them. And some people Must work, it isn’t their choice, they don’t function fully to their or others expectations and it is painful, frustrating, and takes a massive toll… but they must, so they do. We are not weak for not being able to cope well sometimes, with a constant, relentless stressor in our lives that hits us physically, mentally, and emotionally. And we are not weak for being unable to work temporarily or permanently.
Stigma of others
We all get helpful suggestions but sometimes those suggestions are in line with blaming us for not curing ourselves. And sometimes people say ‘why are you so much worse when so and so is fine with such and such’ and again that is blaming us for being ill and not respond to such and such. And this can stick to us. We begin to try all sorts of things because surely something will work and we can ‘fix it’ but we can’t. Their blame makes us feel weak, unworthy, guilty, and useless. If they think you are not doing enough they imply you are lazy and then you wonder… am I? Maybe I can push through? Maybe I am just lazy? And that is just wrong because they cannot comprehend existing constantly with chronic illness and the pacing that needs to occur for us to survive. And to turn that on ourselves is harmful, as we may want to push more and more to prove them wrong. The stigma of others is brutal. We hear it, we internalize it… and sometimes we believe it.
And other ways as well. When we deeply blame ourselves and our bodies, it leaks out in thoughts and ways to punish ourselves for this perceived weakness. It can come out in so many ways. All stemming from this blame, or even shame, of being chronically ill. But people get ill. And we have to cope with that.
All of it is forms of punishment and blame we place on ourselves. But we have a disease (or syndrome or condition) it isn’t a decision. I am not going to say we can get rid of all this only that it is good to be aware we are blaming ourselves for something out of our control. And instead, we should have some self-compassion and understanding of our limits. So when we feel this way maybe we should think about why and then turn the thought around to ‘This isn’t easy. This is hard. I have to take care with myself and there is nothing wrong with that’.