Many of us who have chronic diseases, especially the invisible ones, have times of feeling guilty about our disease or disability. We can’t do the things we think we “shoulda-coulda-woulda” do. Things like taking care of a baby, or cleaning house, or cleaning the bathroom or changing the bed, or cooking meals. For me, I feel guilty when I can’t scoop the cat’s litter box enough, much less change out the litter completely – as I should do weekly, but only manage every 2 weeks.
I feel guilty because there are some things I HAVE to do because Himself absolutely cannot. He has the world’s weakest stomach, and just can’t deal with kitty litter and it’s implications and smells. But cats are necessary for us. We don’t believe cats should be outdoor animals in side city limits, or even in the suburbs, so if we are to have one or more cats, I’m elected to scoop the litter. I just feel so sorry for our poor Magnus when he has to use a “less than fresh” litter pan. He is one of God‘s small creatures, given to us to care for, and I’m not caring for him adequately.
The same goes for Emmy, my wonderful service dog. I am the only one who is supposed to feed her. On “bad” days, I have to ask Himself to set up her food, then bring me the pan to feed her. Sometimes Himself is the one who puts the pan down for her, but I’m the one who gives her the signal that she may eat. This is important to keeping her fixated on me as her everything and all – her Food Goddess.
Himself has a cardiac condition that just exhausts him. When I’m sick, he has to do all the cooking and the cleaning as well as the work he does to keep us going financially. He starts drooping after a few days, and I know I have to get myself together. At that point, in particular, I feel guilty. I’m “supposed” to be taking care of him. I can’t work much, and I really need to do the supportive stuff for him. So I feel really guilty when I can’t.
Perhaps “guilty” isn’t the correct word. I certainly feel badly about it. But “guilty” means 3 specific things:
- having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; justly subject to a certain accusation or penalty; culpable: The jury found her guilty of murder.
- characterized by, connected with, or involving guilt: guilty intent.
- having or showing a sense of guilt, whether real or imagined: a guilty conscience.
I have committed no offense by having a chronic disease. I have no intent to deprive my family, my husband, my children, my grandchildren, our cat, my service dog.
I frequently do have a sense of guilt, however, that I cannot perform the functions I used to in our family. Mostly I just feel badly about it, though.
I use many techniques to try to overcome feelings of guilt. As I belong to a confessional Church, I avail myself of confession on a regular basis. At that time, I speak to my spiritual father, and tell him of these feelings of guilt that I have. With absolution and reception of the Holy Gifts, I feel cleansed of these self-defeating feelings that I don’t need. This is the major way I overcome these feelings.
I talk about them with Himself, who, being rather uncivilized at times, simply tells me I’m full of it. If things don’t get done we’ll all deal with it one way or another. Thanks be to God for a husband who is so supportive.
I don’t have the additional burden of having a family who does not believe in me and does not believe I have the amount of pain that I tell them I have. Certainly, I don’t whine and complain – that would do no good and only make for a toxic environment. But if it’s a “bad” day, I simply let the family know, and the backup plans go into motion. Having that backup plan is important. It means that my being out of commission has been taken into consideration, and that life will go on – a little differently, but will go on. If we are both out of commission at the same time, there is a plan for that, too, involving calling the children and borrowing grandchildren. We can ask the “groan” children to pick up groceries for us, and ask the grandkids to take a shift or two with cooking or cleaning. As grandkids are getting to the point of driving, they will be able to pick up things for us and run errands for us. Living in a relatively small town, and near town center, we are close to all the major things we’d need during a several day “siege” of immobility and disability.
We have some friends and a couple of members of our Church live nearby, and are willing to lend a hand if necessary. But I have not asked them to help as yet. I am reluctant to overuse our support system before it is absolutely necessary.
I can’t allow myself to feel guilty – badly, yes, but not guilty. It’s not easy, but it’s a narrow line that I need to walk.
This is the burden that I must carry and learn to do it gracefully and graciously. Yes, I’m in pain every day, but many days are much less painful than some of the others. I try to be grateful for those days, but to be grateful for the painful ones, also. Each day, no matter whether “good” or “bad” is a gift from God. And I try to give Glory to Him for all things every day.
Other ways I use to get rid of guilty feelings include prayer, cognitive techniques, mumbling to myself (LOL), and deep breaths (lots of sighing). (smile) It does require ongoing work – and it always will.
I will to live free of guilt. I am not responsible for my disease, only what I do as the result of it. I am responsible only for what I can do, not for what I cannot do.
I wish a guilt-free life for all my brothers and sisters “out there” in Blogland.