Fibromyalgia,  Health,  Marriage

What to Do With Chronic Illness Guilt

Thank you to The Mighty for publishing this post!

My husband opens the door for me, and I slip into the front seat. Suddenly, I feel the familiar shooting pain. Immediately my mind goes through a checklist:


Did I have sugar? Well, I mean, not directly. Just a little, maybe 3 pieces of dark chocolate. It was dark chocolate though! That stuff is supposed to be good for you, right?


Did I have dairy? No, I didn’t! I said no to the pleasant smell and warmth of pizza, free pizza, today! I should get a medal!


Did I sleep well last night? No. No I did not. Not for lack of trying though. I went to bed early but my heart kept racing and racing and racing. Then I had nightmares. I woke up exhausted.


Have I exercised lately? Not as much as I have been, but I was trying not to wear myself out too much, not push too much. I was proud of myself. I guess I shouldn’t have been. I haven’t been moving enough.


Am I stressed? Of course! It’s like I can’t not be stressed. But I’m trying to do breathing exercises, meditate, read my Bible, pray, sing, and dance. I just can’t seem to renew my mind! My mind is stuck.


“What did I do wrong?” I scream too loudly for being inside a car.


My husband looks over at me and says in a stern voice, “Nothing.”


“No, but I could have just not eaten that chocolate.”


“Yes, but you can eat chocolate 40%, no 60% of the time, and you have no problem. No, that’s not right, 80%, 80% of the time you are fine when you eat chocolate. Shoot, you ate half of that Easter bunny with me, and you were fine.”


I nod with a half-smile.


“Wait, did you eat dark chocolate?”


“Yes, what’s wrong with that?”


“Only serial killers eat dark chocolate because you have to have something seriously wrong with your head to eat that crap.”


I laugh loudly. I convulse, hitting the dashboard full force with both of my hands extended.


“But, really, stop blaming yourself for your fibro. It just is. There are things you can do to make it a little better, but no one really understands it. Stop doing this to yourself. It’s not your fault.”


“But it is. It is my fault. If I just hadn’t had that chocolate. If I exercised more…”


“STOP! I love you, but STOP! This thing has happened to you, and it is not your fault. Normal people don’t convulse when they have chocolate. I hate to break it to you, but they just don’t. Even if it was something you did, it isn’t right that your body has this reaction to it.”


I love my husband, and he is right. It’s not my fault. It’s not your fault. Our bodies aren’t normal. They won’t react to life normally, and that is okay. We will struggle. It will be harder for us than other people, but that doesn’t mean that we failed. It just means that we are different. It means that we can understand when others are frustrated when life doesn’t make sense because this is our normal. It is okay that we don’t understand completely and that our bodies just don’t make sense sometimes. That is no reason for us to hate ourselves, even torture ourselves to try to find out how to fix it. Chronic illness is what it is, and the only thing we can really change about it is our attitude toward it.


  • Alexandria Andrews

    This is SO applicable for those without chronic pain too! I was actually going over this with my counselor yesterday. We have been taught/conditioned to feel guilt over thing outside of our control. Or in my case with PPD, guilt over taking time to do basic things like drying my hair or painting my toes.

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