The Shame of Sickness

I do not know if this is something that is happening more and more or if I am just in a position to notice it but I find that many of my chronically ill patients carry a lot of guilt about their condition. While I am certain that people always carried guilt about their condition, I suspect that the shame and guilt of being sick has gotten worse.

We are constantly hearing that our diet and lifestyle is the problem behind the lack of health of the average American. The people who are sick then take this to heart and believe that they did something more wrong than the neighbor who is not sick. Actually that’s not really true. Different people have different things happen to them. It may be karma. It may be a life lesson. There is nothing that is 100%. For every person who dies of lung cancer “caused” by smoking there are others who live to be 90.

Many people eat the same diet as those with a chronic illness. So far they are not sick. This doesn’t mean they won’t remain that way but it doesn’t guarantee illness later on either. For those who do get sick, perhaps the most important thing to realize, next time you are telling yourself that you have been “bad” because you ate something you think you shouldn’t, is that you can’t change the past, only the future. Finding small, easy changes can be the most important thing you do in your life. Find things that are enjoyable to change. As you feel better, then you might find the motivation to change other things.

When we are sick and feel like doing nothing, it is easy to sit there, or lie there, and think how horrible we are. At that point, maybe there is nothing we can do or change but allow ourselves to feel the illness in our body. On good days, there may be small changes that can be made with little effort. Remember there is no one diet or lifestyle that is good for everyone. One thing is true. The more you berate yourself for what has happened to you, whether it is illness or loneliness or poverty, the more you will suffer in your circumstances.

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