These friends are some of the only people in my life who knew me before the symptoms began. They understand more than most. But some things are still so hard to explain.
We were sharing all sorts of things, and I started to talk about my support group, and some of the emotions that come up when I’m there. I talked about many things, but it was my talk of feeling guilty that they latched on to. They tried to convince me that I shouldn’t feel guilty.
Easier said than done.
The thing is, I know I shouldn’t feel guilty. I know it in my head, but my gut feels guilty anyway. One friend put it best: it’s like survivor’s guilt. Why should I have improvement when someone else doesn’t? Still, they didn’t truly understand why I would feel guilty.
But I do.
I look around at my friends and acquaintances who are sicker than me, or who are in more pain, or who have a worse prognosis, and I feel guilty that I’m doing better. When I was much sicker just a few years ago, I sometimes resented and often envied the people whose health had improved. Now I’m one of them. And it’s not because I worked harder at it or am more deserving. Sure, I worked my butt off, but a lot of it is luck. Some people have illnesses that will never improve. I was lucky to not be one of them (though for a while I believed I was.)
I will never be completely healthy. I don’t expect healthy people to feel guilty around me. But I do feel guilty when I can carry something that a friend can’t, or I can go to an event that they can’t. And I’m jealous when a friend with chronic illnesses can do things that I can’t.
It’s a process, though. I have had to deal with many difficult emotions surrounding these health issues for most of my life. Over the years I have dealt with many of them. Yes, I need to deal with the guilt, but it’s ok that it will take some time. It’s ok.
I appreciate my friends’ intentions. They want what’s best for me, and they feel that doesn’t include feeling guilty for being less ill or less disabled than someone else. And they’re right. But it’s not that simple. I need to work through the guilt in my own time. And I know I’m not the only one.
I’m sure others feel guilty at times, too. Are you one of them? It would be awesome if you would share your own feelings around guilt in the comments. I think I would really benefit from hearing about other people’s experiences. Sometimes knowing I’m not the only one going through something can make all the difference in the world.