Guilt vs. Entitlement
When is it OK to feel guilty as opposed to entitled, or vice versa, when you suffer from a chronic illness? There are legit moments when I cannot do anything other than stay home close to my bathroom because of my IBS, but for some reason I end up feeling really guilty because of it. If I had to put the feeling into words, it makes me feel lazy and less of a human being when I go through my IBS episodes. However, I’m starting to think that these are the moments when I should rather feel entitled to relax and recuperate, because struggling with a chronic condition daily is far from easy. Suffering from an invisible illness that is, such as irritable bowel syndrome, can be so debilitating for me that I can’t do many “normal” things I was once able to, and with these new limitations, I tend to feel a number of negative emotions, such as guilt and depression. Now, however, my plan is to continue learning to understand and fully accept this disease shamelessly.
Entitled to live
Do you ever feel guilty for not being able to hang out with friends or family because your IBS is acting up? How about for not being as reliable as you once were before you started suffering from IBS? I know I do from time to time. The first few years of dealing with IBS were very tough because 1) I didn’t know I had it and 2) I didn’t know how to function with something I had no knowledge of. I knew the symptoms I was suffering from but I didn’t know how to manage it properly and why it was happening to me. Therefore, whenever I would get invited to an event, like a baby shower or a birthday party, I would happily accept the invite every time. And when I canceled due to my symptoms, I would feel extremely guilty because I felt like I was constantly disappointing my friends and family for not being there enough. See the cycle there? Having this chronic condition makes me feel very weak time and time again, and this is where the guilt kicks in because part of that has to do with being a man in the society I live in. I’m supposed to be a strong, ”nothing-can-hurt-me” kind of guy, and when I don’t meet those expectations due to my IBS, I feel guilty for letting the world down. I have lived with IBS for so long that I should know the consequences and outcomes by now, which is why I need a reminder every now and then of why I need to accept my disease and learn to live with it, shamelessly.
For those of you suffering from IBS, or any invisible illness, and you’re feeling guilty because of it, here’s a reminder: ACCEPT who you are, every part of you! By the way, this reminder applies to me just as much, if not more, as it does to any of you. When we accept ourselves, we will learn that we’re entitled to many things. Both in a (moderate) spoiled way and in a way that caters to our health needs. For example, if I’m having a very rough day, then I’m entitled to taking that day off to recuperate. Or if I actually want to treat myself with a cheat meal because I’m constantly being good on my diet, then I’m entitled to having that cheat meal. I don’t suggest being irresponsible and going crazy by triggering your symptoms in all kinds of ways, so everything should be done in moderation and sensibly. Reward yourself when you deserve it. You’re entitled to LIVE and you should fight for that every single day, but on YOUR terms. Don’t feel obligated to attend an event if you’re not up to it, or if you do attend the event, then try to enjoy yourself as much as possible because you deserve it. At the end of the day, you’re entitled to create your life how you see fit, or, in other words, the way that works best for you.
Accept and move forward
In summary, many of us who suffer from a chronic condition, such as IBS, tend to feel guilty about our condition because it has placed many limitations on us that we think others won’t understand. However, we must learn to accept our condition shamelessly to move forward and look for new ways to live happily. The only time we should feel guilty is when we actually do use our illness as an excuse to not do things in life that we don’t want to do for selfish reasons. There is a difference! For example, if my wife wants me to go to the grocery store, and I feel well enough to do it, but instead I use my illness as a reason to not go, then that is not a valid excuse and I should be ashamed of myself. Therefore, the only time I should feel entitled is when I actually do feel sick because of my chronic condition, or if I truly deserve it as a righteous and courteous human being. All in all, as sufferers of chronic illnesses, choose your battles wisely and don’t feel ashamed when you have an “off” day. When suffering from a debilitating condition, we should learn how to differentiate between knowing when to feel guilty vs. knowing when to feel entitled.
Do you have difficulties with setting boundaries and saying no?