When you know someone that has a terrible illness and think about what they’ve been feeling, would you identify guilt as one of those emotions? During my breast cancer journey, I felt guilt about what everyone else had to sacrifice or did for me. It’s nice being the center of attention when you’ve accomplished something good or when you’re celebrating a special day, but when you need a ride to your appointments, ask someone to sit with you, need them to cook, clean and take care of extra responsibilities, that’s not the kind of attention you’d wish for.
In many ways, guilt was the flipside of gratitude. I appreciated every little itty bitty thing that someone did for me. At the same time, I resented that they had to do it because my treatments made me weak and needy. It was self-induced guilt. I didn’t do anything bad or wrong that warranted my guilt. It simply happened.
Here’s a grand guilt-inducing example. Jeff loves traveling internationally. He’s been to South Korea, China, Peru, Scotland, Morocco and Australia. He travels for work, presenting at conferences and universities, and the presentations are included in his body of work for his job as a professor. After giving the presentations, he takes time to explore, meet people and enjoy new places. I’m not much of a world traveler, so I’m glad he has these opportunities. When I had cancer, Jeff gave up his travel for a year to help me and be with me. He missed getting credit on his vitae for the work he would have done. He spent less time doing many things that he enjoys and would have done if I’d been healthy in 2016. It made me sad that I made him alter his life so much. I felt guilty.
I know that Jeff has no regrets; it’s silly to think that. I’d do the same for him, except I’d be giving up going to craft shows, shopping for clothes, and lunch with friends rather than flying to exotic lands. I felt the same guilt about whatever nice things my sons did for me, like grocery shopping, helping with meals, or being my chauffeur. I loved the meals friends dropped off, yet I felt badly that they went through trouble for me. You get the picture: I’m a person who can carry a lot of guilt.
It’s hard to accept help, to admit that you need it, to realize you can’t do things yourself. Pride gets in the way, along with embarrassment. It’s important to push past the negative feelings and feel lots of love and gratitude. Likely, you’ve helped other people and will again in the future. It’s just your turn.
If you have cancer or another serious illness and are in need in of help, someone will step up and give you a hand. Sometimes, family and friends know you can’t cope alone, and they’re ready on day 1 to support you. Other times, people don’t know your needs. You have to work up the courage to ask for help. It’s okay to ask. There’s no shame in needing help, and, if you’re a more self-assured person than me, no guilt.
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4 thoughts on “Day 10: Guilt”
First of all, thank you for being an inspiration and showing people how to fight.
I myself am someone who feels guilty easily—I even feel bad when people in the service line do things for me, even if that’s what they’re actually there to do—so I can’t imagine one day having to ask for help.
Your post gave me a good lesson to keep in mind though, that when I need it, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Thanks for this!
Thank you so much for reading my blog! It means the world to me that people are reading and connecting with it. Tuck that lesson in your pocket for a rainy day. COVID times have been kind of rainy-difficult! Keep people in your life so you can help them and they can help you when needed. Stay healthy!
Crying again! Darn! You know what health problems I am going through, and it is many not just one. I have not been able to do much at all. Ed is doing everything and he has problems of his own. We both aren’t getting any younger. I feel so guilty and sad that I can just sit here. Yes, I have done everything for the last 46 years compared to him doing thing for the last year, but I still am not happy about things. I am trying so hard to get back to at least close to normal as I can be, but it will take time. Til then, I sit here feeling guilty and sad.
You know I wish I could fix it for you, and I’m sure you wish you could help me. I don’t want to make you sad, but sometimes it’s good to recognize how we’re feeling and let it out. That way, you know you aren’t alone and others are feeling this way, as I did, as I do about current problems. I know you’re trying, going to so many doctors and doing what they tell you. I’m happy that Ed’s helping. He can do it, he’s retired and at home, but it still doesn’t help you from feeling what you do. Just accept the help, do what you can to show appreciation, and look for the little things that make the day better – like hearing from your grandkids. Love you!