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Shame, Guilt & Worthlessness

Written by Kristen L Estep for Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc.

“Shame should be reserved for the things we choose to do, not the circumstances that life puts on us.” -Ann Patchett

Anyone who has a chronic disease wrestles with these emotions, but for this post we will be talking about chronic migraine. As chronic migraine sufferers we deal with shame on a daily basis. It may be from your boss, co workers, family, friends or sometimes even your physician. Shame can also be something that you put on yourself. But, why? Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are but for someone with a chronic illness you feel like you must conceal how you actually feel. For example, I had been able to conceal my condition for most of my life until about 3 years ago when it became chronic. Since then all of my relationships have been affected. I don’t know if they realize that they are shaming me or not, but they are. People believe they are helping by giving unsolicited advice, when what we are actually hearing is ‘you’re not trying hard enough, you’ve done this to yourself or shouldn’t you be better by now?’ For these reasons a lot of us conceal what we feel for many years. Shame is such an ugly feeling, it can lead to depression or in extreme cases suicide.

“The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.” -Ann Rand

Next, let’s discuss guilt. Guilt is another emotion that people with chronic illness wrestle with. Yes, we are unreliable, we cancel plans, we call off work and cleaning our house is often neglected. Do we enjoy any of this? Of course we don’t! But this is our reality. What can we do to reduce our guilty feelings? First of all, you must accept that this chronic illness is NOT your fault. Chronic migraine is an inherited neurological disorder. You didn’t do this to yourself. As far as cancelling plans, I try to let whoever I have plans with know that sometimes I have to cancel last minute. It doesn’t mean I don’t value you or your time, I just physically can’t today. There are people who won’t stick around for this, but those who do – those are your REAL friends. Your true friends will never make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself.

“You might feel worthless to one person, but you are priceless to another. Don’t ever forget your worth. Spend time with those who value you.” -Anonymous

Lastly, lets talk about feeling worthless. It is difficult to not feel worthless when you have a chronic illness. So much of our time is spent by ourselves, in dark silent spaces. That in itself can be very depressing. When you isolate yourself, you leave room for your inner negative voice to start chiming in with all of your negative sayings. Some things my mind will tell me are; you’re not good enough, why would anyone like you, you’re stupid and other self destructive sayings. When you feel this way about yourself you tend to close yourself off from others, even if you’re in a room full of people you feel alone and worthless.

It is very hard to not feel these emotions when you live with chronic migraine. Here are some ways that you can start to love yourself again.

*Find at least 1 thing to smile about each day

*Repeat at least 1 affirmation per day

*Step outside, maybe take a walk or just sit in nature

*Try to find something that you are passionate about

These are my suggestions, it’s ok if you find something else to help you. It’s also ok if you slide back and forth, because I know that I do. But just keep trying.

“Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” -Wilfred Peterson

Disclaimer – This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding migraine and headache disease and all medical conditions.

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2 thoughts on “Shame, Guilt & Worthlessness”

  1. Paige Dennis says:

    Excellent article!!! I know many of us have some or all of these feelings and to see it in writing really helps to put it into perspective. Some friends have moved on and that’s ok. The family and friends around me are very understanding. I tend to be harder on myself and I need to start giving myself a break instead.

    1. Kristen Estep says:

      Thank you! I think that we as a migraine community tend to be harder on ourselves, which is very understandable.

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