All My Fault Even When It’s Not

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the rather common phenomenon of people taking any negative happening that involves them in some way and twisting out a reasoning that involves their being the one at fault.

I am sure there is some psychological explanation that leads people to do this. But I’m content to go with the thought that they care so much about the people in their lives that they automatically want to take the blame for everything. Even when it doesn’t make sense at all. I sometimes have this tendency myself, at least inwardly, and have a husband who has a very strong tendency toward it, so I’m getting used to trying to combat it when it is probably well-meant but completely irrational.

For some reason, feeling guilty is an easily come-by feeling, in so many areas, chronic illnesses included. And I don’t just mean guilt over the dishes piling up for a few days. (Gasp, I know.)

It is extremely difficult to articulate exactly what fibromyalgia feels like physically. A lot of people compare it to the flu that never goes away, for lack of a better common experience with healthy people—a terribly wanting analogy in my book. But it is just as hard, if not harder, to articulate exactly what fibromyalgia feels like emotionally. There’s a double thrust of steady artillery flying at the emotions, each vying for attention and exacerbating the conflict by the others’ presence.

Life like this stinks. It leaves you upset, disappointed, and unsatisfied and feeling unaccomplished, unhelpful, quite a failure, and definitely less than human.

But as if the unignorable stabs of all of that aren’t enough, there’s the more subtle but equally crippling feeling that I have recently discovered thriving in the back of this over-stimulated, exhausted mind: guilt.

How silly—it’s an unexplained chronic illness with no cure, no certain cause but only guesses, all of which are not my fault. And also knowing I’ve dealt with levels of this since I was about twelve settles the fact: I surely did not cause myself to have this. I didn’t drop the ball on life, not exercise enough, not eat well enough, spiral myself into depression, or grasp at straws for pity and attention. Fibromyalgia chose me; I did not choose it.

So why do I even begin to feel like I’m to blame for my life being like this? The fact that I know my having all of these problems not only inconveniences family and friends but confuses them, burdens them, saddens them, and worries them. Especially my husband, obviously. I know he understands. I know it doesn’t make him upset with me or disappointed in me because he knows it’s not my fault and I don’t exactly have control over what I can and can’t do each day.

But honestly, I figure it’s a lot to ask to expect people to never, ever get annoyed when I have to put off talking to a good friend on the phone for a few days because I couldn’t get out of bed in time to call her, when I don’t even want to think about fixing dinner and ask my husband if he could just pick up something, when I miss a month or more of Sunday morning services because my sleep cycle is so out of order, or when I finally fall asleep just after hearing my husband leave for work in the morning, the birds chirping (a.k.a. screaming to a non-morning person) and the rest of the world up and living like you’re supposed to.

And yet, even though no one has chewed me out for these things or really implied frustration with me, I assume they must be feeling that way at some point or another. I feel like it’s my own stupid fault, even if I didn’t cause the illness after all, for not trying harder or something. Maybe I am a lazy bum. Maybe it is all my fault for all my social and house-cleaning shortcomings.

Even though I know thousands of other people feel just like me, the guilt is still there, intangibly, hauntingly, so evenly spread over my unpredictable emotions that even I am sometimes fooled.

So what do I do about it? Well, when my husband starts the irrational guilt thing, I lovingly but firmly tell him to stop. It’s completely irrational, and he sees that.

Now if someone could just get into this brain, give it a good shake, and show it how completely irrational it’s being, maybe it would see that and shut up. And then maybe I could start trying to deflect just one line of fire, instead of two.

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