Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Breakdown of Guilt and Shame

So I had a mega breakdown last night.

It has been building for awhile.  I've been harboring anger, guilt, shame, and heartache in a tiny little bottle inside of my mind.  It shattered.  Exploded.  I am now typing this with the remnants of yesterday's swollen eyes.

The straw that broke the camel's back was that Jon told me that I needed to grow up.  He didn't say it maliciously in any way, but hearing those words (which I've heard SO MANY TIMES from SO MANY PEOPLE), just killed me.

I have been trying to act as grown-up as physically possible ever since I was a child in order to try to counteract my volatile emotions and terrible feelings in my body.  I have no idea where they come from.  As such, I have always been compensating and it is EXHAUSTING.  I am grown up.  I am a big girl.  I have circumstances that I cannot deal with as neatly as some other people.

Pain never ends.  I wrote a list of my symptoms for my new doctor on Friday and it's two pages long.  It terrifies me and it wears me down.

I have no control in my life.  Whatsoever.  I never have any idea how I'm going to feel at any given moment.  I have a hard time in social situations without an easy way to get home.  I don't get to contribute to the finances, and thus it feels like EVERYONE else runs my life.  I would love nothing more than to hold down a job and actually contribute and make my own money.

The guilt makes me feel like a loser, not a grown-up.  I should not feel ashamed.  None of this is my fault.  And yet the ill are a marginalized part of society.

The sadness is easing but it never fully goes away.

I just keep telling myself that my emotions are important, and it's not my fault that I ended up sick.  Mantra: I am a good person and I do make life better for some people.

I'm going to have to go read How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard again.  Get my Zen on.

Thank you everyone for listening.  It is healing to even write out the guilt of not being up to a so-called "standard".

Does anyone else feel this way about their illness and their limits?  Do you have breakdowns too?  What do you do to deal with the guilt in a positive way?



Toni said...

Hi Annie,

I'm so sorry you're having a rough time. If you do pick up my book, look at the chapter on compassion (chapter 8 if I'm counting correctly), particularly the beginning where I talk about the little teaching by Mary Orr and tell the story of how I came to stop blaming myself for getting sick.

I love Mary Orr's story: how she realized that we'd never talk to others the way we talk to ourselves. I hope you take it to heart. It is not your fault for getting or being sick. We live in a culture that worships at the altar of good health. We're barraged with advertising that makes us think that the only "right" way to be is thin, healthy, fit, always happy. It's just bullshit. That's not how life is. For anyone.

I'm glad you wrote all of this out because I'm sure even doing that helped a bit. Please take care of yourself and also remember impermanence -- that this mood will pass. Hang on. We're with you.

AmazinAdrielle said...

Your post made me cry! *sends u a million hugs!* I feel exactly that way! I have breakdowns, then feel even more guilty because I upset other people with my sobbing. You are definitely not a loser! You are such an awesome person! You are so strong and so understanding and caring and inspiring and beautiful! You definitely make life better for me! As for dealing with guilt in a positive way... I guess I try to just push it to the back of my mind - which isn't that positive :s I really hope you feel better and get some sleep tonight :)

Baffled said...


I think that anyone that has chronic illness has breakdowns. I had one the other day. For me though I get really angry. I know that being sick isn't my fault so I don't feel guilty about it at all. Instead I get angry. Angry that I'm sick. Angry that I can't do anything. Angry that I can't skate anymore. Antry that I can't fill in the blank. However, when I'm so crashed that I can't talk properly anymore I always breakdown and cry. I finally figured out that I'm ashamed that I can't communicate intelligently anymore. Its frustrating. Being sick sucks. There is no two ways about it. It blows chunks and sometimes we just need to cry and write and cry and write. Like Tony says just remeber that "this too shall pass".

Robyn S. said...

Hey hun!! First of all, you were right on twitter- we need to catch up! Second, I'm so glad you are who you are and you share these things because so many of us feel the same way, and it helps to hear them expressed by another- like, "Yes, these are valid things I'm feeling!" I feel guilty all the time. I'm even getting better, but I have to constantly remind myself my body is different and that's ok. It's hard to feel in control of life when you're not in control of your body, but who really is? It's a game of luck, health, and just because the healthy aren't able to see that doesn't make it untrue. I often worry about what others think of me when I cancel or call out sick to work, but if I can't, I can't, and feeling guilty is a waste of my- and your- emotional energy. We're nit infallible, and sometimes the criticism is valid to a certain extent, but you have to draw the line between what you can and can't change, or you'll drive yourself crazy! I'm praying for you, sweetie!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we were both crying and flipping out at the same time? I had a major breakdown last night that followed me into today. Crying. Clinging to the Joe-Man when he got home from work. Requesting hugs from both boys all evening. I got some good hugs, and that made me feel better. My oldest son wears steel toe boots so I was even able to stand on his shoes and he walked me around a little bit. I'm better. I want a week of good days, that's all just one solid week. Is that too much to ask? I hope tomorrow is better for all of us.

Rebecca said...

You're definitely not alone in your upset and frustration with illness. I'm having a really hard time dealing with mine at the minute and the last couple of years have been getting worse with the last six months barely giving me any life at all. I work full time, but just to keep that up I have to go to bed at a ridiculously early hour. So I don't have any life, I'm living to work and appear ok.

I then worry what my kids will think of me, how they will remember their childhood. I hate the whole thing and yearn to be "Normal. healthy"

I hope the tears helped wash some of it away. Take care of you x

Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal said...

Oh sweetie ((((hugs)))) I know exactly how you feel. I have had the same battle internally all weekend. No one can fully understand the true burden of chronic illness unless they are carrying it. I feel all of those emotions - guilt, shame, anger - and while I know its not my fault I'm sick and honestly at this point there isn't much that can be done about it, the perfectionist in me feels that I *need* to be fixed - I *need* to be perfect. So its hard. Really hard. You are not alone sister. (((hugs)))

fibromyalgia syndrome said...

Hello there Annie,

You don't have to be miserable with that small comment. Instead pity those who have real ill feelings with sickness who reacts those kind of situation. Its a matter of mind over the point blank feelings. Don't be affected easily. Think of those things is just an honest mistake.

Think of people with fibromyalgia, they have more painful life.

Rachael said...

girl I have meltdowns all of the time. I'm so frightened I'm going to drive away my boyfriend (who has the misfortune of living with my mom and I) and I am always feeling incredibly guilty for being unable to contribute. Chronic illness is a bitchy mistress.

Annie said...

I love all of you! You make me feel so much better :).

@fibromyalgia syndrome: I don't really understand what you are trying to say in your comment. I have fibromyalgia.

Emily said...

Hi Annie,

I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. I think that all of us with these annoying chronic conditions have felt exactly the same at times. I know I have! Its horrible to feel hopeless and helpless but yet paradoxically guilty for the situation you find yourself in. You must remember that you are not to blame in any way for your ill health, or your situation. From what I know of you from twitter you are a kind, caring, thoughtful person who loves her boyfriend, friends and family unconditionally. Life is really hard when battling such horrible illnesses such as yours, but the way you deal with everything is admirable. You are allowed to break down every so often, I think it would be weird if you didn't, I just wish it didn't have to hurt so much when it happened. If its any help things do get easier. I've been ill for over 10 years now, and while I can never say I have accepted my condition I have found things easier to cope with as I realise there is much more to me and to life than a collection of symptoms and syndromes. You are doing your best, and you are doing brilliantly.

Treya said...

Hey Annie,

I REALLY know how you feel. I have pretty much the same issues. It's a horrible feeling to feel you have so little control. I have the exact same breakdowns quite often and it is such an intursion to ones life and a horrible thing to have to face on top of being sick.

I find therapy very helpful. My therapist has ME/CFS herself. I also found out through this that I am a HSP(look it up). Since I was a kid I used to say that when god made me he put the emotions of 5 people in me : )

Goes easy on yourself xx

Sue Jackson said...

Oh, Annie, those breakdowns are so rough. Believe me, we have all been there at one time or another....sometimes too often. Once in a while, it just all seems like too much to handle.

And if you've been dealing with chronic illness since you were young (you're still young now!), then I can't even imagine the emotional side of it for you. Feeling awful all the time makes everything harder to deal with and definitely affects our emotions.

What I'm saying is it's not your fault and you're not alone.

I hope tomorrow is a better day for you.


Wendy said...

I'm so sorry you had to have a break down. I've had enough of those. It's then that I feel like I need to grow up...my husband tells me that I need to give myself a break. I just feel out of control sometimes. All these emotions, and no where to put them.
I too can't contribute. So what good am I?
People tell me I'm a good person.
I want a tangible list, tell me what do I do that matters.
Then out of the blue I will get an email about how a post on my blog changed someone's life. how it spoke to them, and made them feel not so alone.
I used to feel like all of this was my fault. That I was some how being punished for all the bad I've done. (and to think I'm not even Catholic...LOL)
But I didn't do anything to deserve this and neither did you.

You sure aren't alone.

Oh, I just filled out a questionaire for a health professional last night, and I was embarrassed by everything I listed. Then when I was going to bed last night I remembered some things I totally forgot to put down. (not more..oh my gosh)

I could say so much more...but I won't. Just know you are not alone.