You did it again. Why? Why do you keep ignoring what I keep trying to tell you. I know that you want to enjoy and be more active, but at what cost? Wouldn’t it make more sense to complete small actions each day with rest along the way, instead of overexerting yourself to the point of crashing. I see the pain and frustration you deal with the following morning from living like this. I know and I understand that when you are feeling “decent” or at least “not too bad”, that you want to take advantage of the time. You do whatever is being offered or needs to be done, while you are still able. But you don’t listen to me when I try to tell you that too much energy is being used. That you are stealing energy from days ahead, just for those few moments. Then the next morning, just like today, you wake up so discouraged, muscles aching, struggling to get out of bed or even sit with the family. You have got to do better at managing your energy and nutritional needs, though I do know how difficult that is. Who wants to stop something that deep down is meaningful and gratifying? Maybe if we could just eliminate some of the guilt you feel when missing out on some activities or when feeling so awful, that will help you migrate closer to your “middle ground” and improve how well you manage the energy you have available.
Just for you, I took the time to look up the actual definition of GUILT. I know that you despise hearing the word or even thinking about it, but it’s necessary. You see GUILT, according to Wikepedia, “is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.”
Guilt is horrible, and though it serves a purpose in our lives, such as to teach us a lesson, it’s not always warranted. Sometimes we may BELIEVE that we have let others down, become a disgrace, come up short of our expectations, compromised our values, etc which can make us feel extremely rotten. I think that is the case for you many times. You put so much emphasis and energy in trying to make others happy, protect them, and provide for them; but when your body needs time to recharge, you feel guilty and even sorry or remorseful, even though you shouldn’t. You should not feel guilty for trying to meet your own personal needs. Your body requires attention, love, care, and protection as well! You have to be willing to provide some energy for your own personal needs. Without it, you can’t truly give your best to your family or anyone else. I realize that it’s hard and I admit that I see you struggle with this concept often, but being honest with yourself and putting your health first at times is NOT a reason to feel guilty or selfish. Deep down you realize that your family knows you are doing the very best that you can, that yes they may want more time with you at the moment, but they also understand that you need extra care in order to survive. They would much rather have you miss out on a few events here and there or spend a little less time with you during the day, than physically watch you crash or even possibly lose you completely because you wouldn’t meet your own personal health needs. They may not realize it at the time, the kids may say things that hurt, but when they truly think about it - they know that you have to take care of your health. In order for you to better understand, manage, and eliminate some of this guilt, I think it’s imperative that we actually consider what exactly you feel guilty about.
From my observations and experiences, below is the GUILT I’ve gathered….
going to bed early, before the kids
missing out on some activities
not always feeling well enough to cook (due to energy spent or nausea from aroma)
sometimes unable to even sit at the table during dinner
extreme exhaustion or too much pain keeping you homebound or in bed
making others, specifically family, worry or sad
unable to go outside and have fun adventures with the kids
not getting well or even better, in fact getting worse this past year, while following medical advice
disappointing family members time and time again
being a zombie at times, instead of truly present in the moment
less joking and laughter
thinking about death, and life for family without you
depending on others to drive you to appointments or anywhere else you need to go
irritable when feeling at lowest, physically and/or emotionally
Alright, so if you look at the list above, I’m sure that you are in agreeance. Now let’s look at them a little closer. If you remember, GUILT is when someone “compromises his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.” When you relook at the list, which standards (or values) are you responsible for truly compromising and/or violating? Any? Just because you aren’t always successful at doing everything you “think” you should be doing, have you actually violated or done anything wrong that should cause guilt or remorse? When you consider the reasons for not meeting your values or consider what you were doing instead, was it not because you were trying to meet some of your other needs, your own personal health needs, or at times even being forced to take care of yourself? Forced, because you didn’t listen to yourself before reaching the point of exhaustion.
If there’s anything you should legitimately be guilty for, it would be sacrificing your overall health to try and reach unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself over and over again. You keep saying that you want more time with your kids, which is a natural goal that many loving parents have. But destroying yourself in the process is not helping you in any way. Infact, if anything it’s hindering you even more by making you miserable. Take a moment to think about your life pre-illness. Consider how much time you were truly able to spend with your kids then? I know that you may have desired more down time with the kids, due to work schedules, etc.. but did you feel this sense of dooming guilt? Did you feel like you were a failure then? No, you knew that you were doing the absolutely best you could in the amount of time granted to you each day. You worked diligently at being the best mother, wife, and teacher that you could possibly be. You could not always give your kids all of the attention that they wanted because you had to prepare lessons and grade papers. You would have liked to be able to put the work away, but it was necessary for you to meet your career expectations. So you did what you had to do. You didn’t dwell on the fact that things could be different then, but now you do? Why? If you are honest with yourself, you will see that you actually are able to devote more personal time to your kids now, even if you aren’t as active as you’d like to be. So what, you’re sick. Yes, there are times when you have to miss out on time with your kids, fight pain/nausea, retire to bed early, rest, etc to recharge - how is that any different than taking time to check papers, plan lessons, attend PTO or Staff meetings? Is there really any difference, besides the fact that you feel physically awful or that the “missed” time serves the purpose of actually HELPING YOU instead of HELPING OTHERS?
Take a moment to reflect on your current situation, Trish. We already know that you love your family very much, have a heart for helping others, can be stubborn about putting your needs first, and that you are an imperfect human. (Who’s not?) You try with everything in your power to be the best mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, friend, and person that you can possibly be. You might not be able to accomplish EVERYTHING all of the time. You may feel exhausted, sick, and/or too sad at times to enjoy every moment. But that’s ok! You make up for it in the end. You do the absolute best that you know how at the time, what else could your kids or family ask for? What could you possible do different? When you reminisce on your overall life, the quality of you as a nurturer and mother, what are you missing? What are your kids truly lacking? Anything? What, a couple of hours here or there? Many would gladly exchange a few hours for unconditional love, even if it did involve being in bed or stuck in the house. Just consider all of the parents and children that are unable to see each other daily due to distance as a result of work trips, family dynamics such as divorce, or even death. Remember and hold on to how very blessed you are! Love is not measured just by what you do (or don’t) but instead what you feel and share.
You see, Trish, in reality you are your own worst critic, a pretty harsh one at times, I must admit. You have got to learn to give yourself more credit. Yes, being sick with illness, running on fumes, fighting pain - nausea - exhaustion, day in and day out are a rough deck of cards to play with, but those are the cards you’ve been dealt and you must learn to accept it, do the best you can, and keep moving forward. Guilt is a difficult emotion that can ruin your life if you let it have control. You’ve experienced the pain it creates. You know that Guilt can make you want to give up on life completely, even cause you to feel weak and unable to keep up the fight, especially when you’re also dealing with relentless painful symptoms and flares. But you can’t allow Guilt to take over the wheel. You can’t let Guilt drive your life. If you do, it will eventually drive you over a cliff. Guaranteed. Instead, you must keep guilt as a passenger, ideally packed in the trunk where it’s accessible if needed; to give you a little push or a bit of initiative at times, even protect you from drastic measures (ironic how that works), but out of the way for the overall journey.
Always remember to keep love, faith, trust, and hope right by your side. Let them guide you through life’s ever changing path. It will not be easy, but I promise, the journey will be much more pleasant and rewarding.
With you until the end,
A proud mother, educator, Gastroparesis & GI Motility Disorder Advocate,
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