Helping women with chronic illnesses

Time – And Fighting The “Guilt Monster”

Time. Sometimes it seems like we have so little time in which to accomplish so much. The number of tasks before us can just be overwhelming. We may wonder how we’re going to make it through the day.

Other times, the days may seem to stretch out and time feels like it’s passing slowly. Things can feel overwhelming in a different way. Perhaps grief or adversity have made time seem to “stand still”. In these cases, we may wonder how we’re going to get through the day for different reasons.

I’ve never had a rigid, strict writing schedule for this blog. I never committed to anyone (except maybe informally to myself) that I would post at any particular intervals. Nor did I ever commit to communicating “off the blog” via social media and such. When time allowed, I simply did so.

When my schedule was initially disrupted quite awhile back, it was very difficult for me to suddenly stop writing my blog. However, there were circumstances in my life that made it imperative for me to drastically reduce my time online. So I did. When that crisis calmed down a bit, I had hoped to return to some semblance of “normal” with blogging. However, other factors that were out of my control made this all-but-impossible.

Initially, I felt emotions such as guilt, anxiety, and concern. I felt guilt because I knew there were online contact people who had become accustomed to me being much more available; I didn’t want them to feel like I was ignoring them. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I felt anxiety, in part, because I had become so accustomed to using my blog as an outlet that abruptly stopping my writing was difficult. I had concern because my blog receives a fair amount of traffic from people searching the Internet about suicide (often in the context of chronic illness/pain). I was concerned that if someone posted a message that sounded suicidal on my (moderated) blog that I might not see it in a timely fashion to be able to refer the person to appropriate resources in their area. Ever since I stopped my former blogging schedule, I have made it a point to go online as often as I possibly can for the purpose of scanning blog comments looking for anyone who might need referral information. Even when comments were backed up and not getting processed in a timely fashion, I made it a point to address these as quickly as possible.

Once I had devised a new system (however informally) for checking in on my blog when I could, I eventually made peace with the fact that it might be awhile before I could pick up where I left off. I later made peace with the fact that I might not ever be able to “pick up where I left off” (in the sense that I might instead have to “start from scratch”), after spending so much time away from my blog.

It wasn’t easy to make peace with all this after 5 years of writing this blog. As anyone who writes a blog knows, it’s about far more than just writing posts. Having spent a large amount of time “off the blog” relationship-building and interacting with fellow patients (on social media and such), it has been really challenging to stay offline. However, that’s where I have needed to be. So that’s where I’ve been.

We all deal with (and sometimes struggle with) time-related issues in this life. Too little time. Too much time. Things happening at just the right time… or things happening at the worst possible time.

Those of us living with chronic illness often have even greater struggles with time (and guilt) than others. After all, if your illness(es) result in it taking you longer to do certain things than the healthy people in your life, it all adds up. If trips to the doctor or pharmacy or lab take up a great deal of time, that affects the total amount of time available to spend on other things.

Any person living with chronic illness who has ever battled over the phone with health insurance companies or fought to appeal an unfairly rejected claim can attest to the large amounts of time that illness-related activities can suck up. Even once one has factored in all of the more obvious illness-related drains on time, when one looks at activities that aren’t so obviously linked to illness it becomes clear that the effects are more pervasive than many people realize.

If there is anyone out there living with chronic illness who is feeling guilty about what he or she can’t do, if there is anyone feeling anxious about a never ending to-do list, or if there is anyone out there worrying about how his/her illness (or actions/inactions) might negatively impact others… please do yourself a favor and accept the fact that the “guilt monster” won’t do anyone any good. Guilt can really drain your energy. This can, in turn, exacerbate your condition. If you’re doing your best (and I don’t mean pushing yourself past healthy limits), realize your best is all you can do.

If you are feeling anxious about the length of your to-do list, try to ascertain what might make it feel less overwhelming. Can you ask someone for help? Can you disregard items from the list that aren’t as important as you initially thought? Can you break the list down into smaller pieces that feel more manageable? Everyone’s unique. Do what works for you. Often, you will know yourself best and you will be the person to figure out how to feel less anxious. Sometimes it may take a bit of trial and error. As far as worrying about negatively impacting others is concerned, remind yourself that you have a great deal on your plate if you live with a chronic illness and that you need to focus on self-care before you can effectively help others.

All you can do is your best. This circles back to the guilt I mentioned earlier. Beating yourself up about not doing this or that for someone else – when you weren’t healthy enough to do so – isn’t helpful for anyone. It’s actually a waste of precious energy to fret over things that are out of your control. Give yourself permission to assess when you’ve done your best and to resist any feelings of guilt that occur past that point. Feeling guilty about not being able to do something you can’t do (or can’t do without making yourself sicker) isn’t helpful for anyone.

This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

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