Guilt and Chronic Pain

The one person in my life who has always been there no matter what has been my dad. For a lot of my life it was just him and I. He was my hero when I was a tiny little girl and he remains my hero at the age of thirty two. He stuck by me through the worst of my journey with chronic pain. I made so many awful decisions and tried to give up on life so many times and as angry as I made him, he never abandoned me. I cannot count the number of times I have said: “I’m sorry” to my dad. Every time I did something awful or stupid because of chronic pain I always thought of my dad. He was always the last person I wanted to hurt and the first person I wanted to be proud of me.

A lot of people who suffer from chronic pain do not have a support system and are not given the belief they deserve. Nobody would look at me then or now and think that I live in constant pain because there are no scars left that are visible. The only person who ever sees my physical scar is the hairdresser because my surgery was on my brain. I had one supportive person throughout the endless years of my journey with chronic pain: my dad. He took me to every doctor and specialist one could think of. There is not one thing we did not try and he was always there right by my side. I wanted something to cure me not just for myself but for my dad. I was taking up so much of his life with my invisible illness and I wanted him to be proud of me. Every time (which was weekly) a new treatment did not work I felt as if I failed him. Each time something did not work I literally prayed that he would not give up on me or a cure for my illness. He never did but I still felt the guilt.

I remember one holistic therapist we went to in Philadelphia. I do not remember the details of the appointment but as soon as she whipped out crystals and worked on hypnotizing me my heart just fell through the floor. I was/am a very open minded person but this was the third person to whip out crystals and basically a magic ball like the one in the Wizard of Oz. I remember sitting on the couch of her office re-telling my entire history including my life prior to my accident. I had told this story so many times I was just losing any energy to keep up. The second she showed me her crystals I wanted to scream and run out of her office but my dad took a lot of time to get me this appointment and I did not want to let him down. When the session from hell was over we both talked to my father and I pretended I would return. Once inside the car my dad seemed optimistic as I must have put on a good act so as not to make the therapist feel bad. His optimism soon dropped as I broke out in tears. Not a cute cry: a screaming, punching the dashboard, balling cry with various curse words I assure you. My dad was as frustrated as I was and we ended up in an argument. To this day the last person I ever want angry with me is my dad. We arrived home and I told him I was leaving. I jumped in my car and drove to my best friends house. I told her everything and that I did not want to go home. She had her own apartment and I always had clothes there so I knew I could stay with her. I did not want to think about chronic pain, my dad, or anything for that matter. I went straight to her freezer grabbed some vodka and made myself a drink. We ended up going out that night and I definitely drowned my sorrows. I awoke the following morning on my best friends couch with a horrible hangover and I was disgusted with myself. I called out of work and later called my dad to tell him I was safe. I am sure he was angry but later that day he gave me a hug and the guilt just got worse but at least I knew he still loved me. Because I certainly had stopped loving myself.

This was my life for countless years. Work, search for a cure, fight with friends and family, make stupid mistake, self medicate, cry, and do it all over again. Anyone who knows my dad knows that he has a heart of gold. He does so much for everyone often putting himself last. He never hated me as I thought, he was just as frustrated as I was. I was his only child and his best friend and to see me falling apart was awful for him. He wanted a cure just as badly as I did. It was not until he met other family members of people with chronic pain that he truly grasped what I was going through. He flew to the Mayo Clinic in MN for friends/family weekend and it was one of the few times I saw him cry. Luckily, I did not feel guilty for his tears because I knew I was on the road to changing my life and was no longer looking for a cure.

My dad is still the person I want to tell everything to. He left a week ago to visit my grandfather who is on hospice in Arizona. Giving him a hug goodbye broke my heart. I wanted to be with him when he was there. I want to give back to him everything he has given to me. People always say: “You never stop being a parent” well in some ways you never stop being a kid either. I am a thirty two year old married woman with a daughter and I still cannot wait to tell my dad happy news and I still never want to disappoint him. I think guilt and chronic pain go hand in hand. Just another one of those awful cycles: guilt increases pain levels, pain levels increase guilt. If you are in the darkest hours of your journey with chronic pain I am sure you feel some guilt. Please read this a few times if you have to: the guilt will go away! And the people who love you and are there for you are only frustrated at the disease not you. That may be extremely difficult to believe right now but there is also ignorance to chronic pain. It is very hard for people around you to understand what it feels like to live in pain 24/7 especially when your scars are no longer visible.

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Guilt and Chronic Pain

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4 thoughts on “Guilt and Chronic Pain

  1. I feel guilty all the time, my illness has effectively split my family up, my parents are still together and still married but we have to live in separate countries, I live in England with my mum and my sister lives in Dubai with my dad. I feel guilty that my sister doesn’t get to live with her mum and has to live with my Dad who is lovely but can be very mean and childish to her. It’s also the little things that I feel guilty about, guilty that my mum isn’t there every day when my sister gets home from school, that my mum is no longer there to cook her dinner, that my dad goes away for work a lot and my sister is left alone to fend for herself for a night or two. She says it’s all fine but I get scared she resents me for it. Cause effectively it’s my fault we have to live this way because I’m the one who’s ill. I say sorry and feel guilty on a daily basis, my mum tells me not to but I can’t help it.

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