Not Guilty

Not Guilty

I would guess that the idea of guilt has crossed the minds of most, if not all, of us who face RA.  There are stages of grief that accompany the diagnosis of a chronic and life altering disease. One of the least discussed, yet potentially most destructive, is guilt.

“Why did I get RA” and the guilt associated with it

I know I certainly felt, and oddly still feel, guilt at times.  I think perhaps it is because those feelings are part of the process of seeking the answer to the why me stage that accompanies a major diagnosis.  For many people, that stage is very brief and fleeting but for others it can stick around a long time.  And for some it really never passes, often leading to depression and an inability to move forward.

For me, it was a period of self- examining and re-examining what I might have done to trigger RA.  Did I not eat properly? Was it because of not managing stress properly?  What did I do to bring this disease into my life?  Was I somehow to blame?


I think tossing this idea around is not only a natural part of the acceptance phase but actually healthy.  We really need to reflect on all kinds of emotions and concepts in order to discover the reality and the future that is in store for us with RA.  By spending some time considering whether there is any guilt for us to carry we can, hopefully, dismiss it and move forward with a clear and direct path.

Absolving yourself for having RA

The truth, and it will be discovered by each of us eventually, is that none of us did, or could have done, ANYTHING to avoid RA.  The source or trigger has yet to be determined but there are lots of theories, from genetic predisposition to a virus.  None suggest anything a person could do to prevent it.  For sometime, when the discussion arose around living a life anchored in preventative practices being the key to all disease prevention, I was sure I had somehow failed.  Not true.

I think the very fact that the trigger or cause of RA is unknown is partly to blame for the “guilt complex”.  There are diseases that point to lifestyle choices as a potential factor.  Smoking, lack of exercise, obesity all have serious diseases associated with them so it is natural for us to wonder if the same is true for RA.

I clearly remember even asking the physician who diagnosed me if I had done something to cause RA.  He reassured me that there was nothing I could have done but there was a sense of guilt that still lingered for a while.

I was only in my forties when diagnosed and as the life changes began to accumulate thanks to RA, I could not help but question whether I had somehow contributed to the onset of this disease.  Part of it was just wanting an answer!  How did this happen to me?  I was fit, healthy and happy.  How does RA just come out of nowhere and suddenly change my life?

Guilt can eat away at our spirits and paralyze us.  It is a destructive force, yes, but can be a good thing when it comes to conscience and making good choices.  But if misplaced, it can prevent us from seeing the truth, which truly can set you free.

I really don’t honestly remember exactly when I knew there was absolutely nothing I could have done but when I had that realization it felt good and I had a true sense of relief.  More importantly, I could now move forward to a place of action and management of RA.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (11)
  • Wesmoms
    3 years ago

    I’ve never felt guilty about “getting” or “having” rheumatoid issues, and I have several.

    A bit about me: I’m 36 and was diagnosed with severe lupus at age 15. I had just graduated high school and moved away to college, and at first I thought I was just having issues adjusting to a new routine, or maybe being at a gigantic university with thousands of people, that flu and colds were just prevalent. However, my mother was one of the first few people they studied when they began the push to acknowledge rheumatoid diseases again in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I’m sure I made my mother feel “guilty” as a child, because she never really talked about her health issues, and all I knew was that she “just didn’t feel well” a lot. But I had trouble understanding why she didn’t do things like other people’s mom would. I tried to keep going, became an RN, got a masters degree, started a business. But eventually, I couldn’t work 12 hours on my feet, or sometimes stay awake long enough to tend to my business clients.

    Fast forward to today: she’s had to have a kidney transplant as a result of the lupus, and was diagnosed on Tuesday with a detached retina (a result of years of plaquenil usage). She powers on, however, no matter how bad her day. I just can’t seem to do so. I have other health issues that she does not, and while she TRIES to be understanding, she makes me feel guilty. My father, who has seen what both of us have gone through doesn’t understand at all, being a relatively “healthy” 73 year old, though he does his best, and is generally more understanding toward my mom.
    Yes, it really is my MOM who makes me feel more guilty. She says things like “well, just get up and do something.” “Go visit a friend.” Things like that.

    That’s what causes me to feel guilty. Not the disease that I have, I know there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it, and that I’m doing all I can to manage it. I know sometimes I’m “lazy”, and I admit that. But the fact that I can’t power through like my mom, and her feelings on that. That’s what makes me feel guilty.

  • Robin
    3 years ago

    You were reading my mind! The guilt of not being able to do things such as housework without having to sit and rest, not to be able to play with my grandkids like I want… the list is endless. And, the judgements from people that don’t see anything wrong…

  • mbd208
    3 years ago

    The thing that causes me the most guilt is the amount of rest I need.

    My children think I have “made up” this diagnosis, RA, Lup

  • mbd208
    3 years ago

    Diagnosis: Inflammatory Arthritis is the New one. It includes RA, Lupus, Sjogrens Syndrome and Reynaud’s Syndrom

  • 1h26hja
    3 years ago

    am I the only one that wonders what the divorce rate is for people after being diagnosed?

  • mbd208
    3 years ago

    I would imagine it is high

  • Nan Hart author
    3 years ago

    interesting question for sure….I count my blessings that my husband and I have dealt with RA as a team from day one. I think we have to include our families and ensure that they are not forgotten as “victims” of RA as well. Their lives change too and we need to validate that.

  • assia
    3 years ago

    I completely agree, the guilt never leaves you really. You always seem to think what should I have done to avoid this but there is never an answer. I am getting coached on this. I already removed the anger piece which is a great improvement because I was so angry for a while. Why me why not someone else.

  • Nan Hart author
    3 years ago

    Assia: great news that you are working through the various stages that often accompany the diagnosis. Once free of the guilt (it does still rear its ugly head now and then) you can really tackle the management of this disease with all of your focus! Best of luck. Nan

  • yahara2254
    3 years ago

    It is still hard on me as to why I had to get this dreaded disease, these flares have a mind of it’s own, like a storm you never know when it will hit. I know all who have RA knows how painful these flares are.

  • Nan Hart author
    3 years ago

    WE sure do understand. Once you can let go of the “why me” you can really get down to the business of managing RA. It will happen. Nan

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