We know our role and what's expected of us -- whether it be at home or at work - with family, friends, or co-workers. But untimely or unanticipated circumstances, such as having a chronic illness, can affect how we execute our role.
What happens when you can no longer do what is expected of you or what others depend on you to do? It's distressing to say the least. You feel badly about how your illness affects your relationship with others -- and how it affects others directly. Regret and guilt replace pride and accomplishment.
When you can't care for your family the way you used to, your home is not maintained to your usual standards, finances have taken a hit, and your attendance at social functions is a thing of the past -- guilt begins to blossom. You may even start to feel undependable and unable to make commitments.
It's not a matter of shirking your responsibilities. Arthritis interferes, intrudes, and disallows what would be your normal routine. The disease itself is demanding time and attention above all else.
If you are unable to live up to certain expectations, it's not from lack of desire. It's because of circumstances beyond your control. Arthritis pain is variable. On any given day, what is expected of you can become impossible to achieve.
Commitments are made with the best of intentions. But once again, circumstances beyond your control may make it necessary for you to opt out of your commitment.
In each of these cases, where circumstances beyond your control cause you to fail at delivering on responsibilities, expectations, or commitments -- feeling guilty may not be the appropriate response. Think about it -- shouldn't guilt be saved for situations where you are in control?
The Bottom Line
To live guilt-free with arthritis, there are certain things you must do.
#1 - Always work at managing your arthritis so the disease remains minimally intrusive.
#2 - Differentiate what is and what isn't within your control. Never associate guilt with what is beyond your control.
#3 - Make up for lost time. For example, if you missed a Little League game, be sure to share some quality time with your child as soon as you are able. If you canceled a lunch date with your best friend, re-schedule.
Momentary guilt may be inescapable. But never allow it to build and consume you.