Does your chronic illness cause you to feel ashamed? Do you try to hide your condition from others? Do you worry about being perceived as different or incapable of doing “normal” activities?
A chronic illness can often lead to intense feelings of shame and lowered self-worth. In our daily lives, we are inundated with images of beautiful people and strong, healthy bodies. We consistently encounter places and situations that are not accessible such as subways, restaurants, and homes. This causes us to internalize the implicit, but far from subtle, attitude that we are not wanted, we are not attractive, and we are not important enough to make an effort for. The sighs and eye-rolling as the bus driver lowers the ramp for the man in the wheelchair because it’s interrupting the commute, the heavy doors too difficult to open, the steps, the fast pace, can leave us feeling alienated, outcast, angry, rejected, and shamed.
The shame of a chronic illness causes many to try to conceal their illness from others, which only feeds the feelings of shame and isolation.
Others, who cannot hide their illness, may fear getting treated as if there is something wrong with them. If your chronic illness prevents you from doing things most people can do, you may internalize a sense of defectiveness, which exacerbates the sense of shame.
Regardless of whether your condition is visible or not, the shame of a chronic illness can be toxic and debilitating.
When is shame unhealthy?
Occasional feelings of shame are normal. Everyone has stories of times when they experienced shame.
Chronic shame can be toxic and crippling. In cases of chronic shame, we constantly remind ourselves of our defects and failures.
Shame-based thoughts can be expressed using different language. Some examples include:
- I am flawed.
- I am incompetent.
- I am unlovable.
- I am weak.
- I don’t deserve…
As we reinforce these shameful thoughts day after day, they become ingrained in our self-image.
Shame is not rational. You may be capable and loved by many, but still feel shame. Shame is visceral and can defy logical reasoning.
Unlike other primary emotions, such as anger or sadness, shame lacks a channel of release. When we feel sad, we cry. When we are angry, we shout. Shame stays inside us, without an easy means of discharge.
Get help overcoming the shame of a chronic illness
Therapy can help you identify shame and provides a safe environment for you to express your feelings. Through therapy sessions, we will work together to uncover the thoughts and emotions surrounding your illness and develop strategies to overcome the shame of a chronic illness.
Call now to schedule a complimentary consultation, or just fill out the contact form and click Send.
If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start: Living With Chronic Illness Handbook.