The Shame of Being Sick

I’ve been suffering with a health problem for quite some time.  It’s hard to nail down the exact starting point, but it’s close to 2 years.  If that time frame isn’t correct it just means that it has been longer than 2 years, not less.

It’s a sinus infection, but not any old sinus infection.  It’s the sinus infection that ate New York!

I’ve combated this issue from all sorts of angles trying to win.  I’ve tried all sorts of homeopathic remedies (I don’t even want to know how much money I spent on them!) from herb teas to neti pots.  I’ve even tried some yoga moves to improve breathing, drinking tons of water, removing all dairy, and increasing my allergy medicines.  Nothing seems to work.  I finally get so miserable that I go to the doctor and get antibiotics. They knock the infection down enough so that I feel a little bit better for a while.  But then within a few weeks I’m back to hating life again.  I can’t seem to  get rid of it for good.

Finally, the doctors ordered a scan and send me to a specialist.

It’s not a deadly problem but it’s really causing some problems to say the least: dizziness, horrible headaches, constant ear aches, a chronic cough. No, I take that back.  I think this constant cycle of taking antibiotics to get rid of this nightmare is what caused me to contract C. diff. at the beginning of this year.  C. diff. is deadly.

There aren’t many roads left to take on this long trip before surgery is all that’s left.  I was feeling totally defeated and scared when I left the doctor a few days ago.  After telling my husband about what the doctor suggested and that I had to have some allergy testing done, he responded with, “Oh, they’ll find something.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because you don’t have a very strong immune system.” was his reply.

And those words hurt me.  I know, I know.  He didn’t say anything mean on purpose, but I felt hurt. How, oh how, could I be working so hard at getting well and still have a weak immune system? Didn’t  I take a handful of supplements a day?  Didn’t I make homemade bone broth soup every week?  Still, I knew he was right.  I don’t have a strong immune system but I didn’t like him saying it.  It’s like being over weight and knowing that you are and talking about it with your friends, but when someone else says it to you…well, it hurts.

And then I realized that my hurt feelings were because I was ashamed of my health situation.

 I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t stronger.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t healthier.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t spiritual enough to be able to heal myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that spent so much money on so many different remedies that didn’t do one single thing to help.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t educated enough to just “know” how to fix myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that I’m sick, and I can’t seem to fix it by myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that I started this whole year so sick and now I’m ending it on the very same note.
I’ve felt ashamed that I’ve had to ask for help.

I didn’t know that shame was lurking around in there with that infection.  It really kind of surprised me.  Hadn’t I been changing my life for the better?  Wasn’t I doing more of what I loved to do?

I feel that I have somehow failed, failed to be a “healthy” person.

It isn’t logical that I’m ashamed, but then again, feelings rarely are.

I realized that maybe I’m not the only one carrying around the added weight of shame along with another physical issue.

  • being over weight
  • balding
  • acne
  • wrinkles
  • eczema
  • cold sores
  • this list could go on and on and on…

Aren’t these physical issues difficult enough by themselves without the added burden of feeling ashamed that they are there?

As I let this new realization roll around in my head last night, it occurred to me that not once in the last 2+ years of dealing with this sinus infection did I ever accept it or any extra help or advice that might have been given had I looked for it.  I never really asked the doctors for more than relief.  It wasn’t until I said that I think this thing has never gone away and the doctor went back to the beginning of my chart and really looked at what was going on that more tests were given.  In my stubbornness I believed I should be able to do it alone-without help.

“However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same.”-The Dalai Lama

So now I’ll try surrendering and accepting both my current situation and the help that is being offered.  Maybe it’s just a time for me to depend on the support of others for a while.

Have any of you experienced this? Not the sinus problem, but the feeling of shame for being sick?  Would you be willing to share your experience in the comments?




Kel Wilson

I am a wildlife biologist turned wife and mother, and more recently artist and blogger. It’s my mission to spread this idea to as many women as possible: Stop punishing and depriving yourself! You are so important, unique, and special! Start loving yourself enough to make the changes you need to find your happy place. Start doing this by adding something you love to your everyday life. I promise you, it will rock your world!

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5 Responses to The Shame of Being Sick

  1. Nin-Carol says:

    I may have inadvertently taught shame about illness to our daughter, all the while being well meaning.

    Our second child weighed less than 2 pounds when he was born; our daughter was 3.5 at the time. Needless to say we were on a roller coaster for years. He began with a lot of health related issues.

    And I found myself telling our daughter that she was our healthy child. It wasn’t until she started getting really upset when she would get sick for me to realize what I had done.

    By calling her our healthy child, she felt as though she let us down when she got sick. Recipe for shame in a young child for sure.

    I think – I hope – I caught this early enough and spent enough time asking for her forgiveness and explaining how I didn’t know what the result would be. Here I was trying to make her feel special and important even when she wasn’t the center of a million doctors’ appointments, but the result was very different.

    But, yes, I feel ashamed whenever I don’t live up to what I perceive to be other people’s (who are close to me) expectations. Part of the self talk I really have to work on. More about mental things (forgetting to pay a bill and the like) rather than health/physical things, but really it’s all the same.

    • Kel Wilson says:

      I know! Without any intention we somehow make something worse. I really didn’t realize these feelings underneath. Hopefully by shinning a light on them, it will get better now!

  2. Tracy says:

    Kel, I may have to write a post of my own on this one, but the short answer is YES. So very much.

  3. Sonja_Amsterdam says:

    I know I’m a bit late to reply to this post but I am very much in the same situation as you are, down to the sinus and lung problems! I too think I should be able to fix myself and that I don’t need a doctor. I’ve been trying more sleeping, doing more art, thinking positive thoughts and eating healthily and organic. I also cut lots of surplus responsibilities and hobbies out of my schedule. And for a few months things went well, looking back those were the summer months. But as soon as October rolled around and it got colder, darker and wetter I caught some very persistent bug. Until the Christmas break I was coughing, having difficulty breathing and taking nose spray daily so I could function. Did I go and see a doctor? I mean, 4 months of this, anyone else telling me this I would send to their doctor! But having been to the doctor for fatigue two years ago and being prescribed, very effectively, some vitamine D I thought I could (should) be able to take care of it myself. And I should at all cost avoid taking regular medicine and/or antibiotics. My body did eventually overcome all of this by Christmas when my husband was home for two weeks and I got to take some proper rest. But now it’s March and I caught it again for three weeks. And boy was I disappointed in myself….

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