Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2012: ditching the Guilt

What Catholic girl (former or otherwise) doesn't learn to feel guilty at a very young age? I was always a bit of an overachiever. I'm good at Guilt.

I feel guilty that I have No Evidence of Disease when other wonderful women have died.

I feel guilty that I'm not working.

I feel guilty that I have insurance.

I feel guilty for being alive.

And, with every clean scan, every month that I continue in treatment that does not include chemotherapy, the guilt just gets worse.

It's not very constructive.

I need to figure out how to free myself from the Guilt. It distorts my perception of myself and others like a greasy hand-print on the lenses of my glasses. I have to figure out who I am and what I want, without having to squint or interpret what's on the other side of the smudges.

It won't be easy. And it may take me more than a year. But that's what I'm working on in 2012.


Ann said...

A wise young man I knew, (he sadly died with AIDS), said - "The best place for guilt is on antique French furniture" I used this saying many times whilst Counselling others. Guilt really is a useless emotion just like 'worry'. I always say if you can do something about what you are worried, (feel guilty about), then do it. If you can't do anything about it, it is best to accept that and let, whatever it is, go. Happy New Year and may your health continue to astound you so that you can continue to inspire others. Ax

nancyspoint said...

Ah, yes, I'm quite familiar with the guilt beast. What woman isn't? Throw cancer into the mix too, and ...well, you know the rest. I'd say just let it go, but we both know it's not quite that easy. Good luck. Keep us posted on how it goes. My best to you in the New Year.

Ellen Long said...

Good one!
In addition to some of the more obvious reasons, I think a high guilt-quotient might be rooted in having a ultra-strong sense of empathy and responsibility for others. So as soon as one "gets" something, she simultaneously imagines others who didn't "get."

Eileen said...

Try to keep in mind, dear girl, that you feeling guilty gives no benefit to those of us who are not as lucky as you - but your situation DOES give hope to those who have some chance of getting off the treatment carousel for a little while. So instead of wasting time feeling guilty, celebrate your situation not only for yourself, but also for the inspiration it gives to others. You are a gift!!

CancerCultureChronicles said...

Wow Laurie, perhaps our minds are keenly attuned because I've been having very similar feelings of late with respect to Guilt. It runs so deep with me I don't even know where to start. It might fill up its own separate blog I think . Of course I know it's silly to have these feelings, because of course none of this was my fault or something that I have any control over. But still the feelings persist despite what anybody else says........but how to let it go???

laurie said...

I am so moved by these responses. These comments make me feel less alone and give me so much to think about. Thanks to each one of you for sharing your own feelings and for the kind words. Guilt is a challenge. Survivors' guilt is an even bigger one.

Lene Andersen said...

I used to be very good at guilt. So good in fact that I'd talk about having an overdeveloped guilt gland (people thought I was joking). Then someone once told me that guilt is a sign that you've done something wrong. This was incredibly helpful to me in terms of a switch in perspective, removing the issue from the emotional (which can't be argued with) to the mental, where you have a better chance to assess the guilt more logically in terms of whether it's reasonable.

And I really like what Eileen said. You are hope personified. And that's very, very right.

Cáit said...

Dont ever feel guilty of having " no evidence of disease " because the longer you are NED the more hope you give to people like me.

Marie said...

It may come as a surprise to those who have not experienced cancer, to learn that many cancer survivors suffer a sense of “survivor guilt” when we are in remission. It is difficult to look on as those comrades we have shared so much with during treatment who may not be doing so well.

In a funny way, the “why me” questions I sometimes asked myself when first diagnosed with cancer, were now reversed. That “why me – why did I get cancer when others don’t” has been turned around to “why me – why do I get to survive when others don’t”. And I ask myself the question if I have survived, what is the deeper meaning of my life after this experience? Guilt can arise also from a sense that what I’m doing with my life must have greater meaning if my survival is to be justified.

In his book, Travelling Light, Daniel J. O’Leary quotes Bearwatcher, an Apache medicine man. “In the Apache language there is no word for ‘guilt.’ Our lives are like diamonds. When we are born we are pure and uncut. Each thing that happens to us in our lives teaches us how to reflect the light in the world; each experience gives us a new cut, a new facet in our diamond. How brilliantly do those diamonds sparkle whose facets are many, to whom life has given many cuts!”

Amanda said...

A win for you is a win for Team Cancer. You doing better than me makes me damn happy.

zoom said...

I'm pretty good at finding reasons to feel guilty too. But one thing that sometimes works for me is instead of trying to push the guilt away, invite it in. Acknowledge it. Let it take center stage and give a speech for as long as it wants. Write down what it says. Ask it questions, but don't argue with it. Encourage it to think of even more things you should feel guilty about. Don't let it leave the stage until it admits it is thoroughly done.

laurie said...

Zoom - that is great advice, beautifully worded. Thank you!