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Chronic Pain and Guilt

This is a little more poetic than usual and though I try to keep things positive, I am sure many of my readers can understand that sometimes, living with chronic pain can get you down.  

Like waves, we roll on

I am drowning in an ocean.  Every time I get my head above water and take a breath, the current sucks me back in again.  Guilt; never-ending, all-consuming.  No matter what changes I make, I am reminded of my failures time and again.

Living with a disability means I cannot be blamed for our misfortunes, that it is not “my fault,” and yet I feel like everything that goes wrong can be traced back to me.  Although not “failures” by definition, I am constantly wracked with guilt. In the same way my body is constantly battered with pain, so is my mind with guilt. It pulls me under every time I try to breathe.  Every time I try to move up in life, the guilt pulls me back under into the abyss.

I am trying to DO, but my body betrays me.  I am dealing with a husband that left me, quoting, “I just want to be rid of you,” as the reason for divorce.  The guilt that someone could see me as such an awful person that someone could want to dispose of me eats at me every minute of every day.

I started working freelance, a few hours a day, but my body protests.  I had to stop working my regular job after the first surgery because I could not work with the chronic pain.  Work makes me feel like I am participating in life, even if it is just writing here and there, instead of just letting it pass me by.  It makes me feel like I can breathe. But just as I feel life coming back into me, I had my car accident and have additional injuries and pain. I was pummeled by another wave of guilt, and into the abyss I go.

Like an alarm that is set to go off every hour, I am repeatedly and constantly reminded that had I been able to be happy, do more, be a better wife, keep working, to keep contributing, I would still be married, not worrying how I will afford my next month of bills. Guilty.

I try again to swim, harder, faster.  I sign up for acting class.  I am happy, excited, there is a hint of life in my eyes that had long gone, when I am once again choked by guilt.  Why am I spending money on something for myself? Why am I taking and not giving?  Why am I trying to get more education when I already possess a useless master’s degree which my mind wants to make use of, but my body cannot?  Guilty.  But, before I can worry about that guilt, the money runs out and the classes that I lived for are gone anyway, making me angry, which in turn makes me feel, you guessed it- guilty!

How can I breathe? How am I supposed to get ahead of the currents of guilt?  Every conversation, every argument reminds me that my life is my doing, my fault, my debts, my health, mine, mine, mine.  And as I think this, one more wave pounds me, forcing me under.  This has made me selfish and it has made others suffer.  I am the one in pain, but I do not suffer alone.  My family suffers for me.  My soon-to-be ex suffered for me and when he could suffer no more, he placed all the blame on me and walked out the door, never to look back.

I can’t get through a day without being pulled under, without seeing the pain my disability has caused. In the same way my body screams at night from having sat too long, stood too long, moved too much, my mind is screaming with guilt that it is all my fault…and so I go with it.  I stop swimming with the current, feel myself get sucked under…but damned if I don’t fight to get back to the surface.  Why?  Why don’t I just give up?  If I knew why I fight when I desire nothing more than to quit, I would know why I am still here.

And so, every day I am struck with guilt, I fight to breathe and I swim against the current, however futile it may be.  I hope to be free of this one day.  I hope to understand what peace of mind is. I hope to finally take a breath of air.

Photo courtesy of  Wendell via Compfight

Chronic Pain and Guilt

Tracy Rydzy MSW, LSW

My name is Tracy and I am a licensed social worker. I was working as a Social Worker, when an emergency spinal surgery 2 years ago changed my life and my career. I live with chronic pain and, as a result, I have taken my social work and writing skills, and made them into this blog. This blog is a humorous, informative, no-holds barred honest look at life with chronic pain, depression and disability.”

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APA Reference
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Chronic Pain and Guilt. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Aug 2013
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