The Blame Game: Yourself
Having a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis can seem extremely unfair. For many fighting this disease, there is a natural tendency to want to assign blame. I think we’ve probably all done it at some point. I know I sure have. Like many people who live with a disease like this, one of my primary targets when assigning blame is none other than myself. What did I do wrong? How did I cause this? I must deserve it. Even though I know better, I still find myself guilty of this. Which is why I’m here to remind both you and me, that when it comes to the blame game, you can’t look at yourself.
Was I unhealthy?
It’s easy to think back and try to figure out why this happened to us. One common train of thought for people is wondering if they weren’t being healthy enough, maybe not taking good enough care of their body. This isn’t one I worry about (I was in the best shape of my life when I was diagnosed), but it is extremely common among people that I talk to about this issue. Many people worry that they did something that caused MS, or rather, they didn’t do something to prevent it. Maybe if they’d exercised more or taken a different vitamin, then maybe they would never have gotten this disease. If you were extremely reckless with your body, like smoking, or were otherwise extremely unhealthy, perhaps then you’d have some traction in this argument. Even still, there are plenty of people that are in perfect health that eventually get diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. So chances are, you didn’t do anything to cause this and you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. So stop blaming yourself.
Do I deserve this?
This is the line of thinking that always keeps me up at night. Should I blame myself because I somehow deserve to have this disease? The odd thing for me, is that I don’t believe in a god or any higher power. So, while many people will ask this question of themselves and feel like they’ve been stricken down because of their actions, I tend to start thinking that my actions didn’t cause it, but now that it’s randomly happened, maybe it’s fitting. Whether you think a higher power did this to you or you simply think you deserve it, you need to stop doing this. No good can come from that line of thinking. While having MS feels like you are being punished, that’s simply not the case. Nothing you did caused this, and most likely, nothing you did deserves this.
Wanting to assign blame seems natural; researchers are still searching for answers when it comes to the cause of MS, so we have nothing to point to. I get it, many people have anger about their disease and need somewhere to focus it. That can be especially damaging if you focus that anger on yourself. To fight this disease, you need to have your head in the game. If you are angry and blaming yourself, you’re apt to not take care of yourself correctly. Maybe you stop your disease-modifying drug or skip your rehab appointments because you think you deserve it. Those kind of actions will worsen your disease (and then you actually can blame yourself). Pent up anger about your disease can be harmful. It’s a big reason why people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness should absolutely talk to a professional therapist. Seek out a mental health professional and discuss your feelings before they cause you harm. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is traumatic and should be treated as such from a mental health perspective.
A word about friends and family
Everything I’ve said here goes for the friends and family of those with MS as well. I know many a parent and sibling who blame themselves for their loved one’s disease. That’s just as foolish as anyone with the disease blaming themselves. It’s not your fault, it’s no one's fault. Friends and family with a loved one who has been diagnosed should also consider talking to someone with experience in this area. Survivor’s guilt is a very real issue and one that should be explored with a mental health professional. Always remember, it’s not your fault either.
Thanks for reading!
Does your employer provide workplace accommodations due to your MS?