10 Ways To Let Go Of Guilt When Coping With Chronic Pain

10 Ways to Let Go of Guilt When Coping With Chronic Pain

Coping with chronic pain is challenging! But that isn’t the only challenge that those of us in pain face.

Often many of us coping with chronic pain struggle with the burden of guilt, which has a major impact on both our physical and mental health.

Being in constant pain causes so much stress and triggers so many emotions. We try to tell ourselves that everything we’re doing or not doing is okay.

But one way or another we end up on a guilt trip and feel like a burden and like we’re not doing enough.


woman with no shirt on under covers lying in bed

Carrying around such a heavy burden is exhausting!

Guilt is the last thing we should add to the long list of energy zappers that already consume our lives due to chronic pain.

Our energy is precious and often scarce, which is why should do whatever we can to preserve it.

Constantly riding the wave of guilt is a waste of energy. Imagine how much we could preserve if we stopped giving it so much power.

woman lying on bed

Now I know it’s not that easy, and it takes some time and work.

Guilt is a heavy emotion which makes it so much more difficult to stop ourselves from experiencing it.


Guilt is usually a reaction to not living up to our own expectations or a reaction to doing something wrong.

The most common cause of guilt for those coping with chronic pain usually comes from the things we can’t do and feeling like we are letting others down.

“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.” Veronica Roth, Insurgent

It can be something as small as not being able to do chores that trigger the guilt cloud, you might relate to this, or maybe some of the following reasons for your guilt.

  • Feeling like a burden because you have to rely on others – emotionally, physically and financially.
  • Feeling guilty and inadequate because you can’t go to work and earn money to support yourself and/or your family.
  • If you can work, feeling like a slacker because you have little energy to put your all in or because brain fog causes you to forget things. Or you may feel that you’re constantly letting your colleagues down because you have to take sick leave more often.
  • You’re constantly exhausted and have to rest often, which along with being in pain makes it impossible to exercise; which makes you feel guilty because you have the desire to but can’t.
  • You can be snappy or easily irritated when you’re in pain.
  • You don’t keep in touch with people as much and feel unreliable when you have to cancel plans due to chronic pain being so unpredictable.
  • Feeling selfish because you have to put your health first.

But carrying around these feelings isn’t healthy, holding on to guilt for too long can take over, causing us to feel more stressed and ultimately make our pain worse.

That’s why it’s important to retrain your brain to stop feeling guilty. Which starts with self-reflection and getting to the root of why you feel that way.

ask yourself…

  1. Why do I feel guilty?
  2. How does guilt affect my pain and mental health?
  3. Who is making me feel guilty?

Being able to self-reflect and acknowledge your thought patterns and why you feel guilty about your pain will allow you to take action and effectively cope with the feelings of guilt in a healthy way.

If you need some more tips regarding guilt, check out this amazing post by Life Hack, its really informative and has some great tips!


heart drawn on window

Upon self-reflection I noticed one key thing – the main person making me feel guilty was ME!

And upon reflection of your own feelings and thought patterns, I’m sure you’ll relate.

That’s why I had to make a change.

Although I don’t think guilt is a feeling you can completely rid yourself of, it’s important to change our mindset and stop giving it so much power.


pink and white flowers under blue sky

Being in constant pain isn’t our choice, so why should we feel guilty about it? – we shouldn’t!

We didn’t ask for a high dose of constant pain to consume our lives. No one should have to feel guilty about any pain or illness that they have, period!

Feeling guilty about living with chronic pain or any chronic illness is way more common than it should be. That’s why it starts with us to change our mindset and start developing healthy habits.

pink and white flowers

We have so much to contend with every day as chronic pain suffers, we have no room to add yet another thing. Let’s preserve our energy.

Here are 10 things to help you retrain your brain and cope with guilt in a healthier way.

Dealing With Chronic Pain - How to stop feeling guilty about your pain

1. Be honest

For a long time, I was in denial about my pain. Which made me feel like I had to make excuses or even lie about it. Not only to my boss, friends and family but also myself.

I just didn’t want to accept that pain was now a part of my life. And somehow I thought making excuses and pretending it wasn’t there would make it disappear – boy was I wrong!

I would rather make excuses than be transparent about what I going through because I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.

I’ve always prided myself on being independent and I didn’t want the pain to take that away from me.

yellow daffodils in front of blue sky

But not being honest takes a toll on you!

Be honest with yourself and accept that being truthful about your pain doesn’t mean your weak, it means your human.

But be just as honest with those around you. If they truly care about you they will understand and if they don’t, that’s their problem, not yours.

2. Learn to say no

woman covering face with her hand

Being in pain means you may have to cancel plans or not do certain things and that’s okay.

Saying no, especially to people you care about is hard but look at the bigger picture.

Only you know how to best deal with your pain!

Not too long ago I was having a terrible flare up and couldn’t make a friend’s birthday event. I could immediately feel that feeling of guilt creeping in as she hit me with a million questions. But, before I allowed myself to feel guilty about it, I was firm and politely told her no.

brown paper with handwritten text saying no

Once upon a time, I would have made up some excuse to justify not going somewhere or not do something.

But, I no longer have the energy, and to be honest, I’ve probably run out of realistic excuses.

If you know that something will trigger your pain or you may feel bad, show yourself the care you deserve and sit it out.

Saying no is a reminder to yourself that you’re making the effort to practice some self-care and make your well-being a priority.

Honesty is the best policy, super cliche`, but true.

3. Visit your doctor or Counsellor

Living with chronic pain is an emotional rollercoaster which can trigger anxiety and depression, and constantly feeling guilty about your pain can also contribute.

It’s worth speaking about it with a doctor or counsellor. They can provide you with the right tools to manage the mental and emotional effects of coping with chronic pain.

4. celebrate your accomplishments

red and pink balloons in front of blue sky

Whether it’s washing the dishes, meeting a friend for dinner or taking a shower, be proud.

It’s easy to feel guilty about the things we can’t do because of chronic pain. So give yourself a pat on the back for achieving things that you might not be able to do every single day, no matter how small.

5. accept the pain

Accepting your pain/illness is hard, and it takes time.

But acceptance is the first step to freeing yourself and making a life suited to your circumstances.

Once you can accept your pain you will understand what works for you, what support you may need and what you can do to live a content life despite coping with chronic pain.

6. Ask for help

two women holding hands

You don’t have to go through everything alone. Living with chronic pain takes a toll on you mentally, physically and emotionally.

So why not reach out for help, to help you better manage your pain and all that comes with it?

people holding hands and holding coffee mugs

Whether it be professional help such as therapy or advice from someone you trust, reach out!

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, no matter your circumstances we all need help at some point or another.


Pace yourself by setting small goals for each day or week. Having something to work towards each day will give you a sense of accomplishment.

It could be something as small as loading the dishwasher or setting aside time to take an online course.

mug watch and planner besides notebook and pen on wooden surface

Break your goals down into small steps, using smaller steps helps you be more organized, confident, and in control of what you’re trying to accomplish.

But also remember that if you miss a goal for the day or week, you can always come back to it.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and give guilt any power to consume your mind.


“You tried to tell your story to people who didn't know how to listen.” - Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

Although I think it’s important, to be honest about your pain, it’s also just as important to accept that not everyone will understand.

I’ve been asked multiple times by so-called friends or even colleagues if the pain is “really that bad”?, or “am I always in pain?”, despite having explained a million times before.

And each time I felt the need to explain myself, even though most of the time it was falling on deaf ears.

It was draining, so I stopped explaining and accepted not everyone will understand or even try to.

If someone just doesn’t get it, that’s okay, it’s not your job to convince them or force them to understand.

green plant on wooden surface bedside photographs

Anyone who truly cares about you will try to understand and those that don’t, well, f**k em!

Don’t allow the ignorance of others to make you feel guilty or not worthy.

If you made an effort to help others understand your pain and they are not accepting of that, that may be a sign to keep them at arm’s length.

Having to explain what it’s like coping with chronic pain, all the time is mentally draining – preserve your energy and peace of mind.

9. self-compassion

person holding bouquet of flowers

Your pain is not self-inflicted nor is it your fault, remind yourself of that everyday.

The next time you start experiencing feelings of guilt, try and practice self-compassion instead.

Make it a part of your daily routine. Tell yourself, you’re strong, you’re worthy and you’re doing your best.

You can write it down every day in a journal, or you can tell yourself whilst you look in the mirror.

10. Have a good support system

women sitting on bed using macbooks

The company you keep is important, no matter what! Keep people around you that truly love, support and understand you.

As I previously mentioned, many of us coping with chronic pain experience guilt due to the fear of letting people down or disappointing them.

If those you have around you truly care, support and understand you and your pain, they will never intentionally make you feel guilty.

five women laughing

In the past 3 years, I’ve had to let go of a lot of people that I classed as friends and family. I was tired of them downplaying my pain or making me feel like a bad person because of it.

It was a hard thing to do but now the few I do have in my life are caring, supportive and pretty much my rocks! – (Shout out to Mum and CK).

This may sound harsh, but if you have anyone around you that constantly makes you feel guilty about your pain, let them go.

I know how hard that may be particularly if it’s someone you’ve been close to for a long time but, if they are constantly making you feel like crap, they don’t deserve to be around.


Chronic pain isn’t something anyone should feel ashamed or guilty about!

If you feel guilty about your pain, I hope its something you will be able to overcome and hopefully these tips are helpful to you.

Have you been struggling with feeling guilty about your pain? What are some things you do to stop yourself from feeling guilty?

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Dealing With Chronic Pain - How to stop feeling guilty about your pain

2 thoughts on “10 Ways To Let Go Of Guilt When Coping With Chronic Pain”

  1. “Only you know how to best deal with your pain!”
    Best line of the whole article. It’s so hard when people think they know better about what you can handle. Thanks so much for this post, there’s so many people out there who need this (myself included).

    1. thechronicdiary

      Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post! And I could not agree more, as much as it may be coming from a good place, the constant “advice” and people assuming they know your pain better than you is annoying AF!

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