Of all of the many symptoms of Hashimoto’s, many people are surprised to discover that the symptom hardest to cope with is guilt. That’s because a chronic illness like Hashimoto’s typically affects not just the individual, but also the people around them. A day of peak fatigue can mean being unable to play with your children. Brain fog can make it difficult to deliver on professional obligations, if you can work at all. Digestive issues and pain can mean repeatedly bowing out of social events. You’re not the parent, partner, friend, or colleague you once were — or the one you’d really like to be.
Intellectually you know there’s nothing you did to cause your disease and that you’re dealing wit a real illness, but emotionally it’s easy to get knocked down by thoughts of all the things you can’t do anymore thanks to Hashimoto’s and questions about whether you could be doing more. And so you wonder in secret whether you could have done something, anything, to prevent autoimmunity from becoming a part of your life and whether all those people in your life who are sticking by you are wasting their time.
That line of thinking can easy lead you down a path of depression, anxiety, shame and — unfortunately — more sickness. Ruminating on what’s negative in your life can actually stress you adrenals, which in turn can make Hashimoto’s symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, sugar cravings, headaches, and tummy troubles worse! It’s a cycle a lot of us find ourselves in but fortunately it’s also one we can beat.
Here are four tips for letting go of guilt so you can pursue healing on your own schedule:
When guilty thoughts pop into your head, counteract them with grateful ones. Jot down what you’re grateful for in a journal. Yes, you’re coping with a serious autoimmune condition, but you probably have people in your life who care for you. What else is there to be grateful for? There is so much good information about Hashimoto’s online now. Maybe it’s a beautiful day. Or you have a pet who gives you comfort. Autoimmunity can feel like a Big B burden so find lots of little things that help you stay grounded.
Try something new as you journey back toward wellness. Going gluten free helps many people with Hashimoto’s feel better but maybe you’ve avoided trying it because it doesn’t work for everyone. It can’t hurt, though, so why not commit to it for a month? Or try AIP or go Paleo or throw out the toxic products in your house and replace them with natural versions. Just trying something new, even if it doesn’t work for you, will help you feel more in control of your situation.
Practice mindfulness and label negative thoughts and feelings. It’s all too easy to get locked into a shame spiral without even realizing what it is you’re truly thinking and feeling. So when you feel anxious, step back and analyze those feelings. What exactly are you feeling? What’s causing those feelings? Is there anything you can do to fix something right now? If not, are those feelings productive?
Find new ways to bond with the people you care about. If you’ve felt guilty about not spending enough time with your kids, find low-impact ways to have fun. Have a family movie night (or afternoon) a few times a week. Big kids can read you a story. Little ones will be happy to have a snuggle. Maybe you and your partner used to love going on long walks but that’s not happening right now. Can you go on long, scenic drives instead? There are plenty of wonderful ways to bond with others that don’t require a ton of physical or mental energy.
Letting go of guilt when you’re dealing with Hashimoto’s disease is so important for not only the physical reasons mentioned above, but also because you deserve quality of life!
You may not have energy to spare but that doesn’t mean that you’re worthless or that you’re letting the people in your life down. You have value, whether you’re sick or whether you’re well, and you should never feel guilty for needing to focus on simply caring for yourself at this point in your life. The people who love you most and who respect who you are as a person? Aren’t worrying about whether you’re letting them down… they see you need help and they’re going to do everything they can to make sure they don’t let you down.