"It's my own fault." "I have no right to complain." "I brought this on myself." Do any of these feelings sound familiar? If so, you're not alone.
Many people with COPD have to live not only with the disease, but also with feelings of guilt. About 80% of the time, COPD is caused by smoking, and smokers with COPD often blame themselves for getting the disease. People with job exposure to chemicals and pollution (another cause of COPD) may feel guilt about the role their work played in their COPD.
These feelings of guilt can keep you from getting the help you need for your COPD. People with COPD guilt may avoid talking to their doctor about COPD because they are afraid of being judged and because they feel that they have no right to complain about their symptoms. They may also feel that they have to just accept COPD symptoms as part of the consequences of their actions, rather than getting treatment that could help. They may not feel that they deserve to get better.
In order to work through your feelings of guilt, the first step is to accept that these feelings are part of the process of dealing with a chronic illness like COPD. Here are a few things you can try to work through these feelings:
- Remember that you can only move forward, not backward. Forgive yourself for the things you feel guilty about in the past – there is no way to go back and change what has happened. Instead, focus on what you can do today to manage your COPD and improve your health.
- Talk with a trusted friend, family member or counsellor. Consider joining a COPD support group.
Turn the strong emotions connected to your guilt towards a positive end. You deserve to have your COPD properly treated. So don't let guilt stand in your way – use this strength of feeling to motivate you to talk to your doctor about finding an optimal treatment plan for your COPD.
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