Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bitterness, Resentment, and Forgiveness

With all that's been going on with my son's worsened medical problems, plus all the usual challenges of my own, things have been tough for me lately. I have been feeling even more overwhelmed than usual, my to-do list packed with medically-related urgencies (call doctor #1, fax doctor #2, e- mail doctor #3, order supplements, refill prescriptions, pay bills, etc., etc.). In addition, at this time of year, I am usually planning and looking forward to some fun vacations for our family - spring break, a 3-week summer road trip, a few camping weekends - but I realized that this year, between my younger son's soccer and school schedules and my older son needing to take a class during summer session (and none of their school breaks matching up), we don't have a single full weekend when the four of us can be together until mid-July....and then we will only have about two weeks when there is nothing else scheduled. It was a depressing and frustrating realization.

Feeling so overwhelmed and with no breaks to look forward to really pushed me past my limits. I was talking to a family member, hoping for some empathy, and instead I got some breezy throw-away advice, including "been there, done that." These interactions just added to my stress and sent me over the edge. I got so angry and fed up...and of course, those negative emotions only made me sicker. It's a vicious cycle.

I've written here before about the challenges of helping friends and family to understand the bizarre world of chronic illness that we live in, a world where every moment of every day is ruled by The Illness and where positive-thinking aphorisms often just don't apply. I know I am fortunate. My immediate family - my husband and my two sons - of course understand because they are living with the very same restrictions and limits (mine as well as some of their own). And my closest friends who live locally also understand - some of them are dealing with their own health issues (with themselves or their kids) and others are just wonderfully compassionate people who have spent enough time with me to "get it."

The bigger challenge lies with my extended family, none of whom live in the local area. They only see us a few times a year, so they don't understand the daily restrictions and limits that rule our lives. They see us for a couple of days when we are pushing ourselves to keep up and enjoy our time with them and don't see the resulting crash afterward. I wrote a bit about this in my post, The Invisible Illness. I thought that after 12 years of my living with chronic illness, they at least understood to some degree. But they don't. They think that my life, as a wife and mother with two teens, is the same as their lives are/were. Sometimes, they think I have it easier because I "don't have to work."

Most of the time, I try to make the best of the limited times that I spend with my family, ignore the minor misunderstandings, and maintain good relationships with my family members. Early on in my illness, I went through some very difficult times with my family, as I explained in this post on family. Many of my family members struggled with denial at that point, and things got bad and really hit bottom. It's better now (with most of them), and I decided that having relationships with my family was very important to me. All I need to do is think of one of my oldest friends, who lost her mom to cancer when we were just teens who once said to me when I was complaining about my mother, "I would love to have my mom around to drive me crazy." She's right, and I try to remember that and keep things in perspective.

I also know that negative emotions like anger, bitterness, and resentment not only eat away at me - like they do with anyone - but also make me much sicker. I've seen that effect first-hand many times, including this week. Re-reading this blog post about misunderstandings and misperceptions helps - it reminds me that sometimes the problem is mine, not theirs, and that I need to be careful not to jump to conclusions. I know all that rationally but sometimes my emotions still get the best of me.

So, I try hard to let go of bitterness and resentment, and I try to remember how much my family means to me. But sometimes, like earlier this week, it's just so hard to do. I've also noticed that I tend to be hardest on the people I love the most. Feelings of resentment tend to spring up most with my husband and my mother - the two adults I love most in the world. Why is it that we are able to be so much more forgiving and understanding with casual acquaintances and we expect so much more from those closest to us?

I know I need to learn better how to let go of resentments and how to forgive and forget, but I don't know how to get better at those things! If anyone out there knows of any good books or other resources on these topics, I would love to hear about them.


17 comments:

  1. This may not be helpful but I feel the same. Those feelings hurt me worse than others, at the same time it's really hard not to let them get to me….esp. because I feel vulnerable already with low self-confidence due to my limited life. I found a few of Toni's ideas really helpful. I use a few of the sayings almost like mantras…infact this post makes me want to read the book again.

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    1. Funny you should say that because on the way to pick up my son from school today, I was still stewing over all this stuff (and admonishing myself to forget it and move on!), when I thought, "I should go back to Toni's book - I bet she has something helpful about all this!" So, I guess I will do that - thanks for the reminder :)

      Sue

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  2. Anonymous5:01 PM

    New post from Toni helped me today too
    Ann

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    1. I haven;t read that one yet - will check it out. Thanks!

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  3. I don't have any suggestions but wow, I could have written this post! This has been me this week. I've been doing fairly well all winter until this week...but the emotions you've expressed, along with the resentment to those around me that don't seem to get it, has been very overwhelming to me. I am wondering if it's the time of year? I'm not sure but know so many in my CFS/ME community seem to be experiencing the same.

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    1. Thanks - sometimes it helps just to know you are not alone in battling these conflicting feelings!

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  4. Anonymous3:21 AM

    you are onto it - i have been mostly confined to bed and lying down for over 6 years (including one livable year where i was able to go out a couple times a week, for 60-90min (dinner)) - anyway - YES i have found that letting go of a lot of resentments/ unforgivenesses HAS HELPED immensely in recovery - leads to less anxiousness, improved sleep (could it get any worse), a tad more relaxed - so - these PODCASTS help me (reading tires me):

    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/joycemeyer/SFiE/~5/9yt3s_kWUkE/JMM_December_31_2013.mp3

    http://cdn.rickwarren.org/broadcast-mp3-podcast/10-30-2013_DailyHope_growing-in-the-seasons-of-life_broadcast_understanding-the-seasons-of-life_pt-1.mp3

    there are heaps of other titles, so pick from the list,
    i don't know if they suit you or not. i didn't particularly like the speakers themselves at first - but - with me/cfs, you get desperate.

    sorry anonymous, i am lo-tech and couldn't log in to google
    take care eh.

    i was sick for 4 years before even recognising i was embittered and poisoned. good to know now!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and also fr the podcast links - I will definitely check those out!

      Sue

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  5. This isn't about resentment and forgiveness - but your first paragraph strongly brought to mind this poem, which has brought me great comfort during a frustrating, discouraging winter:
    A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
    http://windling.typepad.com/blog/2014/02/john-odonohue.html

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    1. It's a lovely poem - thanks for sharing it!

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  6. The 'you don't have to work' thing really strikes a nerve with me! People so often think no matter how sick we may be, it's fabulous not to have to work. Sure, the lack of income, routine, social interaction and otherwise living the life with disease is *fabulous* - not! Anyhoo :-)

    I fight *every day* to find the positives and appreciate my blessings first before allowing the negative emotions in. Some days I do better with this than others. And everyone is entitled to a bad day, no apologies. I too know how the negatives, no matter how real and justified, only make disease and illness worse. That's why I fight so hard against it! And sometimes it's too exhausting, I'm too exhausted on many levels to do so and I have my bad day. And that's okay. I had one yesterday in fact. I have to have a biopsy on Monday to determine whether or not I have cervical cancer (or hpv) and I have been struggling more than usual with my fight to find the positives - I've been through so much! And I truly do appreciate my blessings and have many and I'm not ready... Anyhoo.

    I'm not sure if it makes you feel better or not, but you are truly not alone in this!

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    1. Thanks, Jo! It does help to know I'm not alone!

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  7. Hello Sue:
    Thank you for this lovely post. I also live with chronic illness. Some people really get it, some try but still not really get it, and others don't get it at all. I love that you are working on how you feel and react to those who may not get it. I applaud you!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Amy! It is always surprising to me to find how many other people are also living with chronic illness. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Sue

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  8. We all have moments when we're dealing with chronic illnesses to hit our limit. We're allowed to freak out, stomp our feet, and scream a bit.

    What we can't do is stay there and it doesn't sound like you're staying there at all!!

    :hug:

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    1. Thanks, Sara! No, thankfully, I am usually quite positive and happy and content. Sometimes, it's just all too much - like you said, once in a while you just need to freak out, get it all out, and then start over at keeping it all together!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment -

      Sue

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  9. I'm so sorry your extended family is not understanding. As if having an invisible illness isn't difficult enough, It is even harder explaining it to others and having them understand with empathy and compassion. It is frustrating to have to even explain it in the first place, and why your family doesn't understand hurts more than the stranger you encounter.

    Thanks for sharing your honest post with us at Small Victories Sunday linky. Hope you share more with us next week from your fabulous blogs. Hoping too for more understanding and awareness from your family.

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