Did I Cause My Disease?

It’s my fault. If it’s not my fault it has to be some-body’s. Maybe it’s genetic. You rack your brains searching for a family member who gave you the faulty genes. Are you just plain defective? Did your parents do drugs or drink or smoke? Were they exposed to radiation or toxic chemicals?

Maybe it’s something around you: pollution, genetically modified crops, pesticides, drinking water, fluoride, vaccinations, radiation, or the hole in the ozone layer.

You name it, you can blame it. There has to be a reason, and you won’t rest until you find it.

People will even try to blame you for your own illness. They can’t make sense out of why this happened to you. (You can’t make sense of it either.) If chronic ill-ness, or acute illness for that matter, happens randomly, then everyone is at risk. That’s terrifying! The immediate reaction is to lay blame somewhere, usually on the victim. So we are twice cursed. Blaming the victim is nothing new. The Old Testament story of Job is a perfect example. Job lost everything—possessions, family, livestock, and his health. Three friends came to console him. After sitting silently with Job for 1 week, they finally spoke. What did they say? Job must have done something to incur God’s wrath!

In the New Testament, there is the story of the man born blind. People ask Jesus who sinned: the man or his parents? Someone had to bear the blame for this man’s blindness. In recent times, a fundamentalist minister went so far as to publicly blame the residents of New Orleans for the devastation brought about by hurricane Katrina, saying that they deserved it! People have always tried to explain the inexplicable, usually by blaming someone.

You will probably blame yourself, too. You will look back over your life and find all the times you should have taken better care of yourself. You will recall all the health warnings and information that you ever read or heard on the news or from another person. If you had only known that your behavior would bring you to this end, you would have made different choices. Fill in the blank, “I should have_____.” There are as many answers as there are people who get sick.

Blame serves no useful purpose. When others blame the victim, they are not protected from what they fear most—becoming victims of illness themselves. Their self-righteousness does nothing to alleviate our suffering. Their judgments don’t console. Blaming ourselves doesn’t help, either. In fact, it is downright destructive. The time and energy you spend trying to figure out what you did wrong or berating yourself won’t change the fact that you are sick. That time and energy could be directed toward creating the best life possible. If an honest examination of your past reveals that you could have made better choices, resolve to do that right now. Dwelling in that past, however, robs you of the present. Dwelling in the past keeps you hopeless and help-less. When you look at the past, learn from it, and decide to live in the present moment, you become an empowered patient.