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Two women face each other, one looking particularly distressed and gesticulating toward a creepy grinning red figure floating in the background to her right.

Guilt Trips

Hepatitis C, or other chronic illnesses, can be a journey. A guilt trip, on the other hand, is not so much a journey, but most of us experience some guilt along the way. Whether incoming or inward, guilt is not such a great motivator as some practitioners of guilt might believe, at least in my view.

Guilting others… and ourselves

Some of us carry guilt over past deeds or perceived “bad” acts, and some even carry a burden of guilt about their hep C status. In addressing self-guilt, which may be the result of what others have said or societal values and misconceptions, some people adopt these feelings as part of who they see in themselves. We have all heard the words and some of us have used them to describe others, and ourselves; Words like “loser”, “lazy”, “stupid”, and “crazy” are in the language too commonly used, despite how destructive they can be in the context of how we describe others and ourselves.

“It’s my fault”

Whether or not somebody else wants us to feel guilty, most of the time, we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t feel shame either. With hep C, there is far too much of this guilt and shame rubbish. Hepatitis C is one of many conditions that can trigger this guilt trip. In the end, we should send guilt packing, as the saying goes. At its core, the message is that “hep C is our fault”… that “we are to blame”. Ultimately, the assignment of blame is an old trick or practice, which is used to control or diminish the recipient. Not a favorite of mine, to say the least, and certainly does not contribute to the comfort and wellness of anyone.

Should we feel guilty?

Shall we take a guilt trip with hep c? In my view: NO! Like I mentioned, guilt is used as a weapon by some, while others see it as a motivator. In the end, neither speak to me as being a positive way of achieving a good result. We have all experienced some form of guilt about things we may have said or done, and I am no exception. Do I regret the poor decisions I made, of course. But is it positive to live in that place over time? No, it sure isn’t, and none of us should carry that burden of guilt on our hep C journey.

How to respond to shame & guilt

We do have free will and choice, and if someone is giving you a guilt trip over having hep C, and it causes you any grief, tell them so. If possible, tell them in a way that does not feed any inadvertency or purposed desire to offend or hurt. It is not easy, there is no doubt, but if we can calmly respond in a way that disarms, we may find it is their own pain that causes them to lash out or lay a guilt trip on you.

When dealing with shame or guilt, see it as a potential teaching and learning opportunity. It is not always easy in the moment, but could you leave it and come back to it later? Confronting misconceptions and stigma may lead to an understanding on their part that they never had, and if they are persistent in their shame and guilt tripping, it may be time to avoid being around them all together (but this is your choice). If possible, try not to let others define who you are with their guilt trips. This is a journey, and why should it be made any more difficult?!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Tash
    6 months ago

    I just needed to say that I absolutely love your articles. They always hit exactly how I do feel or have felt throughout my years of having hep c & all the years even after being cured. I wish these articles would’ve existed especially when I was living with hep c so I could’ve seen that what I was going through physically & especially mentally because there was some to help me understand what I was feeling physically was normal, but there wasn’t really that many that talked about all the things I dealt with mentally. I had a lot of guilt even though most of the time I had no idea what there was to even feel guilty about, then there were people who went out of their way to make me feel guilty just like a lot of things you mentioned in your article. When you used “lazy” as one example, that one really hit me hard because I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve had that word specifically thrown in my face both during having hep c & when I was cured to present day. People never could, or maybe even refused, to understand what I was going through & what hep c had done to me physically. I had a lot of energy before I was ever infected hep c, but I actually went to a doctor to get tested because of the insane tiredness I was suffering & I was starting to wonder if maybe I was infected with the virus. I prayed that the test would come back negative, but I knew in my heart that a positive result would explain what was happening to me since my abusive ex boyfriend was secretly using drugs with someone that I knew had hep c & she was actually the one who decided to reach out to me letting me know my boyfriend at the time was cheating on me & using drugs with her. Of course my ex had made me feel like it was my fault when the test came back positive even though after a lot of research I learned it was possible to get infected through sex, especially rough sex, & I knew it most likely happened one night when I didn’t want to & he.. aggressively did anyways. I’ve never spoken of that fact ever in my life until right now, but I went through a lot mental & emotional turmoil to finally understand one day that there was nothing I did wrong & his attempts to place blame & guilt on me ended from that point on. I believe in the end that I am a stronger person now because I know with all my heart & soul there is nothing I needed to feel guilty about & instead there is a lot to be proud of as crazy as that may sound to some. I overcame not just fighting to cure myself of hep c, but also to leave a toxic relationship & no longer let anyone try making me feel guilty about what had happened to me. I learned to stand up for myself against anyone who tries putting me down for once having hep c or challenging that being cured means I can’t infect anyone period or even having people try saying that it’s impossible to get hep c through sex & that I MUST be a drug addict to get hep c, but most importantly I’ve learned to be proud of my story & not being afraid to tell people yes I used to have hep c, yes I did get it through sex, yes I fought with everything I had to get myself cured, yes being cured means I can’t infect anyone because I do not have hep c anymore, yes I remain as active as I can with the hepatitis community because I believe EVERYONE effected by hepatitis should be able to experience & get the cure like I did & it shouldn’t matter how the person was infected or what their story is because I feel like having to live with hepatitis is enough “punishment” alone & there is absolutely no reason a person should have to add guilt, whether on themselves or from someone trying to put it on them, to their plate.. which is exactly why I believe articles like this are so important.
    I honestly apologize for how long this ended up being, I didn’t intend to get so passionate about everything lol

  • Daryl Luster author
    6 months ago

    Tash, there is no need to apologize for the length or passion in your words. I am glad my words connected with you, and with some differences, your story is familiar to many of us who have lived with hep c. I am uplifted that you came to realize you have and never did have anything at all to feel guilty or shame about. That place of empowerment is life-changing and I can hear it in your words. It is what gave me the strength to stand proudly and say I had hep c. The narrative around hep c is slowly changing, and it is people like you who are helping to see that change. The more we are able to inform and remove the cloud of ignorance and myth that surround hep c, the better it will be for all those who came after us. Thank you for sharing with me and others, you are making a difference in the road for others.

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