COPD journey: Overcoming Guilt & Shame

COPD journey: Overcoming Guilt & Shame

You might feel that COPD has taken a lot away from you and that your life—as you knew it—is gone. So, what can you do about feelings that are getting in the way of you having your best possible life with COPD?

In this series of blogposts, we look at seven common emotions found in life with COPD and find pathways to help you begin to work through them—then go forward with confidence and peace of mind.

Emotional issue #3: Guilt and Shame

If you are a former or current smoker you might say: “I did this to myself by smoking. I can’t expect anybody else to help me. I deserve what I get.”

Having a progressive, currently incurable lung disease is a lot to cope with in the first place. But if you add in feelings of guilt and shame that you’ve brought this on yourself…that’s a whole lot to deal with!

So, is it possible to make peace with yourself if some choices you may have made in the past have led, in part, to your COPD? To answer that question, here’s another question… Have you ever noticed that some people seem to cope emotionally with COPD much better than others? Why is that? Could it be that they’ve found a way to stop being angry with themselves, and made their way past the rage that often comes as part of living with COPD?


Jo-Von Tucker, a wise lady with COPD, said, “It’s interesting that the language of disease is a language of combat. We battle cancer, fight infections, conquer our fears. Disease is an enemy to be fought, and chronic disease is an enemy that is ever present, threatening us with chaos at any time.

Thinking of COPD and all that it involves leads us to feel like we have to resist. After all, it has a profound impact on our emotional health, self-image, relationships, and overall outlook on life. And our struggle with it can cause us to feel like we’ve lost control of not only our breathing, but our lives. It isn’t easy to make peace with COPD. It’s a constant presence in the lives of those of us who live with it.”

But maybe you can help avoid fighting mode by simply accepting the fact that you are a former smoker and always will be. Look at it this way—you weren’t the first person to make some less-than-great life choices, you certainly won’t be the last, and you’re not alone! In fact, if you started smoking before 1964, you probably didn’t even know that it could be harmful to your health.


But do you know what? What’s in the past is in the past. And you can put those feelings of guilt and shame behind you once and for all by forgiving yourself. It’s okay to forgive ourselves. It really is.

Jo-Von said, “It isn’t easy, but we can live in peace with COPD by having the grace of acceptance, and the determination to seek improvement. No doubt there will be days when we don’t make the right choices. But we’ll learn from our mistakes, we’ll learn from others, and we will keep on trying.”

So, my friends, don’t spend a lot of time looking through that little rear-view mirror, looking at what’s in the past. Instead, look straight ahead through that great big windshield. Forgive yourself for the choices you may have made in the past, make good choices now, and do your best from here on in. You can do it. You really can.


Copyright ©2023 Jane M. Martin

This series of blogposts is based on the “Take Back Your Life” Framework and the “Take Back Your Life” Framework Companion Guide, Pathways to Helping You Live Your Best Life with COPD and Live Your Life with COPD – 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness, and Hope by Jane M. Martin, BA, CRT.   Discount code: LYLPEPBuddy10

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