I have been told lately that I say sorry too much.
My husband says this, my mother says this, even my pain dr says it. My heart tells me that maybe I should listen. My inner doubter says “how?” Certain concepts like trying to worry less or quit apologizing seem really impossible to me sometimes.
I have always been quick to apologize. I will apologize when I do something wrong. I will apologize when you spill something and curse loudly. I will apologize if I think you are mad at me but before you have actually said whether you are or not (even if I might also be mad at you). I will apologize to the universe when my pain is terrible and I feel like I am somehow being punished for past transgressions. Apologizing is something that I have realized is a part of how I can interact with the world.
Why do I feel like I need to continually apologize?
I know growing up I had the tendency to quickly apologize for things I did or didn’t do. I think it was amplified by my anorexia where I literally existed either as one huge apology or one giant f*** you. The first time I ever made myself purge it was because I thought I had been mean to a friend. Whether I had or not wasn’t the point, I had to be punished for my perceived failure. I began to feel terrible for taking up too much space as many people with eating disorders do and felt the need to shrink myself as small as possible. If there was less of me surely the world would be a better place. If I was just bones and muscles and ligaments then maybe I wouldn’t be such a terrible person. Equally frustrating was the ability to not stop starving myself which then brought on many more sorrys that my parents heard month after month without any actions that showed my desire to actually change.
Ever since becoming chronically ill I know I have apologized more because I NEED more help. Days where I felt too sick to drive meant someone else had to do it. Days where Sean had to help me shower or get dressed because my joint pain was so intense that I had trouble moving my arms and legs. Days where I had to cancel clients because I couldn’t get out of bed. Days where I canceled hanging out with a friend I had canceled on at two times before. I wore my illness in shame because I hated being reliant on others while also beating myself up relentlessly for perhaps being perceived as being “flakey”.
The silver lining was always the days where I didn’t need anyone’s help and could somehow get through an 8 hour work day. Those days always boosted my spirits and somehow softened the blow of the “sorry days” Being independent means a great deal to me and so I held those days of “being able” tightly against my chest.
The apologizing has gotten abundantly worse since the beginning of this year when I lost the ability to walk normally and became incredibly debilitated. (I am still really hesitant at using the word disabled although talking with my home nurse he said blankly “well you pretty much are”…another blog topic perhaps). I have become really “needy” of others in that I absolutely NEED help with the most mundane of things. So many years I took going downstairs for a drink of water for granted. How simple getting into the shower used to be. Thousands of walks and drives that seemed effortless now seem like a marathon or are just simply NOT possible.
I think Sean would be glad to never again hear the words “Hey Sean could you bring up xxx when you get a chance..” in a voice that is trying to desperately to not sound pitiful. When he brings up whatever item I asked for, I immediately go into thank you thank you mode with a side of I’m really sorry you had to come up here. Im not sure what is more annoying, going up and down the stairs multiple times a day or having to hear say sorry one more time.
I think I use sorry to somehow take some control over the situation when really I don’t have ANY control over what my body does or doesn’t. If I say I’m sorry because you have to drive me to a dr appointment that’s an hour away, its like I am taking ownership of all my limitations as well as buffering any complaining that may come from someone else having to take time out of their day for me. Complaining that rarely happens but that I am constanly on edge waiting for. I think I worry too much (me…never!) that people think I am taking advantage of them or that I am not trying hard enough. I worry that I am annoying or a drain on someone else’s well being.
I am unable to make myself walk or drive or work or bound up & down stairs but I must somehow assert ownership and apologize for my body’s many weaknesses.
I also wonder if some of this apologizing is a warped way to show appreciation to others. I am always eager to say thank you to anyone who helps me. Anyone who opens the door for me to wheel through, helps me get in the car, or brings me an item I can’t walk to get. I want to shower people with my appreciation that they take the time to help me. Maybe it always followed by a sorry because I want them to know that I “know” I am a burden. Even when people reassure me that I am not.
As of late I am trying my best to put myself in situations where I can do more for myself.
Most of my days have been spent upstairs laying in our bed so I can lay straight with good back support. There’s beautiful light, a tv for netflix, and lots of books by my bedside. The issue is that Sean constantly has to come upstairs because it hurts to lay on the couch and the bed over the past few years has become my go to spot when I feel terrible. I finally decided to trade my beautiful lighted room for the ability to take care of myself more. I have begun to lay downstairs during the day in the guest room so I am able to easily access the kitchen and get water and food without having to ask. It is worth some extra discomfort at this point if I can exert more autonomy for myself. Sean occasionally still has to get me stuff when I forget something upstairs but it has been a lot less stressful for him. Less sorry saying and more trying to do things on my own.
I am also more a “part of things” being downstairs. I can hear Sean listening to jazz at this very moment as he packs. I can see the kids across the street playing instead of just hearing them. I can feel less like a visitor and more like a person who belongs here.
I will say that in working a spiritual program there are needs for apologies but there is a stark difference between saying sorry and making amends. I have made some amends already to people I hurt and will do many more when my spiritual journey brings me to that point. These apologies go far beyond apologizing for my existence and instead are heartfelt recognitions of how I have treated people in the past. I don’t need to hear “I forgive you” as that’s not what amends are about.
Maybe somehow I can find a way to say sorry when it really really matters and less so because I am sorry I exist.
What do you apologize over?