‘I Apologize Too Much! Sorry for That’

Colleen Steele avatar

by Colleen Steele |

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I think people in the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community tend to apologize too much. We are so good at it, and we often say we are sorry when it isn’t necessary or even appropriate.

It’s a topic we have fumbled with often in the Pulmonary Hypertension News Forums. A popular question is, “Why do I always feel the need to apologize for being sick?”

The responses speak volumes. Feelings of guilt are a common denominator within this rare disease community, and probably among many others.

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PH patients have expressed feeling sorry when they don’t feel well and must cancel plans. They have apologized for not having the energy to tackle responsibilities. They have felt ashamed for feeling exhausted and needing a nap.

In a recent column titled, “I Need to Stop Apologizing for My Body and Start Connecting to It,” Brittany Foster tackles her own heartbreaking struggle to stop apologizing for her pacemaker, port, and scars, and to focus more on how they have helped to keep her alive. It’s a relatable topic for many.

Insecure, for sure

Some efforts to explain chronic apologizers cite insecurity as the main reason some people always feel sorry. It’s hard to argue with that. If anything can make a person feel insecure, it would be a chronic illness.

My son Cullen fought PH for many years and eventually received a heart and double-lung transplant. Throughout both of his journeys, I have been his caregiver, and I know we can struggle with feeling sorry as much as patients do.

When Cullen transitioned from pediatric to adult care, I said sorry for everything, mainly because I felt insecure in my role as a caregiver to an adult.

I felt self-conscious staying with Cullen the first time he was hospitalized under the care of his new medical team. I wondered how much advocating would now be considered too much. I included “I’m sorry” in almost every question, reaction, and response. At the same time, I pressured myself to prove that I was still needed, so I apologized when I fell asleep late at night. I said “I’m sorry” so many times, the nurse finally asked me to stop.

Sorry, but it’s more than insecurity

I don’t think insecurity is the only reason PH patients and their caregivers feel the need to apologize. I think we apologize so much because we are so overwhelmed with gratitude.

Both patients and caregivers rely on doctors and nurses. We are so grateful for their thorough and compassionate care that we often feel sorry when we need more from them.

For example, I’ve often caught myself saying “I’m sorry” before asking them to repeat something or explain something further. I have also not wanted to give the impression that I don’t trust them, so I have apologized before sharing my concerns about a diagnosis, treatment, or procedure.

Sorry to me, sorry to you

Patients and caregivers also tend to apologize to each other. Patients feel sorry when they consistently need to ask for help. In the midst of a bad health day, they can feel remorse for thinking they appear ungrateful toward their caregivers.

My son has apologized for waking me up early or keeping me up late, and for arguing with me out of frustration over feeling helpless. In many ways, he has basically said sorry for being sick.

My response to him has always emphatically been that, among all the things he is feeling, sorry does not need to be one of them. Apologizing to a caregiver for asking them to care is as ludicrous as a patient saying sorry for being sick.

Cullen has reminded me many times that I don’t owe him any apologies, either. I am human, too, which means I will make mistakes, go through many emotions, and have to take care of my own needs that require time away from him.

Most importantly, Cullen reminds me it’s not my fault he had PH or needed a transplant. As his caregiver and his mother, the first thing I always want to say when he isn’t feeling well is, “I’m sorry.” I feel sorry that I couldn’t cure his PH or heal his physical or emotional pain.

Like any addiction, it takes awareness and willpower to control the urge to say you’re sorry. I’m trying to limit how much apologizing I do every day.

I’m sorry for saying I’m sorry!

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Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

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