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I Need to Stop Apologizing for Being Ill

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I am sorry. I find myself saying this more and more frequently. And I think, “I am sorry” even more! I believe this may be similar for many with chronic illness.


I find myself saying, “I’m sorry I am ill” to my husband. I am seeing him becoming very stressed with the constancy of my illness and the pressure it puts on him to have to do so much. And I know he worries about me and my health. I can see him worrying about the future. This “I am sorry” is also indicative of the guilt I feel because he is now my carer. My chronic illness places such huge demands on him. This “I am sorry” is also about regret for the changes my illness has brought into our lives.

I say “I am sorry” to my doctor. I am at her surgery so often, this “I am sorry” is really about me believing I am a burden. My health issues demand lots of time from my doctor and other health professionals. This “I am sorry” is also a bit about not valuing myself, questioning whether I deserve this much attention.

I said “I am so sorry” to my niece today as I couldn’t go to her little boy’s baptism last week as I was ill. This “I am sorry” is actually about not being able to lead my life as I would wish. And it is also about letting people down.

On Friday, I said “I am sorry” to my friends. We had been sewing all morning and had shared a lovely lunch but I was exhausted and needed to ask them to go home earlier than usual so I could rest. This “I am sorry” is about my embarrassment and regret of my limitations due to my chronic illness.

Then there are the “I am sorry for myself” situations. I woke up yesterday and I was back in trouble with my breathing. I was hospitalized just three weeks ago. I found myself in tears at the prospect of having to go back to hospital. This was a projection of “worst case scenario” which didn’t eventuate. I also cried because I had no idea of why this was happening. I knew I had to have a very cautious day. I was also sad because everything was so effortful and the plans for the day had to be abandoned. I was sad. That’s what this “I am sorry” is really about. It is sadness for what life was and what life is now because of all the changes that have been imposed due to living daily with chronic illness.

Feeling sorry for myself is about the sadness of a situation over which I have so little control. There is struggling attached to chronic illness. It is relentless too. That’s what “chronic” means and what so many people just do not understand.

What is so weird about the “I am sorry” is that this yardstick is not applied to so many other things in life. Being sorry is meant to be used when I have made an error or mistake, or when I have behaved badly. It is taking responsibility for my actions. I really don’t need to apologize for being ill. I didn’t cause it. I can’t cure myself. I can’t change it either. I haven’t actually made a mistake nor have I behaved badly.

I want to work at no longer saying “I am sorry.”

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Thinkstock photo via Tilly Gops.

Originally published: August 15, 2017
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