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I Stopped Saying 'I'm Sorry' When I Ask for Help for My Illness

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When I first got sick, I was ashamed to talk about my illness. It was hard for me to ask for help, and I felt like I was inconveniencing everyone around me. It’s been about five years since I first started getting migraines, and about three years since they became chronic. I used to apologize for having to ask for accommodations, or for substituting something I can’t eat at a restaurant. Maybe I’m just growing up, but I’ve realized that I needed to stop apologizing. I never asked to have a chronic illness. I never wanted to live my life with the uncertainty that I may not be able to make plans or live my life the way that I want to. Yet that’s what happens with chronic illnesses — no one asks for it, but it’s something that we have to learn how to deal with. It’s like riding a bike — except for the fact that your bike has a flat front tire making it impossible to control. Every step of the way is bumpy, even when your life seems to be sailing a little bit smoother.

So why was I apologizing for something I didn’t even have control of? First of all, I’m a chronic apologizer. I even apologize to inanimate objects when I bump into them. “Sorry” became a filler word for me. When asking a question, I would start with “Sorry,” instead of “Excuse me” or the question itself. “Sorry” became a word synonymous with distancing myself from my illness, adding shame to requests that were perfectly reasonable.

Once I realized what I was doing, it was easy to change my attitude. There is no reason why I should be ashamed or embarrassed about my illness. It is as much a part of me as my passions and interests. I always felt that I had to apologize because I was “different.” I said “sorry” because my case was difficult and seemed to have no concrete, long-term solutions. I had to learn how to deal with doctors, insurance companies and medication side effects for a misunderstood illness that still needs a great amount of research to be fully understood. I was never a textbook case, nor will I probable ever be. Now, I don’t say “sorry.” I talk to doctors about my case calmly and clearly, because I have nothing to be afraid of or “sorry” about. I’ve already been through the worst.

By not saying “sorry,” I’m taking control of my illness. To say it clearly, I’m living my life instead of apologizing for letting my chronic migraines make my life decisions. Chronic migraines don’t define me. They don’t define my passions, my hopes and my dreams. Rather, they’ve helped me see how strong and resilient I am, what my body has endured and how I’ve come out OK. If I never got sick, I would not be doing what I am today. I would not be writing this blog, or working to raise awareness about chronic and invisible illnesses. So no, I’m not sorry. Even though my life has been a roller coaster with no end in sight, it’s made me into who I am. I am a headstrong, passionate girl who doesn’t eat gluten, tyramine or soy and is set on changing the world.

Follow this journey on Chronic Migraine Ellie.

Originally published: August 18, 2016
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