“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Kahlil Gibran
You are not your condition. You are not your illness or your pain. Yes, you manage it, you deal with it and hell, you live with it, but it is ultimately separate from you as a human being. But it’s hard to remember that sometimes. The suffering and the discomfort that comes with living with a chronic condition can become so ingrained in our everyday experience that we can find it hard to detach it from our very sense of self.
So when it flares up, say, in the middle of your best friend’s birthday party or right before a huge presentation in work, rendering you incapable of continuing, the sense of guilt and shame that you have failed to keep a lid on things can be crippling. And among the other emotional responses we have when this happens is the feeling that we need to apologise and take responsibility for the fact that the intruder in our lives has not only damaged our own happiness, but that of other people’s.
You feel like you’ve let them down. Yet again.
Well, I’m here to call bullshit on that. Because, you do not have to say sorry, and anyone who makes you feel like you need to clearly does not grasp the gravity of the situation and frankly, does not deserve the time it would take to explain it. I know I am stating the obvious when I say that we do not want or need other’s sympathy. All we need is understanding. True understanding from others is what makes us feel less alone.
Most of us appreciate that maturity comes from taking responsibility for our own choices. But let me remind you, before you go trying to explain yourself to people (when your sick days and absences from social events begin to pile up) that you did not choose your condition, whatever it is. The sad truth is that all suffering in life is made equal, and it does not discriminate. It does not care who gets hurt or upset in the process.
So my advice is, when you are packing up your bags to leave early, or missing out on yet another event or occasion to head home to lie in a dark room, remember that even in the midst of it all, you are not to blame. In the midst of the suffering, your love for others and good intentions remain intact. It has not won. It has interfered yes, but pain is not stronger than your will. It is not stronger than you. In the midst of it all, you are still there, and you do not have to apologise. You are fighting much too hard to be sorry.