I am so tired of apologizing, but I don’t see how I can stop doing it. I’m not even sure I want to stop doing it.
I don’t want to live my life as a walking apology, but I also don’t want to become the kind of person who sees no need for regrets about how my condition and/or my shortcomings affect others.
Recently, I was having an interaction with someone that involved me sending an email every day for a certain purpose. I was consistent for a couple of weeks, then skipped days. When my dip ended, I began again, apologizing for my lapse and saying it was okay if they didn’t want to continue. They gave me another chance…and, after some days, it happened again.
It’s only the latest iteration of the type of cycle that defines my life:
Stage 1: I’m back! So sorry I haven’t done the thing for (insert length of time here.) I’m going to try really hard to do the thing again, because the thing is very important to me.
Stage 2: Look, I did the thing. See? I did it some more. I can do the thing. I can do the thing every day. So grateful to be doing the thing.
Stage 3: I am sort of doing the thing, but not well. I’m sorry. Can we talk about this later?
Stage 4: *silence*
Stage 5: Hi. I haven’t been doing the thing. I want to start again and I can’t and what does it matter anyway because I know even if I do it won’t last and I’m sorry, so sorry; I know you must think the thing isn’t important to me but it is, I swear it is, and so are you…
Was it unrealistic of me to even try something that relied upon consistent, daily performance of a task? What if I had said, look, I really want to do this, but I have a mental health issue and a history of interruptions in my functioning? Would that have been being realistic and sensible, or would it be seen as making excuses?
What if I say to my doctor, look, I’d like to nod and smile and tell you I’ll exercise every day, but the only exercise I have been getting during the really bad times is digging through cupboards for band-aids?
Where is the line; where does a realistic assessment of my condition end and making excuses begin?
Could I be allowed to stop making promises, or even implied promises, that set me up for the inevitable apologies?
There’s no way for anyone else to assess, or even for me to assess reliably, the subjective amount of effort I’m making. So how can I, when unable to perform consistently, express that the thing, principle or person is still important?
Can I ever be good enough, do enough, love enough to have it mean something?
These are not new thoughts, and the search for balance will never end. I’ve made progress on some aspects of it. I’m better about not making commitments during my “up” phase that are completely unrealistic, and I’m more forgiving of myself than I used to be. But shame still saps way too much of my energy, and delays the return of good self-care after a dip.
I want to conquer shame and let my apologies be simply an expression of regret–always remembering that an apology means little in the absence of a sincere effort to do better.