Over-Apologising with An Anxiety Disorder -- I'm Not Sorry
Wednesday, November 18 2015 Julia Banim
Sometimes I have to say I'm not sorry because I over-apologize thanks to my anxiety disorder. Apologising is a positive thing when done sincerely and is an act that can wield great power. In fact, it can often be an extremely brave thing to do indeed. To admit that you are somehow in the wrong is a vital part of human communication and is a skill that many stubborn people would do well to learn (I Was Wrong And I Am Sorry). However, for those of us with anxiety we can find ourselves saying sorry way too much and often unnecessarily. Sometimes I over-apologize because of my anxiety disorder.
How My Anxiety Disorder Fills Me with Feelings of Guilt
It is a stereotype that we Brits apologise a lot. However, even in my polite island nation, I am seen to be more than just a little over apologetic, sometimes to the point of unintentionally irritating the person that I am so desperately trying not to offend (for which I will then try to apologise profusely).
Sorry has become something of a nervous go-to word for me. I tack it on to the end of most sentences. I will say it automatically when it is my turn to speak up in a conversation. If I think that I have spoken for too long then I will apologise in sheer panic. If I feel that I have given a short, inadequate answer then I will mumble a distressed apology to my shoes. Once a car bumped into me as the owner reversed clumsily from their driveway, knocking me clean of my feet. My first response was to splutter “sorry, sorry, I’m so very sorry” before limping away politely.
I often wonder where it all stems from -- this excessive need to apologise for so many anxiety sufferers. Of course, we are all different but for me it’s the gnawing feeling of being somehow in the way -- a loose part, a spare tyre and a nuisance (Anxiety And Self Doubt).
I have the feeling that the space that my body and my voice and my life takes up somehow requires an apology, an explanation. Over the years I have learnt to process a hefty excess of guilt from everything from my unfortunate plainness to the way in which I often stammer, helplessly, often incoherently, over my words. I can be light hearted, even flippant regarding my overly apologetic ways.
However, I know in the way that so many of us who suffer from mental illnesses know that this seemingly semi-amusing quirk is merely a few steps behind a much darker way of thinking -- the feeling that I am so very sorry for my existence at all., that it would be better if clean, uncomplicated air filled the space where my awkward, ungainly body twitches and flinches and shuffles along. I know from past experience that this is an extremely dangerous train of thought to follow and would advise anybody who can relate to consider seeking help.
How Apologising Less Can Help with Your Anxiety Disorder
I am now making a conscious decision not to over-apologize because of my anxiety disorder. This is a whole lot more difficult than it first sounds. After all, it isn’t just a matter of catching the word before it comes tumbling out of your mouth. If it was as simple as that, then I’d probably just walk around with a cork in my pocket during my more anxious times.
The emotions and anxieties that push the word out are much more complicated. I would suggest thinking critically about what the word actually means before you say it and to make sure to assess the situation to see if it is needed. Not only will others appreciate your genuine, heartfelt apologies on a greater level; you will also begin to understand and address the triggers that can fill you with unnecessary guilt.