“I really want to tell you I’m sorry.” ~ David Foster (Chicago)

So, I love to peruse TedTalks and various websites like psychologytoday and PsychCentral and read as much as I can in terms of new topics, issues, ideas, and what-not. In other words, I’m a nerd (and actually, I’m OK with that! 🤓).

Anyhoot, I came across a Ted video with sociologist Maja Jovanovic (author of ‘Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing and Other Career Mistakes Women Make’) who talks about how women apologize way too much and the consequences of it. When I saw the description I immediately watched…twice. It was scary how much I saw myself in what she was saying in terms of needlessly apologizing. Dr. Jovanovic is a self-proclaimed ‘apology hater’ and I think she drew me into this mindset…I’m now one too. 🙂

I was amazed that as I watched this video (and read the transcript a few times too) I thought about how often I say the word ‘sorry’ everyday. Of course there are real sorry’s that need to be said for actual things I’ve done wrong, and believe me, there’s a lot of ’em. But, the ‘unnecessary apologies’ need to go. I say sorry for everything: someone bumps me and I say “I’m sorry”, a waiter forgets my ranch (which I put on everything) and I say “I’m sorry…I think you forgot my ranch”, I need more info from a salesperson and I say “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a question”, and someone does something wrong to me and I say “I’m sorry I’m so upset about this.”

Hmmmm. Why do I feel the need to say “I’m sorry” when I’m the bumpee…not the bumper? Why do I say it when it’s the waiter who made the mistake? Why is it I preface a question to someone whose job is to answer them with “I’m sorry”? And why in the hell would I apologize to some boob who hurt me? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? So my answer to why I say sorry so much? I have no freaking idea 🙄.

Dr. Jovanovic talks about a conference she attended that included a panel discussion with 4 professional, educated women who had published numerous articles and books. She says that even when introducing themselves, each one minimized their accomplishments and discounted their expertise while using an apologetic tone. Dr. Jovanovic also noticed that the men at the conference never did. She believes that for women, “Apologies have become our habitual way of communicating.” And after all I’ve read, I agree wholeheartedly.

Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW and author of books about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I just ordered her CBT book for Perfectionism 🤨) has also talked about over-apologizing and why we do it. Let’s take a look-see at these reasons (in my own words):

  • I think most women feel they have to be nice and polite and capitulate to things that they might not want or agree with in the first place – in other words, many of us want to be people pleasers. I can see myself in this one…a LOT! It’s kind of like “Everyone Loves Raymond” where I have this need for everyone to like me as well. This has caused me to do things I really didn’t want to do simply because I didn’t want to upset the person. Disappoint them. Hmmmm. Writing this makes me realize how much power I give away (all of it at times😳) simply to keep the peace.
  • Low self-esteem is another reason and because of this there’s worry that you are in the wrong. That it really is your fault you have a naked salad sitting in front of you. We don’t want to be difficult or ask for too much or to be seen as unreasonable. In other words, we don’t deserve to NOT take the blame. Yeesh. You know, my self-esteem is pretty darn good but it’s taken me quite a while to build it up these past few years; however, self-esteem is also contextual: I’m at a 100 in my classroom in terms of how I see myself, but in relationships? I tend to dip down to around the 60 mark based on negative experiences I’ve had and the fact I undoubtedly received the blame for them. In other words, I’m a ‘D’ in this case. Charmed, I’m sure.
  • Feeling inadequate because of perfectionistic standards is a sure way to never feel like you’re enough or have done things well, so it makes sense that those of us in this category feel we need to apologize simply because we aren’t living up to the unreasonable standards we have set. This is a toughie.
  • Feeling uncomfortable or insecure can often make us blurt out an apology because there’s nothing else we can think of saying. I think this is a common one for a lot of us.
  • Often times we make ourselves responsible for someone else’s bad: “I’m so sorry they did that…I’ll ask them not to again.” Why isn’t the actual person doing the apologizing? Why in the world do we take on the burden of someone else’s faux pas? It is that we can’t see ourselves as individuals in the relationship…not enough differentiation? Or is apologizing for someone else a strategy to have the person be seen in the best light by others? “I’m sorry…they are just upset but are usually so calm.” I’m so guilty of doing this myself! 🙄
  • And, the apologizing can become habitual and I know that often the words just pop out of my mouth before I’ve even really processed the situation. It’s like I’m on automatic pilot.

Larry Weidel, author of ‘Serial Winning’ states there are things out there that you simply don’t have to apologize for. I’m trying to keep these in mind so I can be more consciously aware of why I might feel the need to apologize in order to determine whether it’s warranted or not. I also think that knowing these helps break that apology habit so many of us are locked into. Let’s take a look-see at a few of these non-apology situations:

  • Wanting more and being disciplined in how we are living our life – I’ve had men who have told me “You are so set in your ways with how you do things.” And I always apologized…but for what? For organizing my life in a way that suits me? For having preferences for how I like things done? Seems to me everyone does that.
  • Our own failures – “I’m sorry…it’s my fault I still haven’t been voted faculty of the year for the 25th year in a row that I’ve been nominated. My bad.” Ugh.
  • Saying NO (which is VERY hard for me…every time I say no to something I end up apologizing regardless 🤨)
  • Our beliefs, opinions, and priorities – why in the world do I tend to preface my opinion with ‘I’m sorry…’? It’s MY opinion…nothing to apologize for after all.
  • Trusting our instincts – I go with my guy every time. No more sorries for that since I’ve never been let down by it…yet. (Except when it comes to choosing men…that gut instinct must be broken…right ma?😬).
  • Telling the truth – Wow. As I was typing this, I suddenly thought of all of the times I’ve told the truth about a situation, truthfully shared my own feelings, or shared my truest thoughts and have been chastised (or worse) for it. Hmmm. In fact, not long ago someone who did some pretty horrible things to me came by my house and I asked them for an apology before I could try to at least establish peace between us. They BLEW up at me and cussed me up one side and down the other. I ended up apologizing for wanting an apology that was completely justified. AAAGGGHHH!
  • Being ourselves – Terri and I were talking about this yesterday at my house and I shared this with her: one of my colleagues came to my new office the other day (it rocks! 🙂) and literally said this to me: “Kristi, you are too loud and get too excited here. I’ve heard you down the hall and don’t like it.” So, I said ‘I’m sorry.’ BUT WAIT! I’m apologizing for being excited at work? For being happy to see my students? Because I love love love teaching and refuse to speak in a monotone that would put the Pope to sleep?
  • Following our Hearts – been there…done that. But it’s MY decision. MY heart. MY want. And…my consequences. Right?

So, I’m going to try to be much more aware of my apologies and try to break this habit which Dr. Jovanovic says can make women appear smaller and more timid than we really are, all while undercutting our confidence. I’m going to start stating my opinions/wants/beliefs in a straightforward way without an “I’m sorry” after it. I want to work on my ‘people pleasing’ and recognize when I’m simply ‘bowing down’ to this person to keep things ‘nice’. I want to work on my ideas of perfection and not apologize for anything that’s not perfect. And now that I’ve read through this, I think that’s plenty for me to tackle right now.

One more thing: I’m sorry this post is so long. 🤓🤓🤓

Kristi xoxo

This song ALWAYS made me cry when I was in high school. Always! And yes, I wanted to marry David Foster. 🙂

“Sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions.” ~ Stephen King

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So, I was in Wal-Mart yesterday which is such a great place to be on a Saturday afternoon but what the hey…there’s nothing else any more exciting for me to do on the weekends 🙄.  Anyhoot, there are arrows on the aisles showing which direction you are supposed to go and even though I want to rebel…just because I need some pizzazz in my life…I followed them.  I think I was the only one in the store that did.  Go figure.

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But here’s the thing:  I found myself apologizing for people getting in my way when they were the ones disregarding the arrows.  I apologized.  Me.  Then when I was driving home, I started thinking about how many other things I apologized for in the 30 minutes I was there (it seemed like an eternity…just sayin’ 😳).  I said ‘sorry’ to people who cut in front of me with their carts…a lady who almost ran me over with her electric scooter when she was backing up (but thanks to my lightening fast reflexes, I was able to save myself)…a guy who reached in front of me and grabbed a loaf of bread (not the healthier whole grain, but good ole Sunbeam)…a couple who cut through the self-scan lane I was on and knocked into my cart…and finally, a guy who shoved past me at the exit.

Scooter

All in all, I’d say I apologized at least a dozen times…if not more. *BTW:  the lady who almost backed into me was looking at vacuums and I very politely put the one she wanted into her basket (how she was going to see to ‘drive’ was beyond me 😳).  I told her she almost ran me over but I wanted to help her anyway since I survived and she didn’t bat an eye.  I wonder if she has scooter insurance…I feel a stiff neck coming on.

You know, this is a habit I really need to break.  I find myself saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m to blame or not, I feel like if something goes wrong, I need to put a ‘sorry’ out there.  And I don’t say it lightly…I actually mean it.  Like when the guy pushed past me, I started thinking that maybe I was going too slowly.  Maybe he had an emergency and I was in his way.  Maybe he won the lottery and was going to collect his millions.  No matter what, I MUST have done something to create that situation.

I did the same thing today at the gym (our leader kicked my ass today…I can barely move).  I apologized when someone slopped some cleaning solution on my shoes, and numerous times when someone would bump into me.  And even though they might not apologize, I do, whether I was the ‘bumper’ or the ‘bumpee’.

So, writing this blog has it’s ups and downs.  (Yes, grasshoppers…I’m changing the subject but it’s all going to make sense…stay with me…).  The up is that I get messages like this almost daily:

“I want to say ‘Thank You’.  I read something recently on your blog, and it stuck with me, in relation to toxic positivity.  I just appreciate and honor the fact that you’re real and authentic, and I admire the fact that you speak openly about depression, anxiety, and mental wellness…it makes those of us, who aren’t okay, feel seen and heard.  It gives us the courage to speak to our words our pain, and reach out.

Lately, things have been kinda crazy, and a lot of hard changes have happened.  However, I know this truth:  You are strong.  You inspire me to find strength and move forward.  You’re loved, I’m so grateful for you.”

And then, one of my students from a few years ago wrote to me and told me that she was so happy I taught about Domestic Violence in our classes and took the information seriously.  She said she also appreciated me sharing ma’s emotional story which is hard for me to do and often makes me cry.  She said that she dated someone a few times and started seeing the warning signs I preach about.  She ended the relationship and later found out he was a violent guy.  She told me I saved her from something that could have been detrimental to her and her beautiful kids.

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Now the downside?  I was starting to explore a some-what relationship with an old friend but we ended up being like oil and water (I was the oil…I use too much conditioner on my hair 🤨) and argued about…well…almost everything.  Anyhoot, no matter what happened or anything that might have been said, it was always my fault.  If he said something vile…it was my fault.  If he lied to me…it was my fault.  If he ‘tested’ me…it was my fault.  THEN, there would be a reference to me being bipolar and how that makes me ‘crazy’ so duh, it REALLY is my fault.  Hmmmmm.  Obviously, I ended things (or actually he did…but I took him up on it and now it’s my fault I didn’t try harder… 🙄…as my grandpa would have said:  “You can’t win for losing.”).

But here’s the thing:  I did apologize for everything.  Again and again and again.  I never said:  “I’m sorry but…” but sincerely apologized.  Like anyone, I said things I needed to apologize for…I’m no saint, that’s for sure!  But he didn’t buy my apologies, and then would say: “I’m sorry but YOU…” etc.

Putting my life out here like I do and talking about having bipolar makes me a target in so many ways.  People now know how overly sensitive I am…how guilty I can feel…how those of us with bipolar ruminate and question and worry…how impulsive and jumpy I can be, etc.  By knowing this, my mental illness can be used against me.  Who’s going to believe the ‘crazy’ one isn’t to blame for relationship issues?  Who’s going to believe ME if there are different sides of something being told?  After all, everyone knows that ‘bipolars’ are cray cray.  Right?

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Wrong!!  We are not fucking crazy (sorry ma, but talking about this gets me pissy 😠).  I’M not fucking crazy.  Period.  Yes, I have a mental illness.  A pretty serious one at that.  But guess what?  I’ve built a great career after years and years of schooling.  I raised a son who kicks ass in everything he does (except basketball…sorry, porkchop).  I was the ‘breadwinner’ in my last marriage (yes peeps…the 3rd one 🙄) and am financially independent now.  I do everything with the house and yard.  And the list goes on.  Just because I have a mental illness does not mean I’m crazy.  In fact, compared to some ‘normal’ people I know…I’m pretty damn ‘sound’.

So, why do I keep apologizing for every little bitty thing that happens and the biggies too?  Do I believe I need too because I am bipolar…cray cray…mentally ill?  I think I’ve kinda been ‘trained’ to over the years.  I think some people like to prey on those perceived as weaker or ‘less than’ in their eyes.  As a result, we take on more of what happens in any situation than someone else might.  (Since 25% of the population suffers a mental disorder or illness at some point in their lives, there’s a chance these ‘judgy’ people might be on the other side someday.  I don’t wish that on anyone.  But the reality is, it could happen).

So, I’m not going to do it anymore…keep saying “I’m sorry” all of the time.  Well, I am probably going to go to my grave (it better be a BIG stone, son…BIG…🙄) apologizing for dying.  But I am going to try to stop feeling like I’M the one that’s always wrong.   Like I’m the one who’s always in the way.  Like I’m the one always to blame.  Like I’m the one…the only one…that has affected whatever it is that has happened.  I’m not going to apologize for being me.  If others want to use what I write against me, that’s fine.  Go ahead.  I’m actually pretty fucking tough for my size (right ma?).  But as long as what I write helps people, I’m going to continue.  And no.  I’m not sorry for that at all.

Kristi xoxo

 

“Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word” (Bernie Taupin)

So, the other day in one of my posts, I talked about how guilty those of us with bipolar often feel because of the strain it can place on others.  After reading some messages from you Grasshoppers, I know that others feel this in relation to their own mental illness.  In fact, in an article published by the National Institute of Health, it states:  “The stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness held by both the public and those who have a mental illness lead to feelings of shame and guilt, loss of self-esteem, social dependence, and a sense of isolation and hopelessness.”  Basically, any of us can experience guilt based on what we have, and not just necessarily by what we do.

Some of you commented that one way to combat the guilt tied to actions/behaviors/words/etc.  was to apologize to those who were hurt by these things.  I’ve been talking about this very issue with my counselor, and I totally agree.  I’ve been wanting to apologize for a long time.  But, my problem (among many) is how to go about it.

How can words possibly convey the burdens and hurt I’ve inflicted on others during my life as a bipolar?  Will the words sound genuine if I speak them?  More ‘real’ if I write them?  What exactly do I apologize for?  Being mentally ill in the first place?  What I’ve ‘done’ during the course of this sickness?  Both?

blue cabinet
Photo by Bruno Thethe on Pexels.com

If I were to list all of the people I should apologize too, the list would be too long for the gigs I’m allowed on this site.  Seriously.  I have tons of family members I know I’ve hurt.  Ex hubbies.  Friends I’ve had.  I’d have apologize to entire classes for the times I was down and not totally ON for them, which is what each of my classes deserves every time I’m in front of them. And, sorries should go to people I haven’t been kind to since I was so far down to even be able to care like I should.

When I try to apologize to family, I can’t do it verbally.  I get so choked up at the hurt I’ve caused that talking is difficult.  Just writing this is making the tears begin.  But, that’s no excuse for not apologizing…period.

My mom has taken the brunt of this illness.  It was really starting to show itself when I was a teen, and the acting out I did during manic times and the anger I expressed to her during my depressive states is shameful to me.  Mom was my scapegoat for everything I was feeling but couldn’t describe or handle at the time.  I remember sitting at the table when I was around 16 or so, and she had made me an Italian sausage sandwich…onions, peppers, the works.  She served it to me and I threw it across the kitchen, hitting a quilt she was hand-quilting while yelling and crying.  Mom had no idea what was wrong, but instead of yelling back and punishing me, she hugged me.  I’ll never forget that.

Another time in high school, I called my mom a ‘bitch’ for no good reason.  Actually I screamed that word to her in her face.  Right after, I stormed out of the house and rode my bike to my grandparents house.  My grandpa was waiting for me in the kitchen with some food for me.  Mom had called him, just to tell him how upset I was and what I said.  I started nibbling, and grandpa sat down at the terry cloth covered table with me and told me he had never been disappointed in me during my entire life, but today he was.  I sobbed.  Having my grandpa say that told me how far I’d gone in hurting my mom.  I apologized to her when I got home, and she accepted it with no further mention.  That, my Grasshoppers, is forgiveness.

During the breakdown I had, mom took care of me everyday for a few weeks.  Everyday.  I know what an incredible burden that had to be and the guilt I feel for putting my 73 year old mom through such a trial haunts me constantly.  She saved my life and never once said anything to make me feel responsible for what was happening.  The words “I’m sorry” don’t even say a fraction of what I want too…but other words don’t exist that do.

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And my son?  For all of his growing up years I tried so so so hard to hide my mental illness.  His dad and his family don’t believe in ‘weakness’ and being ‘sick’ isn’t an option.  How could I admit what was swirling through my brain and how that was affecting me to someone who rebuffed anything that had to do with mental illness?  Plus, I wanted my son-shine to have the best childhood possible.  So I wore the tightest masks I could find;  I’d be damned if I’d let him see my illness.  There was no way I’d have wanted him to carry any burden of it around as a kid.  My job was to be a mommy and make his growing up years happy and stable.

But when I decided to ‘come out’ with being bipolar, which was a necessity after my breakdown, my son (26) became such a support to me.  To be honest, it took him a while to accept this unmasked me since he had never really seen it before.  But now?  He handles all of my moods, cycles, insecurities, crying, quietness, hyperactivity and everything else with support, care, and understanding.  He’s been my rock, which makes me feel like I’m failing him as a mom now.  But he says he’s supposed to take care of me (since I’m an elder…WTF?) and says that just how it is.  I don’t agree with that, but him doing it is more than I can ever thank him for.  And not being the mom he still deserves is something I’ll never be able to make up for.  He’s going to be moving out in a couple of weeks, but only 2 miles away so he’ll be close if I need him.

And these 2?  They’re just the tip of the ice burg.  What about apologizing to my ex-hubbies?  I know my sensitivity, impulsiveness, strong emotional reactions, periods of depression and the list goes on, affected each of them.  Would I still be married to O’s dad if I wasn’t bipolar?  Would I have saved my son from going through a divorce had I been honest with him about the severity of what was happening to me?  I don’t know.  But the question makes me ruminate often.

My sis and dad have been so affected by this too.  Both have their own struggles with mental illness (hello…genetics anyone?) and so many times when I’ve wanted to support them, I can’t because of the state I’m in.  How can I apologize for this neglect, when I know how important support really is?

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So yes, apologizing is necessary, at least for me.  I’m not going to say I’m sorry for having this brain disorder.  That I can’t help.  But to my family, friends, students, and so many other people that have been affected by me having this fucking bastard (you didn’t think I’d leave that out, did you?) of an illness, I am so sorry for what I’ve put you through.  So very sorry.  Please forgive me for all of these overwhelming burdens I’ve placed on your shoulders.  I don’t know any other words that truly reflect how shamed I am by this.  I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.

Maybe Elton John was wrong.  Maybe sorry isn’t the hardest word to say.  Actually,  finding the words that will convey the depth of this apology is much more difficult.  I just hope to find them someday, because I owe them to a lot of people.

Kristi xoxo

 

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