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I've been writing for some time for a particular audience of which I have been a member: women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. But recently, I've noticed that much of what I write can be helpful to anyone with a nonvisible, behavorial challenge... men and women. So, while this is written specifically pertaining to PMDD, it is dedicated to anyone who finds him or herself in the predicament of having to say, "I'm sorry" a lot.
Like many women with PMDD, every month, or damn near close to that, I find myself having to say those three little words that mean so much: I am sorry. My symptoms take hold of my personality and my thoughts become ugly and judgmental, as I began to push those I love away, taking all of my surging resentments and increasing pain or confusion out on them... or myself.
Month after month, for years now, I have found myself in the position of having to apologize yet again. I've also had to deal with the doubtful looks I get in return. It has brought on so much shame.
I've often asked myself what's wrong with me? Why can't I just try harder to be nicer? Is it a choice, as so many people in my life try to tell me, that I am not making? Those closest to us may try to insist that we're not "doing our best". But is that true? I become so exhausted at having to make excuses for myself and apologize that it sometimes seems easier to keep everybody at a distance all the time. When we feel empty and there's nothing left to give, what else can we do?
But we can't always take space from those closest to us. We have to interact, even in those times when we are incapable. It's inevitable that conflict will occur. When forced into situations and interactions when we are on empty, is it any wonder we fail? But after some time, the words I'm sorry seem to stop carrying the same meaning. They seem to lose power. I'm sorry... again. I'm sorry... even though I keep doing this.
There's nowhere else to go... except maybe I'm sorry I'm alive. And that just creates more shame.
So what do we do about apology fatigue? Do we give up all together and stop apologizing? Do we become hermits and never interact with others so that we never have to say I'm sorry? Or do we just keep repeating it over and over, hoping it isn't just some empty phrase?
The key for me has been in understanding what I need from myself. What's at the heart of any apology? It is a plea for forgiveness. It is a recognition that we somehow missed the mark. We are acknowledging our shortcoming. But that forgiveness doesn't have to come from someone else...someone who may not be ready to give us that allowance. We can give it to ourselves instead. We can forgive ourselves our condition every time we utter sorry.
In some alchemical way, it's almost as if my apologies are turning into self-forgiveness. Not sure how that happened, but it makes a big difference both to how I feel saying "I'm sorry" and how it is received. Instead of my sorry coming across with some false admission "...for being a horrible person", now I'm sorry and I accept myself and all my faults with compassion. This makes it less painful to apologize and it also makes it easier for me to forgive others too. Hell, aren't we all just doing our best. Isn't our best always just what it is and not necessarily what we wish it was? Plus, I don't automatically put myself in a position of shame upon which some unscrupulous types might feed. I own myself. They are free to be mad, hurt, tired...whatever. But I've already freed myself. Maybe having to say "I'm sorry" means love after all.
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Have you enjoyed what you just read? Be sure to check out my other articles on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. You can also like and follow PMDD Life Support on Facebook. Your kind tips help me to continue building this library of PMDD-specific content.