the two things i hate to hear people say: “i’m sorry” and “i know how you feel.”
we’ll start with “i know how you feel.” this is pretty simple. no. you don’t. even if it’s happened to you, you don’t. you may know how you felt in the same situation, you don’t know how i feel when it’s me. i know this is a well-meant phrase but it just isn’t. we all know how pain feels, we may even know suffering, but you don’t know how it feels to be someone else. and more over? it isn’t about you and when you felt it, it’s about the person feeling it now. helpful alternatives? “that must be so difficult” or “if you need anything, let me know” or even “i found this helpful when i went through something similar.”
“i’m sorry” is another well-intentioned phrase, but it’s a little bit harder to unpack why i hate this…and i reeeealllly hate this one. there’s nothing for which to apologize. i was born with a genetic defect, that’s no one’s fault. it’s also not something i’m angry or sad about. sure, sometimes i’m in circumstances caused by this genetic defect that make me sad or angry, but that’s life, everyone gets sad and angry sometimes. i like my life, my medical circumstance plays into the life i have. i hate the notion that disability or illness is something to feel bad about. i’m not my illness. while it has shaped my person and my experience, it is not me or my entire identity. i like who i am, and like everyone else, my adversity has given me opportunity and strength. without my specific struggles i wouldn’t know patience or empathy. i would lack (even more) maturity, i wouldn’t have made some of the most meaningful connections in my life. most importantly? i would not have ever had to face my fears, i wouldn’t have grown past them.
one of my favorite feelings is laying in the grass in the sun with headphones, without shoes. i love laughing so hard i couldn’t possibly feel anything else but laughter. i always take pause when i’m really laughing to acknowledge that feeling. i can’t tell you the immense joy i feel in those moments. would i be able to know such simple joy without knowing suffering? i understand that i may have to miss out or change my life plans sometimes, but in no way does this stop me from living a life i purposefully enjoy. don’t apologize, my life is beautiful because of circumstances, not in spite of.
i know that people are just trying to be helpful and empathetic when they say these things, i just think too critically and overanalyze this. if anything, i only urge you to think about how you speak to those with illness or disability, why you say what you say. or i’m full of it and that’s fine too.