I constantly say sorry by instinct and without reason. I’ve even been apologizing for my disability. No more apologies!
I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Type 1A and I wear ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) to help with stability and walking. At times I use a cane if I’m walking or standing a lot or if navigating difficult terrain. I often apologize to my friends for having to use my cane. But I know my friends do not care if I have the cane. In fact, they often encourage me to use it. Logically I know there is no valid reason to say sorry, yet I feel compelled to do so. Perhaps the urge stems from me not wanting to slow others down or prevent them from doing things I can’t do. Perhaps it is because someone once made me feel uncomfortable about using my cane. I know these are not good reasons; I’m probably exaggerating things in my head.
I also find myself apologizing for walking slowly. Sometimes I feel bad for the person stuck behind me and I wish I could walk faster. I know I don’t like to be behind someone walking extremely slowly. Then I remember that sometimes I am that extremely slow walker. That realization makes me feel guilty for both my frustration and for holding up the person walking behind me.
Another time I apologize is when climbing steps. Oh, how I dislike steps. They seem to feel the same way about me. I can’t walk up or down them quickly, even with my AFOs. I’m always afraid of taking a wrong step and tumbling down the whole flight. So, I take my time to be safe. When I get to the bottom or realize there are people behind me, I say something like, “Sorry, steps take me longer.” I have no idea why I feel the need to apologize for putting my safety first when they can clearly see that I have mobility issues. Yet, once again, I find myself apologizing.
I wonder if I apologize because society tends to make those with disabilities feel bad about symptoms and necessary accommodations, almost as if they’re at fault for having challenges. Maybe I am so used to people getting annoyed about me slowing them down that I feel I need to apologize.
Well, I’m not going to feel bad any longer. I can’t help these things.
Besides, maybe the few seconds delay of people following behind me will give them the time to appreciate the beauty around us.
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