Jenn Koren

Who Says I Can't?

My Life on the ‘Sorry Train’ May 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jennkoren @ 11:30 pm

While living with Epilepsy for 15 years I was faced with a lot of “I’m sorry”.  As soon as people heard the word ‘Epilepsy’ the look on their face would turn to pity and their immediate reaction would be, “I’m so sorry”.  This irritated me to no end and forced me to stop talking about it all together.  People could know me for years now and never know that I had Epilepsy because I would never mention it.

I felt categorized and ‘different’ and this never sat right with me.  I never wanted people to look at me and feel like I wasn’t capable of doing something just because of my condition.  I didn’t want to and refused to be defined by this.

Over time I dealt with it and since I didn’t publicize my condition I didn’t have to be subjected to the fearful stares and the ‘not knowing what to say’ expressions.  And when the questions came, I answered them with short and quick responses.  I always corrected people and let them know there was nothing to be sorry about.  I chalked it up to people not knowing how to talk to someone who wasn’t just like them.

When my infant son was diagnosed with food allergies to egg, wheat, soy, milk and peanuts, as well as severe eczema, I received a lot of, “that must be so hard for the both of you.”  When his eyes started to cross at age 2 and he needed glasses and patching I heard a lot of, “poor thing.”  When he wasn’t talking at 2 1/2 years and started seeing a Speech Therapist twice a week, I received a lot of, “do you think he’ll be okay?”  Because of his allergies he’s a ‘mouth breather’ and constantly drools, which leads to a lot of, “how awful.”

If I had a penny for every time I heard, “I’m sorry” or “poor thing” over the last 3 1/2 years, I’d be a rich woman.  If I had a penny for every time I almost lost my temper on the people who said these things, I’d be even richer.

My son has to be the happiest little boy I’ve ever met.  His smile is contagious and his ability to just be ‘free’ is so overwhelming that I get choked up just watching him take in life so fearlessly.  My ‘condition’, if that’s what we’re calling it, is hidden and can be easily disguised behind my appearance and secrecy.  My son’s bifocals w/ patch, his daily packed lunches with allergy alert stickers, his drool soaked shirts and his jumbled speech give him away every day.  He’s a target for people that feel the need to notice and stare and see him for only what’s on the outside.

My son and I battle these small issues on a daily basis and its hard to constantly remind myself that people don’t know any better and they really mean no harm.  I think about the people that deal with far worse issues than we do and wonder how they react to the same questions and statements. Right now, I’m speaking for myself and maybe some others that I know that have felt the discomfort of the stares and endured the ridiculous questions.

Maybe next time you encounter someone that you think is less fortunate than you, you’ll think twice before saying, “I’m sorry”.  Maybe you’ll remember that they probably don’t think or want to feel like they are any different from you. Maybe you’ll know now that they probably fight on a daily basis in a way that you’ll never truly understand and because of that, they are stronger than you think.

Now when I hear, “I’m sorry”, my next words are, “for what?”  My response is usually met with a slow smile of embarrassment as they realize that, “I’m sorry,” isn’t always the best thing to say when you don’t really know what to say.

Have you ever been on the other end of the ‘sorry train’?   If so, did you use the moment to educate or did you chose to ignore?

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6 Responses to “My Life on the ‘Sorry Train’”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Found your blog through Brazen. I like what you have to say here.

    People often do the “I’m sorry” thing when they find out I lost my mom at 16. And it is what made healing from it so freakin’ hard because I was constantly having to explain it to people, especially when they would make the mistake of saying something in reference to a mother I no longer had.

    I still hate having to say it just because of the response I get–the sudden moment of unneeded awkwardness that only is with them but still makes me feel like there isn’t anything I can do to make it just disappear like I never said anything about it at all–but it is a part of life. Quite honestly, it’s just annoying and aggravating. She passed when I was 16. I’ll be 20 in October. I’m okay. I promise. Stop saying “I’m sorry.”

    Sometimes I just want to scream.

    If it wasn’t necessary, I wouldn’t mention it. Often times, if it was just a stranger who said something I would just shrug it off, but when it is a friend, they are going to need to know eventually, you know? And I hate having to say something to them about it…

    Sometimes I wish people just knew so we could get over it and move on.

    Luckily, since my father remarried it makes things easier because when someone makes reference to a mother of mine, I usually link it back to her, and unless they are someone that will remain in my life do I go into the finer details of that is actually my stepmother, and later, if they ask, I tell them what happened. But only if it is necessary and right.

    Everyone has issues, and I’ve always been one that was very shy and nervous–I still am, to a degree… Just imagine how much I hated when it happened and all the attention I grabbed for it? Made me wish I could just run away to some place where no one knew who I was or had to know anything of my past…

    • jennkoren Says:

      Thanks Jennifer for sharing your story. I was hoping that someone with your experiences would comment to show that there are so many different types of situations that can relate to my own.

      I hear and share your frustration. It’s harder for me to deal with as a Mom now that I see people showing my son pity for what they don’t understand. I know that it’s a human instinct to do this but it doesn’t ever seem to make it easier.

      I think the more we make people realize how their comments effect us the more they will think twice about how they comment on these things again in the future. I know that as I correct people about how they view my son, they tell me that they didn’t realize that was how they were sounding. When I see those some people again they never make the same comments or assumptions about myself or my son.

      So I think that’s all we can do…educate people as we go on how their communication may effect other people.

      Thanks again for sharing. I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts and being able to relate to how you were feeling.

  2. Kelly Says:

    It’s one of those things that is customary to say when people don’t know what to say. It isn’t meant literally. I got it constantly when my parents divorced as a kid, and I got in the habit of responding, “well, you didn’t do it.” I wish there was something better to use in such situations. “My, how interesting” just doesn’t seem to cut it.

    • jennkoren Says:

      Thanks Kelly! I agree that its the normal thing for people to say when they don’t know what to say. I too wish there was something better that could be said. I try to ask questions about the situation anytime I’m unsure of what to say. And not questions like ‘are you okay?’ but more detailed questions that show that I’m interested in hearing their story and learning more about them. If people then chose not to talk about things I know it’s better off that I left things alone. I don’t mind at all when people ask me questions about myself or my son. I like to educate people that are truly interested and not just using words to fill the ‘awkward space’.

      Thanks again Kelly for your comments!

  3. Yvonne Moss Says:

    Having been abused, I have heard this too when I tell me story. I usually tell them “no need to be” as it has shaped me into the person I am and I am not sorry. Then, I let it go as they really don’t know what to say…..

  4. I’m not sorry (that I read your post). How’s that?


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