I look up into all the faces – the concerned, the horrified, and the ones rushing to lift the stretcher. “I’m sorry,” I mumble. And then I lose consciousness again.
I’ve just had a tonic clonic seizure, and I’m embarrassed and overwhelmed by the fact that I’ve caused so much trouble. I know. I know. It’s not my fault that I have epilepsy, though the “I deserve its” of adolescence still creep in from time to time. Nonetheless, I feel I must apologize.
But what am I apologizing for? Is it that I have epilepsy or something else? Here’s where I squint, trying to find the source. My seizure definitely has been an inconvenience, both for others and me, and it’s scary, especially for those who don’t know I have epilepsy. I forgot to take my meds, which is what led to all of this trouble. I need to apologize for that, but I also should apologize for not having told some of the others that I have epilepsy and instructed them on how to deal with it.
Rationally, I’m clear on what should be the bases of the apology. Are those points – inconvenience and scare – really what is striking me when my brain swims up to consciousness and I automatically say “I’m sorry?” Of course not. The apology comes from deep down. It’s the belief that there’s something inherently wrong with me and I deserve it. I’m odd. I’m less than. I don’t deserve others’ care.
What an idiot. Yes. That’s right. What an idiot of me even to let those irrational ideas into my head, be they subconscious or not. We’re all different in our own ways (of course). I just pulled the short straw on this one. It’s random, and it isn’t my fault. It isn’t any of our faults, we who have epilepsy.
As we all fight to overcome the stigma against epilepsy, it’s important for us to get a hold of this impulse to apologize. If we truly believe we’re as good as others, then we need to act like it. Always apologizing encourages others to pity us, essentially to think less of us, and that’s not acceptable.
We can apologize for inconveniencing others and not preparing them for the possibility that we may have a seizure, but we never must apologize for our epilepsy.