*This submission comes from Robert, who allowed his first name to be used.
I am looking for a more powerful word, compound word, or sentence-in-a-word–in any language–that conveys “I am sorry” in a much more powerful way than the lameness that seems to be how “I am sorry” has come to be regarded. Why? Well, most of you know who I need to say I am sorry to and why, but years of my depression have left it in a way that “sorry” is just woefully insufficient.
In fact, I hurt four people who need to know just how sorry I am, who need to know that it is more than a passing blurting of “sorry”.
Sorry seems to me the word you use when you accidentally step on someone’s toes in a crowded metro station, it’s not powerful enough to convey what I need to say to the four people I hold most dear. It is not powerful enough to really get the message across to any of them, and most especially to my lovely wife who I hurt the most in all of this.
How do you say to the woman you yet adore, who you still want to grow old with, who you want to be the first and last person you see everyday for the rest of your life, how do you say to her “I am sorry that I hurt you while I was depressed” in a way that doesn’t just seem as casual as the way you say “sorry” to stranger as you navigate that crowded public space.
Do you know what I mean? Sure, we mean it when we say sorry to someone in public like that, but it’s shallow. It’s of no real consequence because, well, so what right? We’ve already stepped on their foot and we’re moving on. We probably don’t have to see them again–ever.
This is why “sorry” is not enough to say to the woman I have loved for well over 20 years, to the woman I married in 1996, to the woman who gave birth to our three beautiful children, to the woman who held my hand so many times that I needed support, to the woman who encouraged me all this time to find my way in breaking free of depression.
This is why “sorry” is not enough when it comes to three children I love so dearly. Sorry lacks the depth to tell them “I do love you, I wish you had not seen me feeling so badly for most of all of your lives. I have so much more to give to you as a father who loves you.” Sorry doesn’t convey that, sorry just says “oops, I did it again” and leaves it hanging out there.
Sorry doesn’t take away the sting. Sorry doesn’t ease the pain all four of them have felt over the years.
Sorry doesn’t make go away the fear that Robert will lose it over what seems trivial yet again. Sorry doesn’t immediately make a child forget that for most of their lives even the smallest little thing–like knocking over a pile of recently folded clothing, mandating it be refolded–will not turn into Daddy shouting again. Even when this time he laughs and says “rats!” and just picks things up and sorts them out. The memory of what had been the typical response does not fade in one moment.
Everyone I know, my lovely wife included, knows that I want to end this separation. I want to make my every single day about living sorry rather than just saying it. I want to improve the lives of the four people I love the most in this life. I want us all back under the same roof–I want us all living at the same address.
Yes, it has only been 30 days since my wife left. But it feels like it has been 30 years. This is the first week of rotating custody weeks for our three kids. It has only been a couple of days and I feel like I have been in solitary confinement for an eternity.
The sad thing is that I know now just how long my misery was affecting my little family. Until things started clearing up for me only 75 days ago, I was not only oblivious to what I was doing to them, I was unable to remember most of what I said and did. My memory was affected by my state of mind. Now, oh my gawd, I see it all. My pain is now not depression but sorrow for how I know they must have all felt as they watched me suffer.
Oh yes, some of you know that there was an underlying physiological condition that at the least magnified–if not caused–how badly I felt. I understand fully how it can and does seem unreal that this condition may have existed for a decade, maybe more, maybe even preceding the day I first met my wife. What convinced me that it has been around for over a decade was the disappearance of a very big problem I started facing in 2004 that limited my ability to enjoy many situations in the years since–my apparent “allergy” to parfum. Anything that had parfum in it–perfume, cologne, shampoo, conditioner, soap, cleaning products, laundry detergent, you name it–they all triggered migraine headaches. Oh what I went through with most people not believing I had migraines.
But I had them. And, miraculously, they are gone. I mean gone. Imagine this: I used to enjoy wearing cologne. I had been wearing it from my teens until my problem stared in 2004. Then I started having migraines so bad that I was blinded–at times for hours, even more than a day–by the pain of the headache. And then, sitting in a waiting room a couple of months ago, shortly after I felt the depression lift, smelling nothing short of a cloud of perfumes, I did not get a migraine. This was shocking to me. I went looking for things with parfum in them exposed myself to them… and nothing happened. I have since even wore cologne again–no migraine!
This was something–the migraines–that was a big part of my suffering in recent years as I worked in a job that I not only disliked, but that exposed me to a great deal of fragrance. In 2014 a series of massive migraines–day after day for months–contributed to my rapid decline into such a depressed state that I was a) given meds for depression and b) started a disability leave from work that lasted 50 weeks!
Over that 50 weeks my mood ebbed and flowed. It was better at first because I was removed from the things that made me feel the worst. Then it got bad again when the meds backfired. Then it got better. Then it got worse when the Short Term disability became Long Term and the insurance company tried holding back money as a means to get me to admit I wasn’t depressed, I just wanted a vacation.
In this time, every time my mood sunk, I hurt the people I love. I hurt them so badly they surely felt “Robert does not love me, how could anyone hurt the person they love this badly?” (Substitute “Dad” for Robert for three beautiful, wonderful children and you see how I hurt everyone I love). Extend this to my parents and my sister and my friends who not only recently but for years had to put up with only hearing about how badly I felt.
There was a time in my life when I had a pretty good group of friends, and over the years I either withdrew to hide them from seeing how badly I felt, or they withdrew when they got more than a glimpse of how I felt.
So I came to a point this year when I thought in my head that I had no one and nothing to live for. And I did the nastiest thing I could ever do, I tried to hurt myself–and not only that, I did it in front of the love of my life. I couldn’t stop myself. The only thing that stopped me was when she cried.
Something that night “shocked me” (and I’ve had medical and mental health professionals agree on that) and from there I emerged from a depression that was so long and so deep that I had no idea how bad it was. And, the physiological problem changed to boot.
Now I sit here with an emotional and physical wellness that, and this is something, I realized recently, I have NOT felt since late 1992, early 1993. That’s right, before I started dating the lovely, beautiful, brilliant, funny, sexy, charming, enchanting, caring, compassionate, woman I married in 1996.
But I sit here alone. I am alone because my illness drove her away. And now, every other week my three amazing kids are with her and I do not have the privilege of seeing them every day, of sharing meals with them, sharing time with them, hugging them before bed, tucking them in, listening while they tell me about their interesting days, playing cards, watching TV, just “being” with them.
And so I crave knowledge of how to apologize in that way that really begins the healing so that we can be a whole family again.
I love them all so deeply, every atom in my body feels it.
I know, a hurt like I put onto them–especially onto my wife–is not one that goes way in 30 days. But I hope for the day when my dream–the vision, in fact that I have already had–comes true and she comes home to start rebuilding our relationship, to allow me to be the doting husband I should have done a better job being all along.
I guess that’s a hell of a lot to take in. Thank you to anyone who dare to read this far.