Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Not You, It's Me

No. Those two little letters are so difficult for many people to say - I've been hearing this more and more from my friends with chronic health issues. My mom doesn't have chronic health issues, and I've even been hearing it from her. I'm not sure if I'm just paying attention to people saying they can't (or feel obligated to not) say "no" or if people are feeling more obligated.

I don't want to focus on why people feel obligated to say "no", especially as there can be a litany of reasons. Instead, I want to focus on being able to say no, and my feelings surrounding it.

I've spent the past year, trying to say "no" when I either can't or do not want to do something - it was actually one of my New Year's Resolutions! In the past, I've pushed myself beyond my limits because (in most cases) I felt like if I said no, it showed weakness or that I was obligated to do whatever it was.

Here's an example: a friend of mine wanted some help and wanted me to come to her house. Unfortunately, this past week was not the best for me. I was rather busy with work, and on top of that had picked up some extra hours to help out a colleague whose wife is ill and I also had a deadline for my other job. I was frazzled. My partner also picked up extra hours at work. Plus, I'm getting over a flare. My friend asked me to come over and help her, and I offered up the day that I had most available. Unfortunately, that didn't work for her. I'll be honest, she guilt tripped me. I was crying out of sheer frustration and stress while texting her back, trying to explain that the single day my partner had off the whole week (for what it's worth, he typically works 3 days, as they're 12-13 hour shifts so working 6 days is a lot more than usual!) was the day before my deadline. She actually asked if I could come over that day!

Sorry... but not sorry. I need time for self care and also time for my partner... if I have any extra time. I used to push myself to my limits, and when I did that, I often ended up more sick. I do feel for my friend, I genuinely do. However, I can not help her if it will end with me missing a deadline, or ending up sick or bedridden in pain for a few days. If this had been an emergent issue for her, I would have considered it. I don't want anyone reading to think I'm a lousy friend. However, I also get a little annoyed when I feel that my friends aren't being considerate of me.

So sometimes I need to "just say no". And a firm "no" at that. I don't do a lot of "maybe's" any more. I try to be upfront with my friends. I knew after working several days in a row, plus being on a deadline would mean that I would need time for myself. (and self care is so incredibly vital, especially for me!) I've practiced saying no on my own. When someone asks me to do something, I now try to think about if I really want to do it, and if I do it, how will it impact me - if I help my mom paint her house, will that leave me possibly missing work? Then I try to consider if there are other options. For example, if I can't help my mom paint, is there anything else I can do that would help her without stressing myself (perhaps by helping to prep, gathering supplies, or evening bringing her lunch).

My internal struggle is that I care for my friends. I want to help people. However, I have had to learn to care for myself. Now, when I turn a friend down, I try to explain - it's partially for me and partially for them. I want them to understand why I'm saying no, that it has less to do with them and more to do with me (so I guess it really is true, "It's not you, it's me"). I try to talk with them about what other options there are. Most of my friends are amazing, and are very willing to adapt when I'm not feeling well. The first few times I gave someone a negative when they had a request, I was meek. I was so worried - would they be mad? Would they be put in a bad place? Overall, most people were like, "Oh, okay, no problem! I'm sorry you're not feeling well" (and in some cases, I was feeling okay but just did not want to push my luck). And remember, practice does make perfect - try saying "no" when you're just sitting there on your own. Roll those letters around on your tongue and try them out for size. And if they aren't the right size, carry on.

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