The Stress and the Art of Saying No

Wednesday 9 September 2009

I've had a bit of a fatigue flare up over the past few months. Nothing dramatic, but I'm having some days where I do the basics and that's about it. I just need to ride it out, without getting too anxious and scared and losing perspective, you know? Easier said than done sometimes. But the symptoms die down again. This is not a return to the land of CFS by any means.

At least this flare-up has renewed my motivation to climb out of the sugar well, and to not fall down it again (it's a legalised drug and indulging in it every day for months on end is maybe why I am having these flare-ups in the first place). When I have energy these days, I do not waste those days. I guess this is just the land I live in of post-CFS and other health issues. It's not where I want to be, by any means. But it just is, I guess.

Yesterday I only worked five hours. I'm meant to be going to my friend's daughter's school play this evening. I've been stressing about it all yesterday, the possibility I may not be able to make it. Today I woke up and it's like it's this big dark cloud hanging over my head of having to say no to someone. As if it's of earth-shattering consequence if I don't go. It's so weird, and so annoying. I can't make it, I'm rather lacking of energy at the moment. End of story. (Just like I think this post is gonna be end of story for me today, too. Writing it has taken me an hour and now I have a headache and feel crap. Oops. Shame I don't write a blog post for a job, then I'd be sweet :)

I chatted to my chiropractor's receptionist the other day. She works three 10-hour shifts in a row during the week, and in those days she still is the one to cook dinner when she gets home at 7pm. There is a husband and a couple of sons and none of them see a problem with this situation. I guess they don't see a problem because she doesn't see enough of a problem to set some boundaries and say it isn't okay. She is like a timid little mouse, apologetic for existing. Unfortunately, people always take advantage of that situation. I did with my own mother.

This woman also looks after her father and has him stay with her from time to time after he had a recent stroke. She told me in apologetic terms how she asked her university-going son (who has two days on campus a week) to put the food she had prepared earlier in the oven, and to put the potatoes on and mash them one evening after she took her father to a funeral of a friend. Her son had the gall to whinge about doing just that. Meanwhile she's running herself off her feet.

I have a sign stuck on my playroom door which is perhaps indulging in the land of psychobabble but is nevertheless true for all that. It says: "Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong." The level to which you respect yourself is, I think, the level that others will respect you.

How do you go with the n-o word? Do you stress about it? Do you think it's something that needs to be learnt, the art of saying it? I think some people, especially women, are prone to find themselves doing things that are not in their best interests, that they don't even want to be doing, all because saying no feels Everestian, pushes ancient buttons.

The chiropractor's receptionist is a timid little mouse, but I can see somewhere deep down in her soul she's angry about it. She's angry about being taken advantage of, and she's angry that something is missing in her toolbox that gives her the permission to put down her foot. She's the daughter of an alcoholic. Her husband is like a dry alcoholic. I can see even without meeting any of them that they have little respect for her. The fault lies greatly with the father that she feels apologetic about existing. This is the power that fathers have. But the responsibility lies with her to follow down the threads of what that is all about.

"I married my father," she said to me the other day.

(We cut to the chase in our chiropractic conversations, haha. No talking about the weather for us ;)

I think hers is the sort of anger that would be pretty damn helpful for her to tap into, terrifying though it would be. Maybe she's worried if she does she'll explode like a volcano and burn everybody up. That her family will walk out the door and never come back. That she will walk out the door and never come back. Go postal. Maybe. Or maybe the anger will give her the impetus to say no because looking after herself and defining her limits is not an optional extra.

But Geez, Louise, how hard that little word is to say! I've had plenty of practice and it's getting easier but still, I've sweated a bit about having to say no to my friend when I have a legitimate reason. I still feel guilty about it. I've always felt guilty about it. The guilt is much, much lower these days because I feel like I am standing way more firmly in my fat feet. Cos really, what's she gonna do? Yell at me for not making it because I'm not feeling good? It's all so irrational, these mind monkeys that take up space in our heads!!! :)

I'm going away to lie down now.


  1. there is great beauty in the two-year old, sassy as she/he might be who has the power to firmly say NO with all of their little being. it is a natural instinct that shows up before everyone teaches us how to be polite and put others first and say "yes, ma'am" when we really want to say "bugger off" or "i'm too tired."

    i continue to learn to listen to those instincts. it's definitely a process. here's a post i did exactly one month ago:

    take good care, suzy q!

  2. The n-word is one of the most important there is. Unfortunately when I say it, it sometimes comes out as "maybe" or "sorry". Gaaarh!

    I'm with lucy: bugger off is a great phrase! And lying down, screaming, and drumming your heels on the floor can't hurt!

    Feel better.

  3. I'm learning it. Some people are so insistent and so persuasive, and they know EXACTLY what they are doing...I still struggle with that. Just yesterday something came up which I knew in my heart was a "no" but I found myself, after listening to this insistent person for 15 minutes, saying "let me think about it". It made me mad, but in this case I hate to let the person down as they are in a bind, and those are the situations that are hardest for me.

  4. I'm so sorry I've taken so long to respond to these comments (especially after that post I wrote a while ago about the rudeness of not responding to comments :) I've been feeling unwell lately so that's why :)

    Lucy - the beauty of the sassy two year old. I agree!! Isn't it funny, though, how quick we are to laugh at it. I think of my cousin's little girl, who is as sassy as they come and TOTALLY reminds me of me, haha. Just the comments that surrounded that sort of behaviour were that she was a little witch, and those sorts of things, you know? Not intended to harm but still, laden with messages. Thanks for continuing to share your own journey Lucy, it's such an encouragement to me.

    Tess - oh, yeah, the "sorry" that gets attached!! AAAAAAAGGGGHHHH. Me too! Very annoying. I guess that it is part of the struggle towards standing up and just saying no without any apology attached. At least you are aware of it. Yeah, bugger off is a good one :) Actually, I think people LOVE other people's boundaries. How safe does it feel being aroundother people who have well defined boundaries and who you know are gonna say no if they want? It's ... totally necessary, really :)

    Erin - ahh, yes. People can be manipulative even without KNOWING, even without TRYING. Ahh, yeah, and I think you hit upon the MOST difficult and murky parts - when someone is in a bind. I HATE those situations because it's so hard to differentiate between when you should lay down your "no" for the other person, and when you shouldn't. I hope it's all being sorted out for you in this particular situation.


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