Mental Health: Saying No in the Spirit of Self-Care

I have a hard time saying no to people.

I don’t know if my trouble saying no stems from a fear of being disliked or seen as cold (often socialized in women, like our nauseating habit of over-apologizing*), or from PTSD of other people not being there for me or showing me mercy when I needed it most. I am still learning that I cannot be everything to everyone, or even something to everyone. Sometimes, for the sake of my mental health, I have to simply say no. It’s hard!

Rick started telling me that I emotionally give myself to everyone else and then, when I get home, I have nothing left for him, which breaks my heart. My allocation of energy is wrong if my MVP, my husband, feels shorted. It’s unfair that a friend or even acquaintance gets top shelf Bailey, and Rick is served up the dregs. Rick doesn’t deserve Everclear-in-a-plastic-bottle-Bailey, he deserves Belvedere-Bailey.

As a person who battles severe depression and anxiety, my energy is truly finite. I liken it to a gas tank, especially in regards to social situations: I only have so much to give before I need to go home, be alone, and refill my tank. There are very few people in the world I can be on empty around, which, for me, means I can be blue without questions or expectations to be acting otherwise. These people are mostly just Rick, my parents, and my brothers and sisters. And, that’s okay! One time my brother-in-law found me crying the bed in the dark while clinging to (and probably scaring) Apollo, the family golden retriever. He offered to make me a cocktail and then proceeded to sit in silence with me and watch Shrek. Just sitting there was all I needed. What a guy.

My psychiatrist and I joke that if me and Rick have a kid I can just be like “GOTTA-GO-CHASE-MY-KID BYEEEEE!” to anyone hogging my energy resources. (Don’t worry – no babies will be harmed in the making of my sanity.)

Overextending and overcommitting myself has become a nasty habit of mine. After feeling the muscle rocks that have formed under my skin on my shoulders and back last week, my horrified GP told me that I had three responsibilities: Rick, school, and yoga. Everything and everyone else must take a backseat. She then offered me muscle relaxers, to which I despondently replied, “all the world needs is another white woman on a bunch of pills”. My doctor, a WOC, laughed and didn’t deny my claim, but she didn’t not deny my claim. She gave me a topical ointment instead. Lol. She then reached out to me one week later with my blood lab results which indicated that I’d just had mono. MONO! I hold the world record for the oldest person to have ever had mono.

My call to action is to say no when you need to, and to be unapologetic when it comes to prioritizing your well being (or “well bean” as I like to say) over someone else’s perhaps insatiable desire to take, take, take with minimal or no return. It also doesn’t have to be that dramatic. Sometimes you’ve got to say no to going to that party, committing to that dinner, or doing unpaid work for a friend. If someone is a true friend, they’ll understand. Take stock of the people in your life, and then cultivate and invest in true blue relationships. Simply, protect yourself before you wreck yourself.

*The other day I apologized to a backpack. A BACKPACK!


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