I live with a chronic mental health disorder and an auto immune disorder. It’s a whole job managing the symptoms, dealing with the side effects of medication, using complimentary therapy to aid healing, and more. Every single day that passes without reclaiming power from the illness adds to the next day’s challenges. Then the cup fills up and one is left with a lot of mess to clean up.
Naturally, saying yes to life with health challenges comes with a lot of saying no in professional, social and personal realms of life.
Communicating your choices and decisions when you are already feeling inadequate about your coping is a tall order. It took me long to learn to say no so I could maintain a routine that suits my health needs. Instead of communicating my priorities, I would cancel them day after day believing I was supposed to fit in and perform like everyone else. I would compare myself with others and think that their reasons for saying no are legitimate but mine aren’t. So I would end up saying yes and suffering the consequences in my health.
But how will you get to a place where you feel secure and confident to say no? By talking about it, letting the real reason of why you are not able to do this surface. It requires rehearsal and thrashing out of thoughts and feelings that you are struggling with, that make you doubt your priorities.
I realised it’s not about people or situations in my life; it’s about me. All the reasonable people in your life deserve the respect and trust to be told what you need. We have to communicate our needs rather than pre-empt their reaction. Of course, there will be some people who will refuse to listen and sometimes you can’t afford to risk an equation, say at the workplace. Unfortunately, you can’t fake it for long. The cup will fill up and you will have to say no at some point to protect yourself.
Therapy helped me prioritise myself and understand the true purpose of choosing myself…it’s not to be selfish, self-centred or inefficient but to respond to my health’s demand. After a lot of hard work, I started believing that by prioritising my needs, I was taking care of myself because I owe it to myself. I stopped comparing myself with others and started respecting my needs. Sometimes, my entire therapy session would be about how I can communicate with people who might think I am making excuses. The important word here is ‘might’. I didn’t have evidence that people were actually thinking of it as an excuse. It was my belief that they might. This belief was enough to make me sabotage my health.
The challenge is not in sounding believable to others but in believing yourself in the first place. It’s hard to live by your reality but the only way out in the long run.
Disclaimer: Psychotherapy is extremely unique to every individual and CANNOT be generalised. This blogpost is merely intended to convey that if it helped me in some way, I recommend you consider it for yourself if you need to. Do not read into it with a personal checklist and think, oh this is exactly what I needed and this is how it will pan out for me as well. It doesn’t work that way. That is also why you should give it a shot. Discover your unique journey with it; your journey of healing will be so much richer with therapy.
A piece by Nishtha Singhal