Lessons From Being Sick: Saying No and Social Anxiety

Suffering from anything chronic changes how you look at life.
Image from Pixabay, edits by me.

I’m pretty strictly an ISFJ. I love to help people. I like to be part of team. I love my family and love my church. So, when people ask me to do something I say, “Yes”. I say yes even if I don’t have time. I say yes, even if inside I’m screaming, “No”. I say yes even if it means saying “no” to my husband, or my responsibilities. I hate saying no. When I do HAVE to say no I tend to couch it in lots of explanations and excuses so that the person I have to say no to understands how painful it is for me to say no.
When I was first sick, saying no was the lesson I had to learn. I didn’t have some disease with a big, scary name. I was exhausted. Worn down to the core. My doctor doesn’t have a bunch of letters after her name, she’s a kenisiologist. So even though I was very sick, it was hard to explain to people what exactly was wrong with me. On top of that, I was the Go-To person. We don’t have children, so I was the one asked to do everything. Here I was, sick, unable to shower some days, still get text from people wanting me to do something, people loving me and wanting to include me. The asking ratcheted up my stress level. I started leaving my phone hidden. I stayed away from Facebook. Anything that smacked of someone needing anything from me made me even more exhausted. When I say I had nothing left to give, I mean I had nothing left to give. When I say I couldn’t even manage a shower, I literally somedays couldn’t take a shower.
As I started getting better, by God’s grace, I was able to take some time to reprioritize my life. I realized how easy it would be to fill every day with a social activity. I would be so easy for me to give every moment of my time to someone else. (And by someone else, I mean be out of my home with people I love.) There is nothing wrong with a busy social life. But, I had to look at my husband, my responsibilities at home, and my social life as a whole, within my new physical limitations. Sadly, that means I have to keep saying no. I have to say no to people I love so that I can get my work done.

Social events are exhausting to anyone dealing with a chronic issue.
Picture from Pixabay, edits by me.

I started by limiting myself to only a few social engagements, that didn’t include my husband and church, a month.
On one hand, I need to make sure I know what my priorities are: husband, home, church. To me those three things are actually one thing. I serve my church predominantly by taking care of my husband so he can serve the church. I take care of my husband by taking care of our home. So, when I take care of finances, wash the dishes, meal plan, work in the yard, vacuum, and all the rest, I’m helping my husband, who is using that time to help our church.
On the other hand, most of my socializing is with other women in the church who I treasure greatly. My closest friends are other women in my church, or other ARBCA churches. I want to have time for them. I want to have time for my nieces and nephews. I love those little ones running around. I love being with them. I love watching them grow up. I want to be involved in their lives.
So, I have my priorities, and I have the people I love who I want to be with. I have to find the balance between these things. LOL. Can you see why I have a hard time saying no??? Do you see why I’m afraid that if I say no one too many times, maybe people will stop asking? Do you see why I’m afraid that if I say No someone I love will think I don’t love them? This is why I have a hard time saying no.
But, I can’t do it all. Trying to do it all is what got me in trouble in the first place.
I must continue to evaluate every day the priorities. I have to look at the offer on the table, look at the needs of my home, look at what my husband has going on, and then figure out when and how to fit it in. I have learned to see if I can have friends over and have them help me. I have learned to say yes, but if I have to put it off for a few weeks to be comfortable with that. I have learned to trust that my friends will still be there when I can get together with them . . .even if it’s months later than when they asked.
There is one other element in all this saying no when I don’t want to. Nothing seems to wear me out faster than social events.
Before I got sick, social events were parties, weddings, showers…you know…social events. Now, social events are interacting with anyone. If I am talking to another human being, it’s a social event. Thankfully I’ve moved beyond that including my husband, unless I’m just doing really bad. I found this to be really hard to explain to people who have never dealt with a chronic disease. Talking, interacting, laughing, crying with people wears me out. That means not only do I have to say no, I also have to moderate my social interaction. Talking with others can drain me faster than cleaning the house. Now, please dear friends, don’t take this as me trying to ask people to stop talking to me. Please take this in the spirit it is intended: I’ve been sick, this is my life. I’m sharing.
If I need the world to go away, I can ask the world to go away. I can make plans, move things around, work things out. Understand, that if it seems like it takes me forever to set plans with you, it’s not because I don’t want to be with you. It’s that spending the evening with you may mean half the things my home needs done tomorrow aren’t going to get done.
There are people in this world with the gift of saying no. There are people in this world gifted with loads of energy. Then there are others of us whose gifts lie in other areas. There are those of us whose bodies loose energy quickly. I’m one of those without the gift of saying No confidently. As I’ve been sick, I’ve had to learn to say no.


Can you say no easily? Have you ever dealt with a chronic issue? Do you struggle to prioritize your life?
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