Learning the art of saying, “no”

Before I was diagnosed with PTSD, I had been pretty good at saying, “no.” I was working full-time, raising a family, and was extremely busy. If I was invited to an event or asked to join a committee in the evening, it was easy for me to say, “I would love to do (that), but I just can’t fit it into my schedule right now. ” I didn’t feel that I was being rude, or isolating myself, or not participating in society at large. If I wasn’t interested or couldn’t do something,  I said, “no.”

Getting easily overwhelmed, and triggered is one (of many) symptoms that is front and center of my PTSD. I love the idea of going to new restaurants, concerts, plays, monthly writing gatherings, trying new classes, and attending house party celebrations. I’m interested and I’m grateful for the invitations.  I want to say, yes and sometimes I do; but I’ve noticed that I’m having a hard time saying, “thanks for the invitation, but no thank you. Now when I say no, I find myself feeling guilty and anti-social. Those feelings are triggers and old self-destructive messages. I need to be careful that I don’t press play and begin to listen to the tapes of, all the reasons I’m a failure and can’t control this illness.

I’m not sure what changed. My family and friends do not put any pressure to accept or decline invitations. I appreciate that they ask me to participate in events and gatherings. They don’t forget me or assume I’m going to say no.

In the meditation part of a yoga class the other day,  all I could think about (when I wasn’t supposed to be focused on thinking) was how I didn’t want to go to another class later that day. I was afraid I would hurt someone’s feelings if I said, no. Before my illness, I would have said, “no thank you, I already do a yoga class on Tuesday mornings, so I don’t want to do another one in the evening.

Now, I find myself stumbling when asked to do something.  In recent years,  I ‘ve had to cancel some pretty significant commitments, or have had a really hard time coping once I’m at an activity. I have had to leave early, or I have had to say, “I’m really overwhelmed and don’t feel safe.” When that happens, I feel terrible and very disappointed in myself. I feel like a burden to my friends and family and I feel so…mentally ill.

Intimate gatherings and going to familiar places are recipes for social success for me. If I do go to places that have the potential of becoming overwhelming or triggering, I make sure to go with a good support person. I have some really good coping tools that I employ on a regular basis, but sometimes all the tools and good intentions don’t work as well as I hope when my symptoms begin to ramp-up.

I need to relearn how to say, no without feeling guilty or shame. Recently, I said no to an invitation and the person was quite taken aback. I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t participate in that, I’m doing the best I can, and I just can’t do that right now.” She stopped, for a moment, and said, “of course you are.” All was fine as we continued our conversation, but I felt intense shame for saying, the words, “I’m doing the best I can.”

Since that day, I have been watching what invitations I have been accepting, and paying attention to how I feel when I say, no. I’m sure this is all another layer of accepting my PTSD and learning to  live with, not fight against my symptoms, but I find I need to relearn the art of saying, “no.”

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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28 thoughts on “Learning the art of saying, “no”

  1. Wow, I never thought of it the way your therapist explained. That makes sense. I think we’re always a work in progress. Sometimes we do so much better and feel like, hey, Im figuring it out. than there are those other times…❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A therapist taught me years ago to say NO without explaining why. It was so hard at first, I thought I owed everyone an explanation. Her theory, my guilt/shame was from my socially awkward explanation. Very good reminder! I am failing miserably at this right now…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It feels so good to shed these things and own it! (I love your last post by the way) And as far as Q-tips go…right?!? I made the mistake a couple of months ago of buying an off brand and also fully declared (to my dog)that Im not doing that again! Who knew we would have Qtips connecting us. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes. No! Haha. I’ve been back to therapy the past 3 months and have given myself permission to do less. The closer I get to 40 the more I own and accept myself. I don’t like camping. I don’t do buffets or potlucks. I don’t like small talk, loud people or rowdy crowds. I’m happily childfree! And I won’t settle for anything but Q-tip brand Q-tips. Unapologetic standards haha. Great post as always ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are so many people who aren’t comfortable in social situations. Seems like there is more of us, than not. I wonder why, we feel like the odd ones out. Its an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed. Thanks for sharing. Have a good weekend! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m reading your book. My mind shuts down in lots of place. Something for me to think about. Memories trying to surface. I’m not sure I want them to. But I do want to be free of this. Freer at least. Thank you for writing your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m fortunate that my partner understands when I don’t want to participate, and he tells me, “Blame it on me.” So, at times, I take the brunt of a declination, but he shares the responsibility.
    Saying “no” is quite difficult, and I truly don’t believe that those who don’t suffer with PTSD can understand.

    Liked by 3 people

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