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 books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

Advertisements

Leaving the nest with lessons from the flowers

Stretching and flapping her strong wings
this is the eve of our youngest bird
preparing to fly far from the nest.
Across the country
the hallowed halls of law are ready to take our bird
on her chosen path; her next life steps.

I know that as she embarks on this exciting
unknown journey that our little bird will
take with her the lessons from the flowers.
She will persevere and grow
Silently displaying her inner beauty and strength
She will reach towards the sun, hold fast during storms
and live life fully in bloom.

Fly free little bird. Enjoy, and remember the lessons from the flowers.
©Alexis Rose, Photo by Chloe Si on Unsplash
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

Comfortably Uncomfortable

I am comfortably uncomfortable in this waiting place of whats next.

Feeling the winds of change continue to whisper softly that it will be okay.

Trusting that in the past when I’ve listened to my inner restlessness, I’ve been able to author my own personal growth adventure, instead of stagnantly waiting for someone to tell me that this is whats next for you.

Pressing the pause button so I could slow down, evaluate whats been working for me and what I’ve been doing that no longer fills my cup. Setting myself up to listen to the whispering winds of change. Uncomfortable as that is.

Hearing the words of a lifelong friend telling me the truth, widening the picture for me with the force of dynamite because I had developed a bad case of tunnel vision. Those wise words, love the one your with, seared into my head and heart.

Knowing that it takes a long time to practice acceptance and self-compassion and that each day that I uncomfortably go there, I rewire my active lizard brain, contracted muscles, and tattered soul.

Mindfully taking the time to be active, to rest, to play, to listen, or to just be with no judgment.

This time going through the slow change and growth process is not as scary as it would have been in the past. I have developed patience.

I have learned to trust myself and I welcome the reality that right now I’m living in the waiting-place and contentedly feeling comfortably uncomfortable.

Reunited…and the conversation started where it left off

Just do your best; You’ll find your how!

Change is a fact of life. Our bodies change, as do our cognitive abilities. Sometimes we embrace change, but sometimes change can be frightening. The fear of the unknown and the anticipation of what might be can be paralyzing; the feeling of vulnerability can prevent us from moving forward.

A good friend of mine has been going through extraordinary grief and change the past year. Loss of many kinds, including her mother whom she had an extremely close relationship with, aging in a society where becoming a woman of a certain age can make you feel irrelevant, and also she is experiencing a bit of spiritual uncertainty. Big.Tough.Stuff!

As we were talking yesterday, I found the best thing I could do was to silently offer myself as her mirror. The grief is (appropriately) palpable, but she is also doing some wonderful things both for herself and the community. Personal growth, and being of service to others is one of the constants in her day-to-day life. Sometimes, in the muck and mire of what life throws at us, we forget to see, and often don’t acknowledge that what we do matters.

I go through feelings of irrelevance and self-doubt a lot. Especially when I can feel I am on the cusp of change. Right now, I have hit the pause button on many outside activities in my life. As I work to reconnect with myself; my center, I notice that my interests are heading in a different direction than they have been the past few years. That’s a natural progression for me, as I learn and grow. But, it’s also a bit scary. Although I still could be quite satisfied with the path I have been on, I’m also anxious to listen to what it is I may want to do next.

I find right now, that I am feeling the wind of change calling to me. Just as I was purposefully trying to be a mirror for my friend yesterday, I find Im also seeking out the mirrors in my life. The ones who reflect back who I am without any masks. The person I have been working hard to become, without feeling shame, the need for perfection or control, but who can also firmly set personal boundaries.

As my friend and I were talking, she was describing to me an extremely intensive class she will soon be taking. I started to think about the things I’m willing to let go of now, and the absolute openness of what will come next. Both of us began to get a bit stressed and animated over the, “how are we going to get through this?”

As my friend got up to grab some water, out of my mouth, from somewhere in that wise-mind of mine, I heard myself say the words, “Just do your best – You’ll find the how!”

I think really it was just a random thought that was passing by, but the words came out, and we just starred at each other in silence, stunned into the connectedness of knowing that it will be okay. What happened next? We sat quietly next to each other, understanding that with change comes uncertainty. But that uncertainty only requires us to do our best, and trust that the how will reveal itself in its own perfect timing.

Photo by Mārtiņš Zemlickis on Unsplash

 

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph