Permission to Say No

Like healthy individuals, those who live with chronic illness face many demands throughout their daily lives. They have additional, long-term demands for self-care, including the need to fill prescriptions, to complete bloodwork, to undergo diagnostic testing, and to attend ongoing medical appointments.

In addition, they may face family members’ requests for extra help. Sometimes, it is imperative to refuse others’ requests for assistance. This is self-preservation, as opposed to selfishness.

In our society, women still face disproportionate demands when it comes to meeting caregiver responsibilities. At various times throughout their lives, women are facing childrearing responsibilities.

Many years later, they may be dealing with grandparenting obligations, as well as balancing the healthcare needs of aging parents. In addition to taking care of their own healthcare obligations, they may find themselves dealing with a significant other who is facing health challenges.

There is only so much time and energy to go around. This is true for everyone, even if you pride yourself on being ultra-organized and super-efficient.

Respecting your limits is especially critical if you are juggling the demands of managing chronic illness. I think that women especially struggle with feeling guilty, if they decide to refuse others’ requests for help.

Somehow, we erroneously perceive that we have unlimited resources. Therefore, we should be all things, to all people, at all times. If not, we define ourselves as inadequate mothers, deficient daughters, or faulty partners.

This is the perfect recipe for developing burnout. Perhaps not immediately, but somewhere down the road, it will inevitably manifest. Remember the last time that you were on an airplane?

The flight attendant gently reminded you to “secure your own mask, before assisting others.” Such a command makes perfect sense for everyone, whether or not you enjoy good health.

If you should find yourself facing the unique challenges of living with chronic illness, it is absolutely imperative to heed this instruction.

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