I give myself permission to NOT do things. Yes, there are consequences and the ‘What if?’s’ that must be lived with. What if I cancel? What if I miss something important?
For ‘What If’s’ the ‘So what?’s’ come in handy. So what if you cancel? I may not get invited again. So what? I’d feel left out and dejected a bit. So what? I’d have to find something else to do. So what? I’d find something else more fun to do that I wanted to do.
I gave myself permission to not publish this blog for awhile. I gave myself permission to finish cleaning for fall, to squeeze the last drops of summer out of the calendar that could be wrung out, and to take time for myself resting on the couch with my puppy on rainy days napping, watching movies, and reading.
I believe people have good intentions.
One of my friends who has never sick a day in her life has beliefs like if you think good thoughts you can cure yourself of arthritis. I love her to death, respect her beliefs, and hope to God above she never has any serious illness. She said to me when I had to cancel our plans
“Why don’t you come out anyway? You’ll feel better if you do. Sometimes you just need to get moving to get more energy.”
Duh. ‘I have pushed myself for 72 hours with other activities. My energy is non-existent. If I get in the car I may fall asleep driving. If I managed to get there in 3 hours you would need to drive me home. Tomorrow, I’d likely be sick and need to stay in bed all day.’
My real response “Really need to stay home and take care of myself. Thanks for understanding.”
No, is a complete sentence.
I worked with a lady who is the kind of person I aspire to be. She and I were seated together at the office Christmas luncheon. A co-worker came up to Lady and asked, “I’m working on Project X. Would you help me with it?” Without a moment’s hesitation, she simply answered “No.” Our co-worker walked away knowing Lady wouldn’t be swayed.
That was a few years ago and I still think about that moment often.
My supervisor would “ask” me to come in 2 hours early about once a month to set up for a board of directors meeting. I always said yes. After many months of doing this, he “asked” me again if I could help set up for the meeting and this time I said, “I’m sorry but I am not able to do so. You’ll need to find someone else.”
I was not prepared for his rage of “I expect you to do what I ask of you! Do you understand how strange it would look to ask another assistant in a different department to help me with this?! Why can’t you do this?”
I replied “If I could do this I would. I am just not able to this time.” His eyes glared, skin flushed, mouth tensed, nostrils flared, and his hands pressed flat on his desk. I didn’t want him to think me insubordinate so I had to fess up and explain. If I didn’t I feared he might tank me on my performance review.
It was humiliating to have to say, “I have had trouble getting up in the morning. February is always one of the hardest months for me.” He looked at me like I had antennas growing out of the top of my head.
Then I started to leak tears. “Forgive me. Please ignore these.” as I waved around my face. “Sometimes I just leak. It doesn’t mean anything” I pressed on.
“You know I have bipolar disorder. Sometimes that means that I lack energy. Most days I can fight it. Most days I win. In February though, there are other circumstances that make it a lot harder and I lose. The cold dreary weather and lack of sun, like I think they do for everyone, make it hard to get going. When I wake I move like I’m moving through molasses. My bones feel so heavy they seem to be filled with cement and covered with lead. I think about death; how much I rely on my loved ones and if I’d manage to survive without them. My “appointments” for which I have scheduled time off for this month are to see my doctor and therapist to help me stay on top of it. These are just a couple of the things that I deal with in the morning. There are more things I deal with during the day and night IF you’d like to hear them.
When I say I canNOT help you please know that I mean I cannot help you. It does not mean that I will not help you or that I don’t want to help you. If I was able to help you I would. I’ve NEVER said no to you. In the year and a half we’ve worked together, have I ever refused to help you with anything?” Silence. I looked and his stunned face, open eyes, and mouth. His eyes were still confused but I could see the wheels beginning to turn faster.
“Please ask someone else this time.” I left and closed the door behind me.
It sucks to educate people.
When I had cancer I didn’t have to teach people about it. The ignorance and misconceptions people have about mental illness get frustrating. It IS easier give other more acceptable reasons. (I’ve had many “stomach bugs” in my lifetime.)
I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone told me to “try the all-natural herbs I use.” My reply, “You know what else is all natural? Mud.” End of conversation. I often feel like I should carry around National Association on Mental Illness brochures.
When I was unable to help my supervisor because I was struggling with depression, I apologized to him for the inconvenience. I was sorry for having bipolar. I was ashamed.
Cancer made me so weak in the morning I could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom or pick up the phone. Bipolar disorder made me so weak in the morning I could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom or pick up the phone. I never apologized for cancer. The difference? Stigma.
If I only pushed myself hard enough and focused on positive thoughts I would easily jump out of bed, move more, get more energy. Leukemia doesn’t work like that. Neither does depression.
So as much as it sucks to educate people that is one of the reasons why I write this blog. Talking about brain-based disorders helps eradicate stigma around mental illnesses.
Another reason I write this blog
is to help others who are going through what I have and let them know they aren’t alone.
If I could go back in time 3 years and talk to my past self, what would I say?
- First, I’d advise researching Canadian or Italian citizenship.
- Then I’d strongly emphasize
- Life is too short to be miserable. Do things that make you happy. Enjoy being silly. Laugh loud.
- Just because you made plans and God put your plans in a shredder, lit the shredded pieces on fire, then threw water on the ashes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make more plans.
- It’s okay to dream. It’s okay to try to make your dreams come true. Sometimes you don’t know what you truly want until you know what you don’t want. Try, try, and try again. Fail, fail, and fail again. It is in the failing that we fall and fly.
- It’s also okay to just be. Just be. 💕
The Meaning of Life?
Last week I re-watched the movie “Passengers” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. In it, Jennifer’s character watches a video of her best friend saying ‘I hope you learn that you don’t have to do anything extraordinary to have an extraordinary life.’
“I’m stuck in a spaceship that has a swimming pool, a bar, robot waiters, a Chinese restaurant, a French restaurant and handsome Chris Pratt. Oh, woe is me. What is the meaning of life?”
Life is made up of the small moments. Do your best to have a lot of good moments. Put them all together and you have a good life.
So I give myself permission. Permission to just be.
I am happy. I am enough. I’ve nothing to prove. 😁
A Must-Read Essay
For well-meaning friends, share “The Spoon Theory” written by Christine Miserandino (butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory). It’s the best description I’ve come across of what it is like to live with an invisible illness.