Saying No

Saying No

This year I’ve been practicing saying no and pulling back. It’s a hard thing for me to do and it doesn’t come naturally. But I’ve had to set more limits on how I spend my time because my treatment hasn’t been working for a while and I’ve had a long, difficult period with my rheumatoid arthritis.

To be honest, I have observed some mixed reactions. Perhaps because I don’t necessarily look any different on an average day when I explain that I’ve been going through a rough patch with RA people don’t always understand. It’s not always visible— the pain, the stiffness, and the fatigue. Thankfully, plenty of people in my life have been supportive, caring, and interested in listening to my difficulties. It makes all the difference to have that understanding and patience surrounding me.

I thought I could push through the pain.

At first, I thought I could just “push through” because that is what I usually do. Grin and bear the pain. Keep the fatigue to myself. But I just couldn’t muster the physical strength to do all the things. So, I have had to do less and let things go. Others can take on the tasks—I don’t have to do it all by myself.

Previously, I might have every night after a full day of work booked with volunteer responsibilities, meeting various friends, or networking. Then I may have a couple of morning coffee appointments and a weekend obligation. But no more. I’m now home and resting most nights of the week and usually just do one weekend engagement (if that). While I still don’t feel well, I am less exhausted and stressed.

Perhaps I will eventually be able to ramp up and do more, but I can’t return to my previous breakneck speed. My priority is keeping my health as stable as possible until I can transition onto a treatment that will hopefully work better. But it will take time to even determine if the treatment is working, so I’m looking at a timeline of months.

I think I was burning myself out.

To be honest, while I enjoy a busy and fulfilling life, I think I was burning myself out. I was struggling with my RA since last fall, but didn’t want to admit how hard it actually was. And while I changed medications with the goal of improvement, it ended up not working the way I had hoped. Between obligations, work, family, and my health I was being stretched too thin and the stress was wearing me out.

Pulling back and saying “no” more often may have been the best thing for my health, yet it’s been one of the hardest things to do. I like helping. I like doing. But I need to be resting and caring for my health instead of whirling around like a spinning top. I’ve had to tell myself that others can step in or that I can only do so much. I’ve had to let go of things I cared deeply about and hope that things work out for the best. I can’t do it all—and the attempt was worsening my condition.

Don’t get me wrong. I still do plenty. My husband reminds me that I do a lot more than most people! (He is a little biased!) But he has a point in that I work full time, volunteer, and enjoy connecting with friends and family regularly.

I think it’s a good thing for us RA patients just to be reminded sometimes, that saying no can be a good thing. We need to take care of ourselves, as much as we want to keep chugging along like normal. It’s OK to say no a little to others, and yes a little to some self-care.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • kat-elton
    5 months ago

    Hi Kelly, I’m learning the same lesson right now. It seems to me that living with such enormous amounts of pain 24/7 makes it harder to know when to say no at times because we spend every day pushing so hard through the pain. But in the long run, learning to say no to obligations or activities that are too draining allows us to say yes to rest and relaxation which is a gift in itself! I agree with your husband- you do more than most for others! Take care!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    5 months ago

    Thanks Kat! You make a really good point. I definitely have a hard time thinking and taking care of myself when having lots of pain and fatigue. It definitely makes the self-care difficult when I’m struggling to get through the day. Perhaps getting support from loved ones to check ourselves about self-care would be helpful. I’m going to think on that. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Pcollins1
    6 months ago

    Hello Kelly, I find myself frequently feeling just as you described. I find most people don’t understand and even when you do try to explain, which is a personal intrusion I don’t enjoy, most people still don’t understand and think RA is the same as osteoarthritis. I’ve had RA a very long time and haven’t participated in chat forums or support groups but recently started too and find them kind of validating. Although I hate to see others suffer, it does help to know there are others out there with similar experiences. Thank you for your article and YES you do have the right to put yourself ahead of a few things in your life. In the long run it will probably help you be a better mother, wife and friend.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thanks so much Pcollins–really appreciate your words. Glad that you are finding support here. I’m with you in that I am sorry about the pain we patients experience, but find it so helpful to know people who ‘get it’ and can support each other. Take care. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Casmere
    6 months ago

    Kelly, I totally understand the anguish with having to say “NO” I decided to get and share a place, a home with my 80 year mother in spring of 2014. Expecting to be with her till she went home to our maker. This did not happen as I ended up struggling with my RA and other issues that came up. Her health issues along with working full-time, taking care of the house and trying to have some time away for myself which became practicly nothing. February 2017 I had surgery and when I went back to work but did not have the energy I should of had hence more tests. The 3rd of July I was put on some meds ‘re my test results by July other i was in hospital with a serious reaction to the new medication which affected all my muscles.

    I was not able to walk without a walker and in Jan. 2018 my Rheumatologist diagnosed me with FIbromyalgia then also in July with Polymyalgia Rheumatica along with the RA & OA.

    Now getting to having to say “NO”. Obviously that summer of 2017 not being able to do much, using a walker, my mom and I moved in with my daughter and her family. My mom expecting I would be better in the fall and we vould find and get a place for us again. Both my daughter and I realized that would not be happening. I/we finally had to tell her “NO” which was so very very hard and emotional because inspite of having siblings I was the one she always relied on for many years. There were many no’s before this time, of course.

    My life the past 2 years has taken a drastic change and I have had to deal with these changes physically and emotionally. I now say this is my new norm. Also, I am slowly getting back some sence of normality within limits and only when I can.

    All my prays and best to you with your struggles. I/we on here do understand very well.

    Casmere

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you for the kind words and support Casmere. I have found ‘no’ can be one of the hardest words to say, but it must be done. We want to do so much for others, but we do have our limits. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m not doing others any favors if I commit to something I can’t actually do. Take care. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    6 months ago

    Kelly and Casmere,
    What amazing women you are! Saying no is so hard, yet vital for us. As I read your article Kelly, I identified with being home most nights. This is my usual routine. It has to be so that I can continue to work fulltime and provide for my sons.
    Casmere, I am so sorry for both you and your mom. So many adjustments in such a short time. You have made wise decisions, and your mom will begin to understand. It took time for my mom to “get it”.
    When we choose what we can do, then we can do it well. I am willing to say no, so that when I say yes I do it well.
    Prayers and hugs for both of you.
    MS

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hi c7mv96, really like the wisdom you shared here. Saying no so that when you say yes, you can do it well. Well said. 🙂 Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Casmere
    6 months ago

    Thank you MS for the compliment but I don’t really feel that amazing. I do know I have tried my very best and still do within limits. I was able to get out last evening (my daughter came with me) and enjoy time with my friends but realized when it was time to go home. So now today I am exhaused. Though it is worth it. We need that enjoyment of friends. MY prays and hugs are with you also. Take care, and becareful.

    Casmere

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