Learning to say no is one of the most difficult parts of living with a chronic illness. No one wants to be considered selfish and uncaring because they never help out a friend or a family member, but when your body has limitations you cannot do everything that is asked of you. It’s especially difficult when you have an invisible illness because most people think that you are fine. It’s essential that you learn to set boundaries and make sure that the people around you follow them. To help you with those boundaries here’s a few questions you should ask yourself before you say yes to something.
1. Do I feel well enough and do I have enough spoons to do this?
You can’t help anyone if you exhaust yourself completely. If you push yourself through the pain and fatigue more than likely it will eventually catch up to you and you’ll crash. Before you agree to anything make sure that you have the proper bandwidth. If someone is unhappy with you telling them no, share The Spoon Theory with them and try to help them understand. Oftentimes they won’t get it, but it never hurts to try.
2. Is this something that absolutely needs to be done by me or is there someone else available?
How essential are you to this task? Can someone else easily do it? Oftentimes people will ask for a favor not knowing your circumstances, but once they find out they may be able to find someone else. This has happened to me many times. Someone asked me to do something because I was the most convenient, but when I couldn’t do it they had plenty of other options. Even if they do not have other options, I am not obligated to sacrifice my physical well being for the comfort of someone else.
3. Where on my list of priorities does this fall?
Life with chronic illness is all about setting priorities. You can’t do everything, so there’s always something that goes undone. The goal is to do the most important tasks and let the other ones fall off the priority list. If you have a million things you have to do and very few spoons which to do them, you should not be adding more tasks to your list.
4. Do I have time to recover?
For most people with chronic illness every time we do something that aggravates our illness we have to build in a recovery period. How long that takes is different for every task and every individual, but we all know what our own body is capable of. If I write an important event on my calendar I automatically cross out the days around it so that I have time to take care of myself. This really aggravates my spouse, but he’ll be more aggravated if I push myself and end up crashing for a week. If something comes up and I don’t have room in my calendar for a recovery period I often don’t do it.
5. How important is this person to me?
This sounds like a jerk question, but it’s something people with chronic illness have to think about. If someone very close to me needs something I’m much more willing to give up my spoons to help them. I have a mutually beneficial relationship with that person so I don’t mind if I sacrifice spoons for them now and then. If it’s just an acquaintance I don’t feel the need.