January 27th, 2007

Cut cuddle and be Cute

Saying "No!"

Yesterday, while reading through posts in the Disability Blog Carnival (link will be at the end of today's post.), I found
This great post about saying "no"
I've had these conversations in person, and maybe even written about them here, but felt the need to write about this again.

Saying "no" and sticking up for myself is probably one of the hardest things to do if I'm uncomfortable, with or don't know the person around me who's doing something or saying something I don't like. I think, to an extent, being a woman and/or having a disability/illness can make that even harder. As a woman, I do feel pressure to be nurturing, or helpful. A professor I had for a few weeks last year told our class "Women usually have too much shame." I think, to an extent, that's true when dealing with an illness. I'm not ashamed of my blindness, but I do tend to blame myself for things I legitimately need Whether that's help identifying or finding something, (blindness related) or to not go do something or not have someone touch my foot (pain related), I find it harder to admit these things.

I've gotten better at this. I am more assertive when it comes to needing to know what's on the menu. I am less likely to eat something I really don't want instead of asking what else is available. I'm more likely to tell someone I don't recognize their voice or can't combine it with a name, rather than play the guessing game for five minutes until they say something that identifies them to me. But when it comes to things like accepting someone violating my personal bubble, or needing to accept help relating to pain, or needing to say "No, I can't go there tonight" or "Actually, yes, I'd love to sit down please.", I have a harder time asking for what I need.

I'm more likely to bite my lip than tell a practitioner that what they're doing really hurts. Case in point, during a Healing Touch session, I didn't admit that the touch on my foot was pretty darn painful. I'm not completely sure why it's harder to admit that something hurts (although if I know you really well, I'll tell you to stop touching my foot, or if I need you to show me where the discoloration stops I'll have you use the good ol' hand over hand method because it's less painful.)

I think, in general, society conditions us to believe that not liking something (or having it be painful) is our fault. It seems there's even a contest of who can tolerate the most discomfort. And heaven forbid I am bothered by something no one else is. In school, the words "wuss" or "sissy" are used. As we get older, we tend to dismiss things with "intolerant," "low pain tolerance", "over-sensitive" or "malingerer". In general, people, myself included, tend to struggle with differences and dismiss them easily.

These comments then become a part of our psychy. We can become our own worst enimies with the things we say to ourselves. I often say that if I were my own client, I'd hope my social work license would be questioned (I don't have one yet and won't for a good while, but it's just an illustration). We start questioning our own abilities, needs and preferences. And it gets harder and harder to say "no", "stop that" or whatever we need to do. Sometimes, it's a matter of bruised feelings, but as the article linked at the top of this writing points out, it can also become an issue of physical safety. And we also need to remember that disability, pain or illness does not make us less of a person. And like it or not, when we settle for what others do, even if it literally or physically hurts because we don't want to become a burden, be a pain or be thought of as a weak person, we devalue ourselves. RSD DID NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN I HAD TO SETTLE FOR PAIN. Mentioning that I'm touch sensitive is not a bad thing. Telling someone to get out of my personal bubble nicely (or not nicely if it's absolutely necessary) is not wrong, sinful or anything like that. It's not necessary to wrestle with some kind of situation, when a solution is readily available.

Many of us are either people with disabilities, people with pain, people with other disorders (physical, emotional etc.), people who know them or people who care for them or whatever. It's imparative that these lessons are taught to everyone. It is okay to ask for what we need. And it's healthy to do that whether we're in danger or not. I would hypothesize that saying "no" with little things will increase physical and emotional safety.

For example, if I am known as a person who cares about others, but isn't afraid to ask for what I need, I'm less likely to be thought of as a person who can be taken advantage of. I'm also more likely to recognize the larger safety issues. If I constantly monitor for things that are not right or are harmful, I'm going to be more likely to recognize that situation earlier, before it becomes big. I'm also going to have more practice saying no. It will be a more natural action, and I will not freeze because I don't normally enforce boundaries.

Finally, we have to set boundaries with ourselves. We have to say "no" and ask ourselves for the things we need. Otherwise, we're still perpetuating the harm. I should clarify that last comment. What I mean by asking ourselves for what we need is that we need to set emotional and thought boundaries with ourselves. Meaning that just because I make a mistake doesn't mean I have to hold onto it. In other words, beating myself up is not productive. This is where it's much much easier for me to write that than put it into practice (smile).

I often write these posts for myself, so if I'm off base, feel free to tell me. I'm asking for what I need, in this case, I'm just interested in feedback, good or bad. Telling me you disagree with me is not going to be harmful, as long as you don't flame (smile).

The disability blog carnival
is here.