Over the last few days I’ve come a bit of a cropper a few times because I haven’t been honest about situations and how they will impact me.
I’m not just talking about being honest and open with others but more importantly being honest with myself.
I have a longstanding history of not being honest with others. Not saying what I think for fear of hurting others or making others upset. It goes way back to my childhood and is something that I’m working on! It’s got me into some tricky and emotionally draining situations many times. Situations that have escalated and become drawn out which could have easily been resolved quickly and with less hurt if I’d just been open to begin with.
The problem is that somewhere along the line I forgot not just how to say what I think or what I need, but also how to actually know what I think or need.
When life is tootling along quite nicely you can get round this but when you are suddenly in a situation where your actions and decisions impact on your everyday health things get harder. The first things to do is notice that this is an issue. I think I’d always known that I was rubbish at making decisions but it was only when I started working on ways to manage the CFS that I realised exactly how deep it went. I slowly became aware that I was rubbish at making decisions because I always based them on what I thought others needed rather than on what I needed. It then became clear that this was because I didn’t always know what I needed and even if I did I would bury it under the needs of others.
It was also easy to expect others to take on the role of knowing my needs. Before I really began to work on this my default setting was to demand telepathy from others. People around me – friends, family. work colleagues – should be able to tell what I needed, that what I was expected to do was too much or that I’d need longer to get something done. It was easier to make this unrealistic demand on others than to face up to the difficulty I actually had in recognising what I needed and verbalising it.
When you’re trying to manage CFS with this sort of thing going on believe me it’s not easy. You get invited somewhere which you know will be too much for you but you don’t want to upset people and actually you can’t really decide whether you want to go anyway! This forms itself into an internal argument which the Optimum Health Clinic label ‘Mental tennis’ (see link below to a video explaining this). A thought or a decision goes back and forth in your head whilst you try to decide what to do. The easy way out of this is to say ‘listen to what your body needs’ and base your decision on that. The problem is that even with this as your mantra, with as complex a condition as CFS it’s not always clear what your body needs. Plus often your decision will be made harder because the Achiever in you is telling you that you can do it. Although very likely that claim is based on your old abilities rather than your new ones.
There is no easy answer to this one. It take lots of work to peel back the layers to find out what your drivers are. What’s making you unsure of your own needs? Why is that Achiever voice so strong? Why do you find it so hard to be honest both with yourself and with others?
I’m 7 years down the line now with CFS and I’ve been working on this in various ways for pretty much most of that time. I know why I find it hard to be honest. I know why I find it hard to identify my own needs and I’m getting better at listening to my body though sometimes it still floors me totally. I know when it’s my Achiever talking and why that Achiever is there in the first place.
However even now I sometimes get it completely wrong. I’ve written before about the huge impact that being by the sea or in nature has on me. I’ve also spoken about how much better I feel when I’m out walking as opposed to being inside and using a laptop or trying to read or concentrate. To me this is my new ‘need’. This is what my body requires to feel better and ease the CFS symptoms whilst triggering that parasympathetic state which can help with healing.
Yet it isn’t always as clear cut as that. At the weekend I wanted to go for a walk by the sea. We chose a route that wasn’t as flat as our normal walk. In fact the slope was ridiculous. I knew just looking at it that ti would be too much but yet I said nothing. I persuaded myself that the benefit of the sea and the walking would outweigh the hill. But it didn’t. Walking up that hill was way too much for me. By the time I made it to the top the strength in my legs had all but gone. This isn’t what is supposed to happen to me. Walking is something that I can do. That my body is good at. But on this occasion it failed me. Purely because I wasn’t honest about what I needed and fell back into my old habit of expecting others to be telepathic about my needs.
Don’t get me wrong the walk still had a calming affect on me but that affect was on a nervous system that had been unnecessarily ramped up by me overstretching myself physically. The rubbish sleep I’ve had since and the aching legs should be enough of a warning for me in the future. If I’m not honest with myself and with others there will be a fall out. Hopefully lesson learnt.