Sunday, October 20, 2019

Deciding What I’ll Do and How Much I’ll Do for My Best Health

In true keeping with not quickly remembering the lessons I’ve already learned, it took me a few months of building frustration before seeing a situation I’m experiencing as something I could approach differently.

I volunteer for our local self-help group, and increasing work and personal health demands are making it harder for me to continue doing everything I’ve done for the past six years. I’d asked for volunteers to help.  Some stepped forward and I appreciated their help, but still I felt responsible for more than I can continue. 

I was getting frustrated, and resentment was building.  I was getting grumpy and feeling like the others in the group were expecting too much of me.  I was stuck in a mindset believing the only options were for others to do what needs to be done or for me to leave the group entirely.  

I told close friends about my frustration.  I detailed how I know what I do is appreciated, but I also feel people are putting these responsibilities on me because I look fine and am in better health than they are.  Often, I’ve had people ask me what my association is with Multiple Sclerosis.  I tell them that I have MS and I’m a member of the group. More than once, they’ve forgotten and asked me again a few months later.  My takeaway from the conversations was that they don’t see me as a peer, they see me as providing charity.  

It was on the short drive from work to our monthly meeting where I realized I don’t need to solve the entire problem. I only need to identify what I’m willing to do and let everyone know.  The rest I can let go without guilt.  If someone wants more, I’m not required to provide it.

I get a lot out of the group.  I’m able to ask specific questions about their experiences and how they’ve handled issues I’m facing or anticipate for my future.  Participating in the group is worth it to me, and it’s worth my time.  I can continue meeting coordination, the monthly letter, periodic leader training sessions and phone calls with new members, because I’m able to do them on my timeline – at night, on a weekend or when I have the energy.  Attending meetings is getting tougher due to work conflicts, and organizing speakers and special events is just too much.  Feeling like I’m failing the group causes me stress.  

I wanted someone to be a co-leader.  I realized on the drive that I hadn’t been specific about what I needed, and I wasn’t differentiating between what I am willing to do, what I won’t do anymore, and what will not be done if no one else wants to take it on.  A need for a group cannot be a demand of me specifically. 

When I was 17 and my family was in a car accident, it created a belief in me that everyone else was allowed to fall apart and I wasn’t.  While most of my family was more injured than I was and needed more care, I stepped up to take care of things.  I watched adults who I thought would come to my aid break down and leave me to do things that had to be done. I resented and envied them.  What would it feel like to not worry about everyone else and only take care of my needs? 

I resented feeling like I wasn’t allowed to fall apart.  I’d been labeled as strong, and I took it to heart.  I thought because I was able to put other people’s needs before mine that I was required to do so.  

It’s been only in the last few years that I realized that I have a choice and I’ve always had a choice.  I am not required to be strong, I’m choosing to be strong.  I’m not required to take care of everything that needs to be done.  I can choose what I’ll do and let certain things falter. Whether I knew it or not, I was choosing to be strong because I wasn’t okay with what I thought the consequences would be.  

During that drive to the meeting, I remembered this lesson.  I considered that it could apply to this problem I faced, and I immediately knew it was right.  I needed to focus on what is in my best interest to continue and let the rest go.  It’s a big shift in my perspective to remember that I don’t need to carry burdens alone.  

I’m working on stepping back once in a while to assess stressful issues more analytically.
1.    What is making it hard for me?
2.    What do I no longer feel is in my best interest to continue?  
3.    What makes me feel resentful?
4.    Why do I think it needs to be done?
5.    What are my resources?
6.    How can I best take care of my needs?
7.    How can I best invite help but not demand it?
8.    Who else might care about it, and how might they be able to help?
9.    Am I willing to accept help if it is done differently than I did it?
10.  Am I willing to live with the consequences if it doesn’t get done?
The difference between feeling forced to do things and choosing to do them is huge for me. As my health changes, I may be able to do more or less than I’ve done before.  If I need to change what people expect from me, I can let them know, give options and let it go.  If someone is angry or disappointed, I can let them be.  If I weigh the options and decide to do something, it’s liberating to know for certain that I chose it. 


  1. Stacie,

    My wise father use to say, "People will treat you how you allow yourself to be treated - don't forget that". Anytime I would complain to him about how I was being treated by someone, he would say, "Well you must like it because you have a choice". He wasn't one for mincing words, and wallowing in pity. He was military.

    My mother, however was biblical in her examples. She would say a biblical quote to draw our attention. One of her favorites was, "So a man thinketh, so is he" - followed by, "Your thoughts are a powerful thing". In other words, what you think is all that really matters. If you think you can, you can, if you think you can't – you most certainly will fail – nothing positive is going to happen, until you believe it can. Bottom line, control your thoughts, and you control your situation.

    This homeschooling from my parents, was perhaps the wisest counsel I have received from my parents because it gave me the strength to THINK DEEPLY and make serious and conscientious choices. It helped me realize that it's up to me to teach people my boundaries and be quick about it. I find myself saying pretty much the same things, and counseling my two daughters and granddaughters the same way.

    Yes, it is liberating to know FOR CERTAIN, THAT YOU CAN CHOSE. You are on your way. Good or bad, you can chose which path you want to take, and how you will allow people to treat you. I am so very happy you are choosing what is healthy and right for you.

    All the best and stay the course!


    1. Alise, I love that your parents taught you this early and with different perspectives! It’s truly a gift to you to learn this when young and give you plenty of opportunities to apply healthy and intentional decisions. For you to make sure you pass this wisdom along to your kids and grandkids is so important. I’m guessing they’ve taken it to heart, and the wisdom you and your parents shared has likely reached others in your offsprings’ circle of friends.

      Thank you so much for sharing your parents’ wise words, Alise. I really appreciate hearing your perspective on how you approach expectations while knowing you have a choice in your actions and thoughts.

      I believe we all learn lessons in different circumstances and on varying timelines, yet I think they surround us at all times. When we need to learn it and are ready to hear it, that’s when we see the lesson. To have friends who are generous in sharing their wisdom and experiences is a true joy in life. Your comment brings me much joy, Alise. Thank you.