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This is so difficult to explain so please be patient if I ramble. I don't know where to draw boundaries, I don't know what is reasonable and what is not and I find myself giving so much of my time and resources to other people that I am left stressed and tired.
I don't think my problem is lack of assertiveness and I am capable of saying "No", it's more that I don't know when it's appropriate and reasonable to say no. It's like as if I put the needs of others before my own but I'm not even sure what my needs are or how to express them. I behave as if I have no needs of my own.
I've just had 6 months of work with a breakdown and this week I can feel myself slipping backwards again. I'd like a few days R&R on my own, somewhere quiet and peaceful, but I hate letting people down - this week I'm helping a rather demanding friend make a never-ending stream of dresses for her holiday (sewing is a hobby I enjoy but I am not particularly skilful and it has stressed me trying to get everything perfect for her) and my mum keeps phoning me to ask me when I'm going to stay with her. In these visits I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I love my mum very much so I feel so selfish and mean thinking like this.
This is the pattern of my life - last year I cancelled an operation because my mum wasn't very well and this year I missed a course I had booked and paid for because of my friend's dresses.
I'm feeling so overwhelmed but somehow feel it would be so unreasonable and selfish of me to say "I can't........., I need.......".
Sorry for the length and rambleness. Any advice welcome.
It sounds to me as if you DO have a problem saying no to your friend. Does your friend know about your breakdown? Maybe she thinks you enjoy making the dresses and she is helping you? It seems to me like you have a problem in asserting yourself and feel uncomfortable being honest about what you do or don't want to do? If you feel people are placing unwelcome pressure on you right now, why don't you simplify everything for now and not commit to much and see how you feel on the day/ make more spontaneous plans?
I find it useful to say "let me think about that/check those dates and get back to you" rather than the knee jerk yes I used to give to any request. It just gives you time to check with yourself if you are ok with the request and if you aren't you get time to frame a firm NO in a way that isn't offensive but is clear.
I've just had 6 months of work with a breakdown and this week I can feel myself slipping backwards again. I'd like a few days R&R on my own, somewhere quiet and peaceful
If you don't get those fews of days R&R you'll be no use to anyone and I suspect the demanding friend you're going out of your way to help won't be much in evidence if you're in need.
As your friend sounds to be a perfectly capable seamstress who can pin her own hems and make her own tea without any assistance from you, you should have no compunction about telling her that 'something's come up' and you won't be available for the rest of the week - please note there is NO need to go into detail and that NO is a complete sentence
You can fob your dm off with replies such as 'it looks as if it will have to be sometime in the autumn' and tell her you're as disappointed as she is that you're not going to have time to visit before then.
To encourage you to follow the above advice, look and book a relaxing midweek or weekend break today - there's so many delightful country/seaside hotels where you'll have nothing more to do than getting yourself dressed and enjoying the food and the ambience that you'll be spoilt for choice. Do you have anywhere particular in mind?
After you've regrouped and returned home ask your GP to refer you for CBT with a view to becoming more assertive www.cognitivebehaviourtherapy.co.uk/Assertiveness/page_01.htm or simply google 'assertiveness training' to find details of the numerous courses on offer. #
You owe it to yourself to prioritise your needs above others until such time as you've got the mental and physical stamina help them out without it taking a toll on you.
Above all, NEVER EVER neglect your health for anyone again.
my mum keeps phoning me to ask me when I'm going to stay with her. In these visits I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I love my mum very much so I feel so selfish and mean thinking like this.
I think you've just hit the reason for your lack of confidence in setting boundaries and doing things for yourself.
You might find a visit to the Stately Homes thread useful. All of us on there have experienced the feelings of Fear, Obligation and Guilt that you describe - commonly abbreviated as FOG.
Do you have children? If not, YOU should be the most important person in your life. You were not put on this earth to serve someone else's needs or always put others first. Being generous and giving is a great quality, but taken too far it turns you into a doormat.
You cancelled a course to help your friend with her dresses?! That really isn't a normal friendship, OP. You describe her as "demanding" and I wonder if you get anything from her, or is it all one-way? I suspect that you have replaced one demanding, impossible to please mother with another model.
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