Episode 063 - What can people expect of you now
Welcome to episode 063 of the podcast! It’s great to see you.
Today I’m talking about what people can expect of you now you live with a chronic illness.
When we get sick we go to a place of no longer knowing what life can hold for us. With an invisible illness, so many people don’t believe we’re sick and it can feel there’s a constant battle trying to prove that we are.
Especially when it comes to making plans. It’s not that we no longer want to spend time with these people, well, not always that, but that we were clearly not putting ourselves first for a very long time, which is possibly how we got sick in the first place, that now we need to shift focus away from them and what they want, and onto ourselves and what we want and need.
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Transcript of episode
Hello! I’m your host, Lorraine Stone, and on today’s episode I’m talking about what people can expect of you now you live with a chronic illness.
When we get sick we go to a place of no longer knowing what life can hold for us. With an invisible illness, so many people don’t believe we’re sick and it can feel there’s a constant battle trying to prove that we are. Especially when it comes to making plans. It’s not that we no longer want to spend time with these people, well, not always that, but that we were clearly not putting ourselves first for a very long time, which is possibly how we got sick in the first place, that now we need to shift focus away from them and what they want, and onto ourselves and what we want and need.
When was the last time you said yes to something, even though the idea filled you with dread? Regardless of who is causing you to give in when you really don’t want to or think you should, chances are you could do with a refresher on boundaries. Also known as the rules for how you wish to be treated by others, and very importantly, yourself!
Boundaries are key components of good mental health. They are set limits for what people can expect from you. When people respect your boundaries, including yourself respecting your own, you feel heard, and understood.
Boundaries are quite literally like a brick wall, and with shoddy workmanship or improper maintenance they’ll fall down in the first gust of wind that comes by. They are the building blocks of your self-esteem and self-worth. Not putting them in place, or not sticking to them, will affect you in ways you may not even notice. You give away all of your time, all of your energy, you burn out, and fast, and often not knowing why.
Clear boundaries, especially now you are sick, allows you to say yes to the things you can or will, and no to the things you can’t or won’t do. They help with pacing, they help with the number of spoons you have. They help with avoiding the need to then cancel because you over-committed yourself, or didn’t want to do it in the first place, and the feelings that come with letting someone else down.
In my case, boundaries helped me to put in place the rule that I only do one big thing in a weekend. If I have the Friday or Monday off, maybe I’ll do another slightly smaller thing. But to ensure that I get a good amount of rest after working all week, that I have time to food shop, meal prep, and get some time in the garden, then it’s one thing. One birthday meal, one wedding, or one other big social gathering, and that’s that. I often don’t stay until the end either. And because I have put these boundaries in place, and more crucially I have stuck to them, people know what to expect of me.
Different parts of life need different boundaries.
So first, work/life boundaries.
This one begins with those in your workplace. Especially for a lucky few of us that still have a hybrid model of working. Tell your boss that you won’t be answering emails after a certain time in the evening. I have a rule with mine that if it is urgent, he better ring me. Don’t be surprised if for some people you first need to give them lessons in urgent.
If your bedroom is the only place you find peaceful, don’t work from there. Don’t take work calls with your babies in your arms, they’ll pick up the stress that naturally rises when you’re dealing with work and that will give you even more stress. A good one for me was to recreate the commute activities. I would read on the train to switch my brain over, so once I started working from home more I would spend 5 minutes reading at the top of the stairs. You could go for a walk, even if only to the end of the garden. Put the laptop in a drawer, or anywhere out of sight.
And the one that drives me the most nuts – don’t tell people that you are not available or can not be interrupted, and then answer your messages anyway. I was guilty of this one, and a former boss would then never respect my boundaries. Even the time he was sending me emails in shouty caps asking why I hadn’t replied to him, because he’d forgotten I was having surgery that day and was likely under general anaesthetic at the time. But I had taught him that I’ll answer anyway. Always.
Your family are more than used to you always saying yes. Parents and siblings have observed it your whole life. You need to be upfront with them that you won’t be doing Christmas this year, or that someone else needs to get the birthday cake. And don’t leave it to the last minute to tell them. If you know you are being reasonable by asking others to pick up some of the tasks, there’s no need to feel guilty about upholding your boundaries. Often we are people pleasers, but just think of the empowerment it gives others for them to be able to do some of these tasks and to help you.
I had a friend who would message me to ask the best way to get from A to B in London, because I work in the City, and she couldn’t be bothered to look it up for herself. One day I went the passive aggressive route and didn’t reply for several hours, knowing that by the time I did it would be too late and she would have had to have looked it up herself. But then after that I went with the direct route and told her I didn’t know and to ask google, which is what I would have done for her in the first place. There’ll always be people in your life who will ask you to do something because they don’t want to have to. It doesn’t matter what their reason why is, what matters is that you are not draining yourself. A good friend will understand, and those that don’t are not ones you need in your life anyway.
You love them, you’re fully committed to them, but you are so over the arguments of how they’re late, or untidy, etc, and if your partner continually disrespects you like this, it’s going to seriously affect you. But you can’t keep arguing about it because it causes you both to shut down. So instead, try to discuss how it affects both of you, and how it affects your dynamic. And then jointly work through it. Maybe you need to assign chores. Maybe he needs to think a little more when it comes to leaving stuff on the carpet. Or maybe you do. Maybe you need to explain that living in an untidy home causes you to feel more unwell, and when you feel more unwell you are unable to engage in couple things, such as sex. If he helps you out with cleaning up after himself, that’s less for you to do, and you’ll feel less exhausted when you go to bed at night. A warning here though, he’ll soon revert if what you agree to doesn’t happen on your side. You have to honour his boundaries too.
Perhaps our most important one. Communicating your health boundaries helps others understand what you need to be making time for and why it’s important to you. If you understand your motivation for wanting to do something, it’s much easier to explain it to others. Often it’s you that needs reminding how important your own health is.
Build yourself a routine. If meditation, for instance, is important to you, pop it in at the same time every day, or every other day, or how often it is that you choose. Tell those at home you are not to be interrupted and don’t open the door unless the house is on fire. My sister always says when her husband is looking after my niece, he’ s not babysitting, he’s parenting. Your partner is perfectly capable of looking after the children for however long it needs for you to be able to take the time to meditate.
Don’t allow yourself to push it around in your day. You’ll only create feelings of shame and guilt for not having done it. There is that trick of putting something in the diary and saying that at 7am I’m going to do this. If you would honour that as a commitment to somebody else, or for work, honour it for yourself. You are just as important.
As things start to improve and you’re able to fit exercise back in, which is wonderful for your mental health, explain to others that this doesn’t mean your illness has gone away, but that it is helping you to manage it. In the early days, I would hide away and didn’t tell anyone. I wanted to see if it really did make a difference. I was lucky as I lived by myself so I could work out at home with no one else knowing. When I was living with my ex, I would hide in the bathroom and do squats. Star jumps are not a good idea if you’re trying to do this in secret… There’s a very big difference between the body being tired from having worked out, but your brain has been fired up from it, and the lethargy both your body and brain have from doing nothing at all. So if you can, even if you need to ask someone to join you for a gentle walk in the sun, do it.
When you keep to your boundaries, and you are feeling more loved, and heard for it, and that you’re happier for it, others will start to see it is more about having an impact on you, than it is about them.
I’d love to know your key takeaway from today’s episode, or if you’d like some support with working through what’s getting in the way of you reclaiming your life from chronic illness, you can email me on [email protected]. You can also find me on Instagram, at lifeinalign, just DM me, and I’ll get back to you. I’ve put a link to my email and my Instagram in the shownotes. I have also created a quiz for you to answer a few questions to reveal your perfect match power scent, which is a confidence secret weapon. There’s a link for this in the shownotes too, and if you go anywhere on my website, you should see a pop-up that will take you there. Thanks for listening, and remember – you are worth it, and you get to choose. Have a lovely day.