Do You Use the ‘N’ Word?
I used to be a perpetual people pleaser. To my family. My friends. My bosses. Yes, I will bake the cake, bring the salad, pick you up from the airport, look after your dog, make your appointment. Yes I will stay back and finish that project, do overtime, take on the extra responsibilities, train the newbie. And yes I will come to the party (and bring a savoury dish), enter the half marathon with you and come to lunch.
And quite frankly, it was exhausting. I pleased others to the detriment of myself because by the time I got finished doing everything for everyone else I had no time for myself. I was so busy working a local government job, doing my husband’s business’ bookwork, and taking his ailing mother to a series of never-ending doctor appointments that I had to pay someone else to clean my house (badly) and I was overweight, out of shape and headed for a mental breakdown. I was constantly snapping at my husband, always tense and lost my temper at the drop of a hat.
And I HAD a mental breakdown.
My husband went overseas for two weeks and left me his ENTIRE business along with everything else while he stayed in first-class hotels and drank his way across Nashville, Washington and New York (all on business uh-huh) and something in me just snapped.
I suffered a series of panic attacks so debilitating that I wondered if I should be hospitalised. I had suffered them in the past but not like these ones. These were so bad that my stomach spasmed out of control, I was left heaving for breath, my entire body was trembling and I literally felt like I was going to die. Everything I ate passed right through me and I lost 6kgs in 3 weeks. I had to resort to dry biscuits and pretzels as that was the only food that didn’t make me nauseous.
My doctor put me on xanax twice a day and anti-depressants and I drank a LOT of wine and smoked a lot of cigarettes before finally taking myself to a shrink. I sat down and sobbed and sobbed and told her how my life had spiralled out of control. And it really hadn’t, nothing terrible had happened, I was just overwhelmed by my need to do EVERYTHING.
And her advice was so simple. She said can you pay someone else to do what you do for your husband? And I said, no not really – the work changes daily and it’s complicated and by the time I constantly told them what to do and how to do it, I may as well have done it myself. Then she said, well do you need the money at your government job? And I said no, not really but I love my job. And then she just sat and looked at me until the light bulb came on. I gave four weeks notice the next day.
And I’ve never been healthier or happier. I’m the fittest I’ve been in my life thanks to healthy eating and lots of exercise. I’m doing what I love the most; writing. And I say no a lot. No, I’m unable to go to that party. No, I can’t drive you to the airport. No, I’m not cooking for 10 people every Sunday just so the whole family can catch up. My relationship with my husband although good before, is now fantastic because I’m relaxed and happy.
And I think I’m going to live a LOT longer.
No is such a simple word and so many people have so much difficulty uttering it. We all want to please the ones we love but I learned the hard way that it’s much better to look after yourself first.