I’m quite active in a Facebook group for women with ADHD (see this resource on some group recommendations), as well as on Neurodiverse Twitter, and I get a lot of inspiration to write on topics I see in both places. A story I read recently made me wonder – why can’t we just say no?

A woman in one of my arenas posted about cancelling plans with a friend because, as she put it, she’d been feeling “depressed and emotionally withdrawn” for some days. She’d had suicidal ideation as well, and just didn’t have the mental stamina for the plans. She cancelled, the friend was angry, and they fought.

The purpose of the post was to ask for help, guidance, or for someone to “call her out” on being wrong for cancelling.

Overall, the post made me feel sad, because I think she was putting so much blame on herself for not just “sucking it up” and following through on a commitment.

What is the Cost to Our Mental Health?

As a kid, I was taught that if I commit to something, I’m honor-bound to do it no matter what. If I’m sick or down or tired or have something else come up, it doesn’t matter – I made a promise.

Commitments matter to others because if we consistently commit to things and don’t follow through, we appear untrustworthy. I don’t think anyone wants to be known as a person whose word isn’t to be taken seriously. We also live in a society where committing to and sticking with something is a sign of good character. Quitting is a sign of weak character.

I agree it’s important to hold to our promises, but at what cost to our mental health? When is it not only okay but necessary to say “I’m sorry, when I committed, I felt I could do this, but I’m no longer in the right frame of mind for it”? Why don’t we allow that for ourselves and others?

Learning to Turn Things Down

I say a lot that “no” is a full sentence, but in reality, I don’t always practice it. I think I have to produce a really good reason for saying no, and I forget that mental health issues are a really good reason.

I’m working on being more honest, but it’s not easy. There’s a voice in my head that tells me my fatigue, my depression, my anxiety, or my difficulty with activation are not legitimate reasons to cancel. That I have to power through all my painful emotions because *I promised*.

I’m sure we all have reasons for why we can’t just be honest and say “I’m sorry, I just can’t today, I don’t have the mental space for this encounter”. For me, it’s that I hate to let people down, and I’m a people-pleaser. I have an innate need to make everyone around me happy.

But am I doing it at the sake of my own mental health?

So, Why Can’t We Just Say No?

I invite you to just take a minute to think about it today. Do you feel comfortable cancelling plans because your mental health says “no thanks”? Would you tell a friend the real reason? Do you think of mental health as an excuse or a legitimate reason? Do you stress over keeping commitments?

If you think “no” is a full sentence and want to live that reality more often, come talk to me about it!

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