Living with chronic pain can mean having limited energy, time, and bandwidth. You may find yourself needing to say "no" more often than you did before you developed chronic pain. Do you have a tough time being direct with others about how you feel? It's not unusual to feel awkward or self-centered when turning down a request or an invitation. You may feel at the mercy of the other person's need.
Using "I" statements can help put you back in the driver's seat of the situation. An "I" statement directly communicates your feelings and sets a clear boundary, allowing you to focus on treating your chronic pain and managing related symptoms like fatigue or numbness.
I don't feel like going.
I'd rather do something else instead.
I can't do it this week.
Whenever I attend that event, it takes me days to recover.
At first, you may feel vulnerable about using direct "I" statements when saying no. Your true feelings are exposed, and you may be judged for using chronic pain as an excuse. "I" statements can also be freeing! You don't need to pretend or tell a white lie. It's ok to communicate directly about what you need.
Using an "I" statement is a way of taking responsibility for your feelings. You are not blaming or accusing the other person. You are being honest about your needs and making sure they are recognized.
Members of MyChronicPainTeam shared some of their experiences with communicating directly:
"I also had a good day because I said no. I have the hardest time in the world saying no to people. I am going to say no more often!"
"Had an unexpected sleepover with my grandson tonight. I couldn't dance like he wanted but I did put up a fierce tickle fight laying next to him on the sofa. Learning to make them always smile within my limited new healthy boundaries isn't impossible. I am still Nanny just not doing cartwheels in the front yard anymore."
"Those of us that struggle with physical illness and mental health issues really need good friends. I think it is so awesome that you set boundaries. Friendship should be a two-way street."
Have you used "I" statements to set boundaries? How did it feel?
Share your stories about direct communication in the comments below or on MyChronicPainTeam.