Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can mean having limited energy, time, and bandwidth. You may find yourself needing to say "no" more often than you did before you developed MS. 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 multiple sclerosis and managing MS-related symptoms like fatigue or muscle weakness.
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 multiple sclerosis 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 MyMSTeam shared some of their experiences with communicating directly:
"The more folks with MS I talk with, the more it seems like we have a few traits in common. Mostly, issues around boundaries, or lack thereof. Anyone else feel this way?"
"I have had to lower my expectations of myself. I don't like it but the reality is, I'm not so independent anymore. Does anyone else have a problem standing in one place for too long?"
"I always feel so guilty, frustrated, and sad when I feel too sick to just sit down and have a conversation with someone. I know that it is out of my control and my family understands, but I can't stop these feelings from happening."
Have you used "I" statements to set boundaries? How did it feel?
Share your stories about direct communication in the comments below or on MyMSTeam.
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