I love to try anything and love to help with everything. That might not sound so bad, but I overdo it. My anxiety gets so crippling that I feel that if I don’t do something, I become useless to others.
While this has caused me trouble before, it got worse at the beginning of the school year. I have three jobs, technically. I am the manager at the school radio station, I write for the paper and I have an office job. But it does not end there- add in 17 credits of classes and four organizations. It’s a lot, but I refused to admit it.
I thought I could do it, but by week two I was losing it. People needed my help in every which way. I had to start listing out which areas were most important if two different groups needed me. When people asked me to work on other projects, I, of course, said yes. Why wouldn’t I? I wanted to be helpful and useful.
But it did get bad.
I was not getting sleep. At most I got four hours a night, but it was usually less. I couldn’t let myself sleep because I was afraid someone would need me. I was losing more weight because all I did was run around from place to place, barely giving myself time to eat. I had to schedule in time for something like that. This was still only the second week of classes.
My friends and even my professors noticed.
But I told them I was fine and dismissed any concern. I could take on all of the responsibilities given to me. If I didn’t, I would appear unreliable and unimportant. Everyone let it go except for my boyfriend, who I now barely saw because of my schedule week three I was a disaster. I drank so much coffee and ate so little that my heart would flutter and I felt sick to my stomach. My head felt heavy and my legs were in so much pain. I could not find joy in anything, even at the radio station which I desperately loved. I dreaded going there, conditioned to think someone needed my help even if it was just me going for my show.
I do not know how I was able to get through classes because I felt so out of it. My coworkers started to note the bags under my eyes and my boyfriend told me I needed to drop something, anything.
Week four finally busted me. I was having more panic attacks than I had in the past and I got so scared to sleep. I tried to keep myself awake at all moments. I cried every day because I felt so hurt and pained.
Then I went to a meeting with one of the organizations. We were discussing upcoming projects to work on. I was asked if I could still do one of them.
I was quiet for a moment and finally said something I don’t think I have ever said before:
“I’m too busy. I really can’t help.”
I think I expected some sort of explosion or for someone to yell at me, but there was none of it. Just a simple understanding nod and an “okay.” Then they moved on.
I sat there in disbelief. Was it that easy to say no?
My chest felt so much lighter at that moment and my body did not ache as much as it used to. I felt much freer. I realized I could give up something in my schedule so I could fix myself
After speaking with one of my professors, I gave up a class I knew I never even needed. He told me he knew he could still rely on me for help and that my health was more important/ It was a huge relief.
It is now starting week six of the semester and I feel a little better. I don’t think my anxiety about helping others will go away, but I am happy to report that I learned how to use the word “no,” ironically my first word according to my mother.
There’s no huge lesson to come out of this story, but I guess I could just tell you that it is okay to relax and it is okay to have time for you. You don’t always need to be the person everyone relies on. Just ask yourself if they would do the same for you.