Moving Forward Series


Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

I always say that there is no way one can have a debilitating injury like a spinal cord injury or an illness like Myasthenia Gravis, and not help others also taking the journey.

I began helping others three years after my paralysis, whether it was as a supportive peer, buy groceries or pay a bill.

Yet, I found, I always wore myself out in helping and fitting in everyone else’s schedule.

The biggest reason was that I simply couldn’t say no.

In not saying no, I also ran into the problem of appearing uncaring.  In fact, I have helped where the recipient expects it, and therefore not even a simple thank you is expressed.

I know that life is all about choices.  However, when there is so many that need help, I develop an inner need to help solve their problems.  Then, I become so exhausted that I really do become unavailable for a couple of days, because, quite frankly, I have given too much of myself.

Just recently I really did learn just how important it is for me to learn the art of backing off.

I was working so hard to try and help someone.  I thought that if I just helped them get everything they need they would become independent.   I saw this person a couple of weeks later, and they were not using any of the things I had got them.  In fact, they were still complaining about the challenges of their life.

I decided it was time to back off.  And, as a result I received backlash.  I was being looked upon as selfish, or even worse, just wanting to be some sort of star in the world of helping.

I had to draw a line in the sand.  I needed to set boundaries.  Yes, I should help, but not sacrifice so much of myself when they are just not ready to receive.  As much as I am doing God’s work, God never said I needed to be a doormat either.

And, lately, I have become someone’s doormat, and quite frankly, it hurts!

I don’t help to receive anything.  If anything my reward is to see them get to the next level of independence, but the other lesson I have learned is that I cannot make them do it.

They have to reach that point by themselves, and all I am doing is wasting time and resources that I could give to someone else that is ready.

The problem is, I still cannot bring myself to say no!  So, I came up with this idea that I would ration the amount of time I spend with an individual I am helping, as well as, the amount of resource I might be providing.   I determined quite quickly that just this action became another way of saying,” I will help, but only if you are truly ready to make an effort.”

I am finally learning the art of distributing myself wisely.  Mostly because I notice that when I do this, I actually do see real positive change.

And yes, even support peers can be enablers!  It just took me a while to get that.

So, now I have begun to say no although, I still feel uncomfortable.  However, I also realize that if I don’t say no, I am sacrificing myself to the point where I am being taken advantage of and I don’t like the way that makes me feel.

So, my conclusion is, yes, help and give, but do it wisely and evidence of real change will finally be achieved.

In the meantime, I have also come up with a few other ways that I feel is much politer in saying no:

“I have something else. Sorry”

“I’m already committed to something else.”

“Thanks, but no thank you.”

“I am not able to make it this week.”

“I would love to, but I just can’t right now.”

“I’ll need to bow out,”

“I’m not the right person for you, let me look for someone who can help you with that.”

“Sounds great, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work for me right now”.

These phrases still might not get me an appreciative response, but it does make me feel better that I am not actually saying No, but maybe, no, not right now.

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