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Knowing, and Accepting, My Limits

by Trish on January 21, 2010 · 15 comments

in Daily Life, Reflections

As I was spending some time online the other day reading about various aspects of depression and anxiety, I took a break to check my GReader and what did I see but Janice at 5 Minutes for Mom talking about her own experience with those issues. It’s amazing how many people struggle with some form of these disorders, myself included.

For those who commented on yesterday’s post about taking Michael to a psychologist, I am going to follow up on it soon, but in the meantime I wanted to talk a bit about a recent therapy session of my own. I have been seeing this particular therapist for several months, but hadn’t been in for a few weeks, mainly due to the busyness of the holidays.

When he asked how things were going, I had plenty of things I could talk to him about that either had already happened or that I was anticipating coming up in the near future. But I have been feeling a bit like a hamster on a wheel and afraid that, if I can’t keep going fast enough, there will be a horrible crash at some point. I really needed more than to talk through one or two specific situations.

So I asked him if he could tell me what I needed to do to get to the point where my moods would not be so driven by circumstances and other people’s words and actions, where I could just be me and have control over myself, even when things may be out of control.

His response was fairly simple — Know your limits, and accept them.

As he put it, some people don’t know what their limits are and so they just keep taking on whatever comes their way without even realizing that it is more than they should expect from themselves. The first step is to become aware of your own limitations in terms of energy, time, resources and ability.

That’s hard enough, but then comes the even trickier part – accepting your limits.

Some people can see their limits but refuse to accept them. So they will keep shouldering more commitments and responsibilities even though they know it will add too much stress to their lives. It’s not enough to know your limits, you have to accept them – even when that means becoming your own advocate with others who want you to perform for them.

That was a surprisingly new concept for me, that I need to advocate for myself just as much as I advocate for Michael.

It really comes down to examining each thing that comes your way and identifying what control you have over it and whose responsibility it is. If it’s someone else’s responsibility, all you can do is pass it on to them and let it go. If it’s your responsibility, you need to decide if it’s within your limits to take care of right now. If that’s not possible, the next step is to figure out when you could do it or get someone else to handle it.

I’m just starting to think through all of this, so I’m probably not repeating it exactly right or in a very eloquent manner, but I can definitely see how it gives me the control that has been so easily given away to other people and circumstances in my life.

What do you think about his answer? Do you know your limits? Have you accepted them?

{ 14 comments }

a49erfangirl January 21, 2010 at 8:13 am

I think his answer is a good one. I am the type of person that sometimes takes on more then I can handle and lately with everything going on with Dakota and meetings with teachers and the things I have to do for Girl Scouts lately really I feel overwhelmed. I too suffer from anxiety and sometimes I don't remember to stop and slow down for myself. Your it's important to slow down and learn to say no and take the time for yourself.

Barbara January 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

I think that was eloquent.

I relate to having learned and accepted my limits for helping people through therapy. People are still surprised, and resistive, when they are told the work must be done by them, the change must happen within themselves or their lifestyle, for themselves or their children.

You have crossed a significant bridge. Good for you and good for your therapist for leading you there.

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

You've got a lot on your plate right now, and some of it can't be avoided, I know. I'm just starting to evaluate things and figuring out what my limits actually are right now!

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

That's such a good point. It's a matter of moving from going to the doctor or therapist wanting a magic pill or for them to just fix you and realizing that you need to take control of your life and do the right things for you.

I have gotten so much stronger in advocating for Michael, so now it's time to put that to work for me!

millermix January 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Ugh. This is my struggle. I want to do everything, get caught up in not being about to do everything as well as I'd like, and therefore do nothing. But I am getting better (slowly) and have learned to say No. That's the hardest word for me. I definitely appreciate this perspective — that saying no isn't about denying someone else, it's about protecting me.

Jen January 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Accepting my limits is something I have become better at as I get older and more important as, like you, I have a child with special needs. I love to help people out, but there is only so much I can do. If I get stressed then my whole family suffers for it, if I can't cope with the load then, again, they bear the brunt of it. I don't want that for my family. It took me years of therapy to get to this point though. I have much more peace within myself now and I wish you the same:) Jen

Accidental Expert January 21, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Wonderful post. I really needed to be reminded of this today.

So often we want to help out kids but fail to remember that if we don't take some time to take care of ourselves, there will be nothing left.

Julie January 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Wow. I'm glad I read this. I am learning what my new limits are. As this pregnancy progresses it seems that I can handle less and less. I realize that, but I'm not quite at the point of accepting that yet. You've really given me something to think about. Part of my problem is that I think I know what others expect of me…and I have to let it all go regardless of what they think.

Becky January 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

I have had to embrace this more and more too. I don't know what it is about our society or culture but it breeds chaos and over commitment. I feel so much more peace when I am focused on a few things and working through them well then when I just barely get by with too much. It is a difficult thing to discern what is OK to accept and what is beyond my own limits especially when they are all “good” things. Some one told be that there will always be “good” things to be involved in or doing but you have to decide what is the “best” thing for you do participate in. Right there with you! :-)

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 26, 2010 at 10:11 am

It is hard to say No, and for me just realizing that it's even an option is a step forward. I just told someone no this morning and am still feeling ambivalent about the decision, even though I know it was the right thing to do.

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 26, 2010 at 10:12 am

That's such a good point – that taking care of yourself allows you to have what you need to take care of your family. It is so easy to run yourself down for other people that aren't as important ultimately in your life.

Thanks for sharing that with me.

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

I hear myself saying that a lot – that I have nothing left to give. And how often do I keep going past that point even when I should be taking a break!

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 26, 2010 at 10:15 am

It is hard when you feel you're not meeting other people's expectations. I can only imagine that it is harder taking care of yourself when you are pregnant and already have a child – a bit different than when it is just you and your husband and you can control your schedule more!

Good luck with everything!

Trish@AnotherPieceofthePuzzle January 26, 2010 at 10:17 am

I agree with you, and more and more the thing I want most is that peace. I think I thought the good feeling you get from helping others was peace, but it's not if it means you have stretched yourself too thin!

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