It’s not that I don’t want to come. It’s not that I don’t want to be reliable. It’s not that I don’t want to answer the phone or respond to your text. I’d love to jump out of bed with a big smile, eager to take on the day. I want to be a fun friend, a helpful neighbor, the perfect family member, and a responsible adult.
But sometimes I just can’t.
Trust me, it’s not you. It’s me.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed. Sometimes anxiety and stress consume me. Sometimes I need a nap so my heart doesn’t race right out of my chest. Sometimes I feel too sad to move. Sometimes my stomach churns and my head hurts and I need a day to recover. I know I said I would come to that event, or I would meet that deadline, but sometimes my body and emotions have other plans.
I feel it sneaking up on me like a mischievous thief of joy. I wish I could tell it to take a hike, but I know it doesn’t work that way. There is no “sucking it up” or “getting over it.” I know too well bad things happen when I fight back too hard. My head will spin, my stomach will erupt, or my breaths will shorten until I’m left gasping for air.
Sometimes I just can’t.
I worry it sounds like a weak excuse. I know some people roll their eyes at “mental health days” and can’t sympathize. But I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I’ve come to understand myself through the process. I know that I cope better when I set boundaries for myself and don’t attempt more than I can handle.
Sometimes I need a moment to focus only on breathing. Sometimes I need a moment to walk aimlessly around the store or just sit quietly in my bedroom. Sometimes I need a moment to follow whatever my heart tells me it needs, even if that thing doesn’t always make sense. And sometimes these moments come unexpectedly, when I was supposed to be doing something else.
The truth is, I often feel guilty about taking this time to recover. I feel like I am letting people down or not reaching my full capacity. But at the same time, I know I have to say no sometimes in order to maintain function. When my body and mind shut down, I often don’t have a choice. And when I do have a choice, it’s often between taking a break now or suffering a much worse breakdown later.
So sometimes, I can’t. I can’t go to the grocery store even though we are out of milk. I can’t meet for lunch even though we’ve been planning it all week. I can’t make dinner even though everyone is hungry. I can’t go to work today even though I scheduled a meeting. I can’t respond to your text even though it seems like a simple question.
That’s not to say I can’t ever do these things, and this is where it gets confusing. MOST of the time, I can. I can do a lot. I want to step up as a reliable and responsible member of society. I want to be there for everyone. I want to take care of all the things and people that need to be taken care of.
But on the days I can’t, please know I’m trying my best. I don’t mean any harm, and I hate to be a burden. But sometimes, I juggle too many balls and I have to let one drop. And sometimes, I need a break from juggling all together, even if the things are usually manageable. Please understand my intentions are pure. I hate that I can’t be there when people expect me to be. I hate that I let things slip when I planned on keeping up. But sometimes, it just gets to be too much.
I’d love to predict these things and give everyone a warning of when I’ll be out of commission, but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way. So I guess we will all have to learn to be patient and flexible. I’ll do what I can, as often as I can.
But the other times, I hope you will understand when I say I just can’t.
Originally published on the author’s blog