A woman grieves with her eyes closed and face calm. There is a black stillness behind her and a bright light shining in front of her.

What I've Learned About Saying Yes and Trauma Response

Have you ever agreed to do something that you later had reservations about? I have been here on multiple occasions for various reasons. Nonetheless, I have grown exponentially in my ability to say no to people, places, and things that drain me or are counterproductive to my wellbeing. These are small victories that I don’t take lightly. In full disclosure, I find myself grappling with the 'yes' syndrome once again.

Life trauma and MS

Undoubtedly my life changed significantly the day my mother transitioned. Since this time, I have said yes more frequently than usual. Following telling conversations had with my husband and father, I began an introspective process. Whereas I continue to navigate grief, I give myself the grace to stay the course in order to heal all that I feel. The intent of this writing is to explicate why I believe that saying 'yes' is my trauma response to loss.

Recognizing increased anxiety

My heightened anxiety level has become commonplace and I feel overwhelmed often. My memory wanes, I weep frequently, imagine the worst-case scenario of any given situation and fret over things I have no control of. Recently, my husband gently cautioned me to slow down. “You’re doing too much,” he said. I stubbornly disagreed, forging ahead convincing myself I am running against time. My dad said, “you’re carrying too much.” I reminded him of my mission and reason for being. “My work is for the greater good,” I said.

Staying busy isn't always a good thing

This faulty, yet genuine rationale is my defense mechanism. Irrefutably, staying busy keeps me occupied and it has a tendency to compromises my physical and mental health. I sit in deep cogitation acknowledging that my reasons for saying 'yes' have been coping mechanisms. When living with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain while experiencing and processing grief, an idle mind is perilous. I convince myself to stay engaged when and if possible. Too much of anything is excessive. There are several instances where my efforts are unfruitful because my mind and body cannot reciprocate my valiant intentions. Mind over matter can be faulty.

The importance of processing emotions

I am always grateful for the multiple opportunities that come my way and the work I do. As a person who strives to inspire, educate and uplift the communities I serve, I must show up as my authentic and best self. My purpose and passion cannot be compromised. I must adhere to my truth no matter how arduous the process may be. Reconciling my trauma response is eye-opening and gives credence to why self-care is imperative.

Saying 'yes' and thinking 'no' is conflicting. It produces frustration and worry. Personally, staying busy has been a cunning distraction and masked the internal work that needed my immediate attention. I’m learning that maintaining a full schedule is not the goal I seek. I’d rather live a full, impactful life. Processing emotions and moving through the journey of life at my own pace is a prerequisite for inner peace.

Prioritize yourself

Adversity and grief are challenging. Valuable lessons about ourselves and the universe are learned in the valley of our human experiences. Embracing that I am my first priority is liberating. The word “no” is cathartic and will ultimately lead to immense personal growth. Living with multiple sclerosis is a constant reminder of how sacred time and energy are. I desire to use my time wisely, being fully present in the moment while leaving my footprints in the sand.

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