No Means No. Even When It's Not About Sex.
Edit: This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, because I wanted to take my time to think about whether or not I should post it. I have now decided to post it and I would like to warn you that this article touches on serious mental health issues.
Receiving messages from you guys through my contact section is one of the best things about writing this blog. Most of the messages I have received have been incredibly kind and many of them made my days. Unfortunately, I occasionally receive messages that lower my mood and that is something I usually do not address. I do not want to give the people who write these messages more attention and I also do not think that they are worth my time. But I recently had an exchange of messages which I decided to share here because I learned something from it.
Please note that the person’s name has been changed to protect their identity and some messages have been shortened, but only direct quotes were used.
First of all, if you’re Emma, I hope you’re getting the help you appear to need.
But secondly, I wanted to talk to you guys about something that has happened to me more than once through my blog (and in real life): When people seem to take ‘no’ as an invitation to convince me. My ‘no’ doesn’t mean make me turn it into a yes. My no doesn’t mean verbally abuse me to turn it into a yes. My no also doesn’t mean use your mental illness to make me feel guilty for drawing my boundaries where I choose to draw them.
In my opinion, you can always try reaching out to people to ask for help. But if you do so, you need to be prepared to hear the word no from them. And you need to respect them enough to take their no for a no.
I thought we’d all learned in sex education that no means no. Period.
But I realised after this exchange that even I hadn’t fully learned that lesson. Had Emma been a guy who stood half-naked in my bedroom and I would have said no to sleeping with him, I would not have questioned whether my no was valid. But this wasn’t about sex.
Was I in the wrong? Did I cause her pain that led to a worsening of her mental illness? Was it my fault?
I looked for a mistake and blame on my part for hours after that final message from her. The second sentence in her last message caused me a lot of guilt and I felt really horrible after reading it. I wondered whether I should just go and spend 40 minutes on scanning my notes for tort law in order to get out of this difficult situation. And then I asked myself why on earth I did not give myself the right to say no.
I have decided that I am not apologising for saying no in a polite way. I choose to draw my boundaries wherever it makes me comfortable. Giving in to pressure that puts you down is not the answer. I am not sorry for my nos - I have to say them in order to say yes to myself. Scanning notes may seem like a small thing - but I can use these 40 minutes of my time for working on my own studies, helping a friend, doing some self-care or doing something else. And it is worth remembering that I get asked for help quite a lot - if I said yes to all of it, I would probably not be at my university now because I would hardly get to work on my own degree.
So the next time you hear me say no, take it for what it is: a no.
I am still sometimes learning to say no, but I am getting better at it. “No” is such a short word, but it can be so hard to say it. If you ever feel pressured into changing your ‘no’ to a ‘yes’, it is a pretty good indicator that this person does not deserve your ‘yes’.
Lots of Love,