Living With An Autoimmune Disease And Learning To Say No

48039961 - young stressed woman sitting in living room at homeLittle kids can say no. Usually it’s one of the first words they learn. They can shout it at you in the grocery store while throwing one of the biggest tantrums you’ve ever seen, and they scream it while you’re trying to feed them lima beans. They say it with ease. So if they can, why can’t we? Maybe it’s because we don’t want to disappoint people. We live in fear that we’re going to let someone down, hurt someone’s feelings, or make them not like us. This can be even worse for those of us dealing with an autoimmune disease. We don’t want to let people down just because of our disease.

What some may not understand is that it’s even more difficult for those of us with an autoimmune disease because we may already feel like we’re disappointing the people we love simply by being sick. We want to say we can do something because we’re constantly trying to fix the parts of our lives that our autoimmune disease is breaking. The thing is, we aren’t perfect, and that’s okay. We can’t do it all. It’s time to learn to say no when you really, truly can’t do it. And we’ll teach you how.

How is saying yes going to affect my autoimmune disease tomorrow?

Say your sister or next-door neighbor gives you a call and asks if you’ll want their two-year-old baby for a few hours. Your automatic response may be to say yes. This is because you may also have kids, so you understand when someone gets desperate for a sitter. You also feel guilty because this person who’s asking has watched your kids for eight hours at a time when you were searching for a diagnosis. They’ve done so much for you, so how could you possibly say no to them now that they’re in a bind?

Take a moment to think about how you’ll feel tomorrow if you say yes. Because of your autoimmune disease, you may feel a lot of pain & fatigue because you used up more energy today than you should have. Caring for a young child that isn’t yours and may not settle down easily is a huge task to take on when you don’t feel well. How long will you have to stay in bed tomorrow because of all the energy you used up today? And what if the baby needs something, but you just simply can’t take care of their need because you are so tired or ill?

What will you have to give up if you say yes to this now?

Imagine one of your friends is throwing a dinner party. They’ve invited you and your spouse to attend. The party starts much later than you usually stay up, and you’ll be using up a lot of energy to make it to the party looking nice and adding to the conversation. But you know how hurt your friend would be if you said you couldn’t go to the party. She’s worked so hard to find a time when everyone can be together and she’s spent so much time and energy getting everything perfect. You don’t want to let her down by saying you’re too tired just because of your autoimmune disease.

Remember to consider what you’ll be giving up if you attend this dinner. You’ll lose some of your usual hours of sleep, which will likely bring a lot of pain and fatigue the next day. You’ll also have to find a babysitter for your children and miss out on a night you could have spent with them. After all, you already spend so much time missing out on their lives. Is this one night really worth giving all of these other things up? Unfortunately, with our diseases, you have to sometimes make difficult decisions on what’s more important to you.

It’s time to stop saying yes to every single thing other people want you to do. Although you might fear disappointing others, hurting others, or seeming selfish, the reality of having an autoimmune disease is that you sometimes just have to admit when you can’t do something. Sometimes you just have to say no.


About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author. is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


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