After I had my daughter, I experienced severe postpartum depression. I had a difficult pregnancy with pre-term labor, bed rest, and delivering four weeks early. I was in constant pain and not sleeping. And due to my daughter’s low birth weight, I had to feed her every 2 hours. I could not give her a bottle because she only wanted me. I was beyond exhausted.
Three weeks after her birth, we had a medical scare where the doctors said she tested positive for a genetic condition. (Everything turned out fine and she is healthy today.) I wanted to maintain a clean and tidy household through all this stress. So I stayed home with our daughter. My parents helped the best they could. Other family members said they would help me. But their “help” became, let me hold the baby while you clean your place and feed us.
After one of the specialist’s appointments for my daughter, I felt a UTI (urinary tract infection) coming on. I went to urgent care. It was the first time I had a break. I could be by myself and in a quiet room. The doctor came in. He asked me how I was doing. I cried and told him I was overwhelmed with the new baby. He said, “I’m sorry you are going through this. I hope you can learn no one will fully understand what you are going through. You cannot convince them. They look at these things through their eyes and are selfish.” The doctor encouraged me to stop convincing people how bad things are because they won’t care. He said you have to hold firm boundaries, despite people getting upset. And through time, you will get more sleep, get into a rhythm, and feel better.
When we deal with difficult people, sometimes it feels like prepping for a brief to present to the court to get them to understand us. Instead, we can better use the energy we put towards that can be better used in maintaining our boundaries. For example, I wasted so much energy trying to prove to an in-law that I was exhausted. They didn’t care. So, I decided I would see them if I had the bandwidth to handle them that day. If it were a sleepless night, I would cancel. At first, they were angry and spoke badly about me behind my back. But at some point, they stopped and started to back off.
When I lost my father last year, I didn’t have the energy to convince people of the depths of my grief. People wanted to see me and tried to give me their junk platitudes. They asked why I didn’t want to go out or talk on the phone. I used Covid as an excuse to avoid seeing people and texted instead of taking a call. I stepped on some toes, but I had my sanity intact.
In life, difficult people cross our paths. Even if we tell them how we feel, they will not listen or consider they have hurt us. As that urgent care doctor said, you cannot convince them. Hold firm to your boundaries. Let go of upsetting people; making people happy despite how you feel people pleasing at its worst. If it takes so much energy to please others, you will be exhausted. Protect your energy at all costs.