Remembering to Say What You Need

Sometimes, when we are finally thriving, we occasionally forget about our mental health condition, and blissfully slip into what I call “pre-diagnosis mode.” While feeling “normal” is often what we yearn for, one problem can creep up: we can forget to manage our mental health condition. It can be easy to forget that remembering our unique healthcare needs, and stating our needs is extremely important, especially when we are feeling well. This post expands on my article 10 Travel Tips.

This past weekend I taught some private students, excitedly released Sound Mind to Facebook (effectively “coming out” to friends), and topped it off with our aunt’s 70th family birthday party. I love family parties, and since I am not yet “out” about my mental health condition, bipolar type I, to my spouse’s side, I enjoyed an afternoon masquerading as completely normal, forgetting for a few hours that I need to stay out of the wine and take two different antipsychotics at 8:45pm.

We got dressed up in springlike fashion and were greeted by our uncle, grasping a bottle of wine in each hand, jovially in charge of pours for the afternoon. I graciously accepted one modest 4oz glass of chilled rosé, in honour of the birthday girl. It was well before bedtime, so why not?

That was where I should have stopped.

The afternoon of nibbles and visiting progressed and our uncle performed his generous topping-up role beautifully. As I got carried away with laughter and conversation, my glass was never dry. Despite a full stomach, my head was spinning after additional rounds of prosecco to toast the guest of honour. On our way back home, we made a pit stop for groceries and a restroom, and I found myself swaying aimlessly around a Loblaws bakery, slurring my words on repeat: “Ughh… I’m drunk!”

While not exactly inebriated, my medication in combination with alcohol makes me what I like to call “completely effed up” (a proper medical term, I’m sure!) If I hadn’t slept that night, I could have been in big trouble. For me, alcohol plus bipolar medication, plus lack of sleep is a recipe for triggering a mood episode.

As fun as it was to follow the crowd for an afternoon, it was so easy to let my guard down, and let the moments to speak up slip by. I should have said what I needed, loud, clear, and confident. “I’m fine with one glass. Thanks!”

Here are some tips for making sure you don’t miss your opportunity to stay well in the moment:

  • Remember your limit. Remind yourself of your boundaries and limits in advance. State your needs out loud to yourself and to others who support you: “I’m excited for this party, but I’m just having soda with lime today.” Or, “We will leave by 9:30pm.” Set alarm reminders if you like.
  • Recognise your habit triggers. Every good habit has an action trigger, such as brushing your teeth being the trigger to remind you to floss. Your trigger might be the moment your server takes a drink order, or when everyone leaves to go dancing after dinner. This is your moment to say what you need, instead of defaulting to following the crowd.
  • Say what you need. Don’t be afraid to say what you need. Out loud, and confidently! You don’t have to ask anyone for permission. Like anything, this will take practice. Remember that other people will respect your wishes most of the time, especially if you use a confident, clear tone. I now aim to state my needs clearly, firmly, and with a smile 🙂

Need some ideas? Here are some ideas for saying no to drinks:

  • I’m fine with water/club soda, thanks!
  • Just one drink for me, thank you.
  • No thanks, not tonight. I’m driving!

Here are some ideas for stating your needs around your departure time:

  • We can only stay ’til __o’clock, but thanks for the invite!
  • I hate to be a party pooper, but we need to head out in an hour.
  • Thanks for a great evening, but I need to turn in.
  • We had a blast, but tomorrow’s an early start!

Here are some other phrases to help say what you need:

  • I could use a rest stop in the next __minutes, will there will be an opportunity soon?
  • I’ll be right back, I just need a minute.
  • Please get started on __, and I’ll be there in a moment.
  • I’d appreciate leaving earlier, if possible.
  • The morning won’t work for me, but we can meet up later.

Stating what we need is essential for staying well, even when we are feeling great!

I’d love to read your comments below. How do you share your needs with others?


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5 thoughts on “Remembering to Say What You Need

  1. Your ideas/suggestions for saying no to drinks, stating departure times, & offering other phrases to express what one needs are *excellent*! 🙂

    I’m very upfront with sharing my needs with others; turning 46 and having two little girls depend on my mental stability have been powerful forces to motivate and inspire me. I cease contact with anyone I find toxic because life’s too short!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, thanks! You will totally get there soon! Awareness is all! ( I’m not sure if Shakespeare wrote that, but it sounds good anyway, and I think it’s true)

        Now I just have to work a little bit on my anger management; advice is always welcome! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Something else to consider is that some people are moderators and some people are abstainers ( I know that I am an abstainer and have a REALLY hard time with “just one”. It’s easier for me to claim a detox than try and sip one drink all night. Especially with alcohol with lowers inhibitions even more.

    A third strategy when you’re an abstainer that’s forced to be a moderator is to use some kind of commitment device ( I don’t know if is appropriate for this or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project thoroughly, thanks to you! It’s definitely good to check in with yourself and find out wether you are a moderator or an abstainer. Sounds like you are definitely an abstainer!

      As a fellow abstainer, I have been noticing that the longer I practice abstaining, the stronger the habit becomes, and the easier it is to ossasionally masquerade as a moderator (where I am then reminded by why I abstain).

      As one example, I am (slowly) becoming comfortable stopping at one drink, by practicing abstinence most of the time, call it 90-10. I sure know how hard it is!

      Before my diagnosis, I thought I was only risking a hangover, feeling tired, or gaining a few extra pounds. These consequences weren’t severe enough to steer me from indulging

      Now that I have an illness to manage, my abstainer commitment device is having severe consequences:
      -becoming extremely unwell from alcohol mixing with meds
      -risking triggering an episode from staying up too late
      -risking loosing mood stability from eating trash, etc.

      When faced with a tempting situation, I like to connect with “will my future self feel great and thank my present self for the actions I’m about to take?”

      I would love to learn about other types of abstainer commitment devices, thanks for the links! I think looks like a great tool.


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