There is nothing quite like illness to liberate the tongue. I can remember when my grandmother was dying of cancer - always a caustic woman, she became truly vicious. I suppose she felt she needed to say what she really thought and say it fast, before death silenced her and she missed the opportunity! My mum was the same when she had cancer too, but her vitriol ebbed away in tune with her recovery. I do come from a line of plain speaking women but even I struggled to understand this cutting level of honesty. I mistakenly believed that illness can soften someone and make them more inclined to lean on loved ones for support.
However, since I started having flashbacks back in 2010, I have discovered that illness reduces the need to be polite all the time! I used to go out of my way to prove how tolerant I was; this meant I would turn a blind eye to things which should have been addressed. I thought it was the best way to enjoy a quiet life. In fact, it was the best way to invite people to take advantage of my good nature, which of course they did with great gusto.
Over the last few years I have had a change of heart. As I already have enough on my plate I have lost the inclination to try and be everyone's friend. Now I don't care what the neighbours might think of me or what they might say about me. They and their opinions, are irrelevant to me. I'm less inclined to put up with the mischief of other people's kids - if they are misbehaving around me I have to say something. I have had a complete reassessment of all my relationships and I have booted the free-loaders and users out of my life altogether. I have had altercations with people who thought they could steal from me, use me, lie to me, trespass upon my kindness - and get away with it; that I would still want to be their friend afterwards. As if.
Any soldier will tell you that PTSD is a bitch to live with. It can be exhausting and debilitating. I have found though, that it can also be a source of empowerment because it means that you are always battle ready. This doesn't mean that I am constantly looking for a fight. I'm not. I just want a quiet life. What it does mean is that I have a new way of tackling people who try to dump drama into my life, or who are taking advantage, or being two faced. I simply won't put up with it. I don't need it and I don't need them.
I have always stood up for myself when absolutely necessary, but now I'm more assertive than I was before. Now I prefer to nip such things in the bud as soon as they become apparent. I don't wait to see if things will change or improve - I just deal with it right away. Of course some people don't like it - namely the ones who have been taking the piss! But I have noticed that they give me a wary respect these days and a wider birth, rather than treating me like a bff just so they could get close enough to stab me in the back. I got my back covered now.
When I first had this change of strategy I was surprised how well it worked. Being too nice didn't get me the quiet life I wanted - being brutally honest and assertive did. The bottom line is this;
- If you phone me looking for an argument, you will get one - but you will not win
- If you knock on my door looking for an altercation, you will get one - but you will not win
- If you stop me in the street to try and learn all about my life for your gossip-mongering - you will be told where to go
- And if you send me whinging letters demanding an explanation, you will get a reply - but you won't like it one bit.
This new level of assertiveness seems to be working. It has rid me of hangers-on I can do without and it's told the local gossip what she can do with her feeble-minded tickle-tackle. In the bigger picture it means that even in the darkest times of illness we are still growing and maybe the illness has something to teach us. Perhaps there is a lesson in it that will make us stronger in the long term. The Universe is the best tutor if we are prepared to be attentive students.
I'm proud of myself for having the courage to stand strong in the face of adversity. Illness has made me better able to stand up for myself and to speak my mind more freely than ever. After all, its not like I'm going to remember the argument long enough to be upset by it! So it hardly matters.
I feel battle ready and this is not a bad thing. It means that I am living up to my name and proving that a Bruce is not to be crossed without a reckoning to be paid for it. It means that I am living up to the motto of the thistle "None shall irritate me unscathed". Maybe it's time to be a bit more charmed and dangerous?