A Story in Learning to Say No: Part II

By Brooke Davidoff

When I read that this man wanted to come spend the weekend at my apartment, my initial response was to panic. If being on a boardwalk in public with him was uncomfortable, how much worse would it be if we were alone? 

I didn’t own a couch, and I told him I didn’t have anywhere for him to sleep. His response: Will we have privacy? Those words triggered a panic attack from thousands of miles away. I was sweating, and anxiety and fear blanketed me immediately. I pictured myself trying to get away from him, sleeping in my 10-year-old’s room to escape being alone with him.

He was looking at flights and rental cars, sending screen shots of options for his arrival before I had even accepted his offer. I messaged two single male friends to see if I was overreacting, projecting, or reading this wrong. 

I was diagnosed with PTSD over four years ago. I have survived multiple traumas, the majority due to negative, unwanted interactions with men. I realize I am sometimes overly alert and standoffish with men. Maybe he did want to help me move… but his interest in our privacy made me think otherwise. My friends reassured me that he had boundary issues, letting me know I could and should say no.

He had already booked himself a ticket. 

For most of my life I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I was polite, I ignored red flags. I had since taken multiple classes on trauma and its affects on mental health and I had gone to therapy to help me address my PTSD, yet I still found myself afraid to say no. I still felt more worried about hurting his feelings than about his affect on my physical safety and comfort. I did not feel like my “no” was valid until more than one friend gave me permission to have boundaries.

It was not easy, but I sent him an email to cancel his flight. I didn’t owe him anything but the truth. I did not want him to come.

If a conversation with anyone triggers you, you have every right to not talk to or see them again. From childhood, girls are socialized to be nice and to be more in touch with their own and other people’s feelings. Women often feel a lot of guilt when we hurt others’ feelings, but in actuality: regardless of your gender, you don’t owe anyone anything, and your safety is in your hands. No one has the right to push their wants onto you. You are not here to accommodate others. If you have a gut feeling about someone, listen. 

Other peoples feeling are not more important than yours, and they are not as important as your safety or your piece of mind. Younger me would not have had the courage to say no. Saying no was empowering, I encourage you to try it.