Author Topic: Supporting Sandy victims vs. taking care of myself - need advice and phrasing.  (Read 12017 times)

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LadyL

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I will try to keep this short. I live in an area that took a direct hit from Sandy. Thankfully we live on the third floor, and are out of the flood zone by literally about 4 blocks, so we didn't have any damage to our building or car. Those nearby were not so lucky and those in basement/1st floor apartments lost everything including our landlord's kids who lost 3 cars and everything on their first floor. We did go 4 days without power but in the scheme of things we are very lucky. What made the situation hard was right before the storm I had a medical situation come to a head - I started having a negative reaction to my migraine medication - sleep disturbances, some weird perceptual effects, and severe anxiety (these are all known but not super common side effects of the med I take). I have been in the process of slowly and safely tapering off the meds but in the mean time, my anxiety levels have been unpredictable and disruptive. I am normally a bit on the anxious side, but between the meds and the storm related stress it has amped it up to where there are times I can barely function, and LordL has been a saint about helping me keep my head together. Either way it's been a rough several weeks. end BG

Now that we have power we have offered that if any of our friends need help, like a place to charge their phones, brew a pot of coffee, or take a hot shower they are welcome to come by our place. Most of our friends live in our city, walking distance from us, so it was more of a "swing by for a bit if you need something" kind of offer. One of our friends lives about an hour away, but works 15 minutes from us. He doesn't have power where he lives with his family but they do have a generator. He called and asked if he could possibly crash at our place so that it would be easier to get to work, since he has such a far drive and there are gas shortages and he doesn't have power where he lives (and they don't expect it to be restored for another 5-7 days). The thing is, we live in a 2 bedroom apartment where we have 1 bedroom set up as an office, so the only crash space is our couch in the living room. The office is also my dressing room and I have to cross through the living room to get there, and the living room is generally not that private (we have a modified railroad style apartment; the bedroom and living room are connected via double doors, and there is a hallway the runs from the kitchen, past the bedroom, to the living room with no door in between; point is the living room is central to the apartment and not very private). Our layout works fine for having people crash for one night but he is talking about possibly several nights.

To be fair, we had said in the past that in the case of an emergency he could crash for a night at our place (we were thinking if there was a blizzard and it wasn't safe for him to drive home but this also counts obviously). But given what is going on with my medical situation and the arrangement we have for guests I am concerned about how it will work. Part of my normal anxiety triggers are social situations and when we have guests I feel like I have to "play host." Our friend is also very chatty and so usually when we hang out I find that after about 3, maybe 4 hours I am all "talked out" - imagining him staying over for several days stresses me out just thinking about it. There is also a city wide curfew of 7 PM because power is still out in places and there is opportunistic crime, so it's not like LordL can take him out somewhere so that I'll have a few hours to myself while he stays here either. But I also feel really bad because we are trying to help whoever and however we can - we have donated supplies, spent today flyering neighborhoods about the red cross shelter that just opened, etc. and it feels really cold to possibly tell him no, or that he can only stay for one night when he needs to be at work all 5 days next week. On the other hand, I spend a good portion of every day addressing my anxiety when it gets too high, and sometimes crying or freaking out a bit when it gets to be too much and I'm not sure that staying with a couple dealing with a medical/personal crisis is a great situation to invite someone into, not to mention the possibility that just him being there will escalate my anxiety as well.

I definitely can't deal with a full 4 nights of having a house guest right now, so what is a reasonable compromise here (if there is one)? He is a good enough friend that we can level with him about the medication/anxiety issue (I already mentioned briefly that I'd been having those sorts of problems the last time we hung out before the storm, but not the full extent of it). But I can't really think of a way to say "having you here for too long will probably stress me out" without it sounding bad, like he is just a source of stress instead of our friend (when in reality it's not personal, having *anyone* here or really any major change to my environment would be disruptive - I am also still coping with stress about how the storm is going to affect my school and work obligations, not to mention my overall concern for all those still affected who we are trying to help by volunteering).

I know this was rambly, thanks for reading :).




Amara

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Could you handle two nights, OP, even if they were separated by a night or two? If so, I'd offer that and be honest as to why. (Thank goodness you can.) Or can he sleep in his office but come by for a shower and breakfast in the morning and a dinner at night? I apologize if any of these suggestions seem weird but I am somewhat inexperienced in this area.

Octavia

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LadyL - I'm glad that your physical property was spared the worst of the storm. It really did come down to luck for sure.

I don't believe that etiquette requires you to subject yourself to a situation that would cause you great discomfort in order to help someone else. Others may of course disagree. But I think you and I are on the same page. So I recommend that you continue to share your living quarters on a limited basis with your neighbors as you already have, as that seems reasonable to do. But tell your friend that he cannot crash at your place. Not for several days, or even one night.

You mentioned that you are close enough to this friend to be able to level with him on what's going on with you medically. But I'm not sure it's the best approach to give him all of those details as the reason he cannot stay. He is probably feeling stressed and desperate (and I'm not saying that to guilt you) and might try very hard to convince you that his staying at your place won't be any trouble at all. He could have an answer to each of your concerns, leaving you to feel that you cannot say no. So in this case it might be best to tell him that you are dealing with some heavy medical issues. And although the timing is very bad, this is simply not a good time for you to host in any way. Then wish him the best and keep in touch with more warm wishes while things get back to normal.

Take care of yourself  :)
"I never explain anything." ~Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

JaneJensen

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I think you should use a little white lie. Maybe say that you're so sorry you already promised your couch to someone else, ( even if it's just yourself)  but if he would like to pop on over for a hot shower, hot meal and to charge his phone and such you would love to have him over for a couple hours after he gets off work.


Surianne

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So in this case it might be best to tell him that you are dealing with some heavy medical issues. And although the timing is very bad, this is simply not a good time for you to host in any way. Then wish him the best and keep in touch with more warm wishes while things get back to normal.

Take care of yourself  :)

I agree.  You mean well, but you're overwhelmed and need to take care of yourself.  Let him know you're dealing with medical issues (no details, just the general explanation -- since not everyone understands anxiety, and he may not get why it's serious for you) and can't have him crash this time.  Apologize and tell him the offer would normally stand, but you just can't manage it now. 

WillyNilly

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There are a lot of ways to give to those who need in these times.  And the beauty of that is we can all give, but each only give what we are comfortable with.  You are comfortable with your home being a friendly "drop-in" center.  That is a great thing to do.  And its enough.  Its not wrong or mean or anything to say you can't have it be a "crash pad" - there are other people who aren't even offering people to come by, but are doing other things like running community or charity websites, or shuttling donations, or giving donations, or just going to work to get things running again. We each only need to give in ways we can manage.

FoxPaws

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Accommodations for a week is a HUGE favor to ask, no matter what the circumstances and your friend probably realizes that. Offer what you can reasonably tolerate - Tuesday and Thursday night; two nights of his choice; whatever - and let him take it (or leave it) from there.

Stop feeling guilty. This is a sucky situation and everybody is going to have to pinch hit, suck it up, make do, etc. for awhile - welcome to the wonderful world of natural disaster aftermath. You are doing your best to help those in need and looking after your own health is part of that; you will be of no use to anyone if you're a basket case.

Very glad to know that you made it through with minimal damage. Hang in there.
I am so a lady. And if you say I'm not, I'll slug you. - Cindy Brady

Surianne

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Very wise words, WillyNilly.

(It can be hard when we want to give something specific, but can't do it *right now*.  I've had to stop looking at the adoption pages for Hurricane Sandy dogs for that reason...know I don't have the resources for it, but it still breaks my heart.)

ladiedeathe

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You have the right to say no to any request. You can simply say it isn't possible right now. That isn't rude.

For your own sake, though, in the future, do not offer help that is not really available or please revoke the offer when the help becomes unavailable. You don't have to feel guilty about not being able to help.

 It is absolutely not rude to not be able to help someone, but if you know you have "anxiety triggers", can't have someone crash without "playing host", and "cry and freak out" at intervals, and are just physically not set up for even one night's hosting without massive discomfort, you don't need to offer the ability to stay there "in an emergency".

Given that you never revoked the offer, and that this is fairly big on the "emergency scale", please realize that when you say no the guy may decide that he no longer wants to be friends.
"Here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Have chalice, will travel."

greencat

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"I'm sorry friend, but I'm having a medical crisis right now, and due to the lack of privacy in the apartment, we can't provide you with a place to stay overnight this week.  You're welcome to (whatever help you are comfortable providing)."

gollymolly2

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I think that the rules of friendship are different than the rules of etiquette. Under "etiquette" you could just say "sorry, I'm afraid that won't be possible." For a friend in an emergency situation, I think you either need to do your best to help him or be open and honest with him about why you're not going to help him.

LadyL

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You have the right to say no to any request. You can simply say it isn't possible right now. That isn't rude.

For your own sake, though, in the future, do not offer help that is not really available or please revoke the offer when the help becomes unavailable. You don't have to feel guilty about not being able to help.

 It is absolutely not rude to not be able to help someone, but if you know you have "anxiety triggers", can't have someone crash without "playing host", and "cry and freak out" at intervals, and are just physically not set up for even one night's hosting without massive discomfort, you don't need to offer the ability to stay there "in an emergency".

Given that you never revoked the offer, and that this is fairly big on the "emergency scale", please realize that when you say no the guy may decide that he no longer wants to be friends.

When we originally offered I wasn't having the medication issues so providing a night's crash space wasn't a big deal (the  inconvenience of our apartment layout was sort of cancelled out by the opportunity to spend time with friends, which I usually enjoy - typically I *like* hosting rather than finding it to be a huge stress). I wouldn't have thought to preemptively call people we'd offered crash space to to revoke open ended crash space offers especially since I was/am hoping the med situation to be temporary. I guess I am trying to figure out how to politely revoke or at least modify this particular offer now since circumstances have changed.

StarFaerie

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I think that the rules of friendship are different than the rules of etiquette. Under "etiquette" you could just say "sorry, I'm afraid that won't be possible." For a friend in an emergency situation, I think you either need to do your best to help him or be open and honest with him about why you're not going to help him.

^This. Friends are owed a lot more than strangers are in my opinion and to me giving to a stranger or helping generally does not satisfy the obligation to friends when they need help.

Nearly 10 years ago I was in much the same situation. We were having serious bushfires and many areas were evacuated. We were on alert, I had a young child and was not well. Plus the stress of wondering whether we'd be next was massive. The TV was showing whole areas of our city burning and people had died. Some friends rang to say they were being evacuated and could they come and stay until they could return home. They had 3 children and my house is tiny. I said "Yes, come on over. We will make room for you." and opened my house to them as I think that's what friends do in an emergency situation. I also arranged for their most precious items to be put in my in-laws house as our house was still in some danger.

If your situation is serious enough such that you cannot help your friend, you need to be completely open with him and as a friend he will understand that your situation precludes you entirely from helping him in that way. No phrases will help with this though, I feel, as it has to come from the heart, friend to friend.

JoyinVirginia

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Just be honest. Tell friend he can stay one night, and one night only, but stop by whenever. Also tell friend you do not want to chat because of anxiety, medication issues, so when he comes over you would appreciate it if he can NOT talk to you very much.
Hope you feel better soon, and hope your neighborhood gets back to semi normal soon!

Aeris

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Honestly, you need to be prepared for possibly serious potential friendship consequences here.

In my opinion, this is something you do for friends in emergency situations - and there's no way this is anything other than an emergency. Etiquette allows you to refuse to help your friend, but if I were in a dire situation and needed some temporary help, and a friend who had previously told me I could rely on her in an emergency suddenly refused because having me in her home would just be too stressful -- I would pull way, way back on the friendship.

Perhaps that's not a fair assessment of your situation. But it may well be how your friend sees it.

If you're asking if etiquette absolves you - technically, it does. If you're asking how to be a decent friend, I'd have to recommend that you be straightforward with him about your concerns, including your need for quiet time, then do what you need to do to minimize your anxiety while you help him. Escape to the bedroom, take a bath, let LordL be social with him without you, etc.