alt=a man tells a funny story to people sitting at a table with him while people dance, drink, and ride a mechanical bull in the background.

Setting Limits in Social Situations

It is a common trend in the Spondylitis community. Canceling plans. On Monday we were ready to go out with friends on Saturday. Come Saturday, we can’t bring ourselves to make a cup of coffee.

Thoughts ping pong around in your head about what your friends will think, if maybe you will feel better in 8 hours, and if you will be able to power through.

Then you listen to your body, and you know, Saturday night is not happening.

You call, you cancel, and you return to the couch and heating pad.

But, what about the times when you can’t cancel?

Great Aunt Irma’s 92nd birthday. Your best friend’s wedding. 50 yard line seats at the Super Bowl...You can’t miss these for the world!

It is time to talk about setting limits.

Define your role

Before you even set foot at this unavoidable event, think about what role you are going to play. Your body is what sets your limits, not your desires. So, what “character” is your body going to let you play?

You are not going to be able to ride the mechanical bull at Cindy’s bachelorette party, So the “wild child is out”. However, are you able to sit at the table and tell funny stories about Cindy in high school? The “story teller” is a much needed and very low impact role at any event.

At any event, I often fill the role of the “Guy who entertains the kids”. Kids love me! Now, I will not be leading them in the Chicken Dance, but making faces at babies or listening to knock-knock jokes, I can fill that role.

What low impact role can you play?

Make things accessible

If you have a wheelchair, bring your wheelchair. If you can order a wheelchair, do that too.

I have a wheelchair and a rollator (walker with wheels and a seat) for big events or ones that require moving. 90% of my days I can move fine. Sometimes with pain and limp, but I can get from point to point. However, if I am going to a baseball game, comedy show, or birthday party at a park, I have no problem bringing a mobility device.

If you don’t have a device of your own, or the location is not accessible you might be able to get accommodations from event staff. The St. Louis Zoo is not accessible in the slightest. Far too many hills and cobble stones to allow the use of a manual wheelchair, unless someone is willing to push. However, you can call ahead and order a motorized scooter.

Places like this might look at you and say “You don’t look disabled enough”, but stick to your guns, if you think you need it, you need it!

Find an alternative

Recently my nieces were performing with their school choir at a park. I have been to this park, and I knew where the performance center was. In the middle of the park, and very far away from parking. Normally, they allow people with blue parking placards to drive and park at the center. However, this was a “walking night” so cars were not allowed.

Sitting at my desk for work, I already knew I was not going to be able to walk that distance, and like with the zoo, the location is not wheelchair friendly.

I texted my wife and told her “Too much pain. There is no way I can go to the park tonight.”

What I was willing to do was go to their house to hang out after.

I was still “there” for my nieces, but I did not have to kill myself walking around a park and standing to listen to their performance.

If there is an unavoidable event that you need to avoid, find an alternative. Figure out an easy way you can still participate in the event without actually participating in the event. With today’s technology, watching over Facebook Live or FaceTime is sometimes good enough.

Set your limit

If we could, we would. Give me the power to never feel pain and never need rest, and I will go to each and every event I’m invited to. I would much rather not sit at home watching How I Met Your Mother for the 19th time.

But, my body won’t allow that.

Setting limits and having alternatives allows us to be involved without actually being that involved.

Your friends and family will understand.

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