wellness

"I'm actually at capacity." The friendship text message that's divided thousands of women. 

Earlier this month, an academic and writer named Melissa A. Fabello shared a text she received from a friend on Twitter.

The message read: “Do you have the emotional/mental capacity for me to vent about something medical/weight-related for a few minutes?”

Oh. Wut.

Why does it look like this person manually selected from a number of possible subjects to vent about and ultimately went with ‘medical/weight-related’? Is that a specific category?

And who asks their friends if they have the “emotional and/or mental capacity” to deal with their sh*t right now?

Work wives just… assume you have capacity. Post continues below.

Well. Apparently it’s a Thing.

 “…Here’s why that text was really, really important,” Fabello explained to her followers who were divided over the message.

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“(1) It acknowledges that I have limited time & emotional availability.

“(2) It asks permission to vent, rather than unloading without warning.

“(3) It notes the content of the conversation, which could be triggering for me.”

She continued, “I’m the kind of person who people reach out to when they’re in pain. Because I’m good at emotional processing AND logical problem-solving, I tend to be a go-to for my friends who need to externally process their experience,” which begs the question why her friend felt the need to send her that message in the first place but I digress.

“Asking for consent for emotional labor, even from people with whom you have a long-standing relationship that is welcoming to crisis-averting, should be common practice,” she argued, and many of her followers agreed.

Look.

Nothing against Fabello, but the underlying question, really, is whether or not we consider all human interactions to be some form of ‘work’ or ‘labour’. Fabello clearly does, which is why she understands friendships to ultimately drain our finite stores of ‘capacity’.

If you don’t believe all human interactions are ‘work’, then this looks a lot like, as one guy on Twitter put it, “commodifying compassion”.

Fabello, who specialises in feminism and human sexuality studies, then provided her followers with what is essentially a template for an Out Of Office response. But for friendships.

“Hey! I’m so glad you reached out,” she began, before constructing a message that indicated that she was not at all glad that anyone reached out. 

“I’m actually at capacity/helping someone else who’s in crisis/dealing with some personal stuff right now, and I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect [later date or time] instead/Do you have someone else you could reach out to?”

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Ouch.

Fabello was inundated with thousands of responses, and women appeared to fall into two distinct camps.

One group saw her message as “cold” suggesting that she “[doesn’t] seem like a very good friend tbh”.

But the second camp appreciated the acknowledgement that friendships are a form of emotional labour.

“It is emotionally taxing to be expected to hold everyone’s burden at all times,” one tweet read. “Especially when you’ve enough on your plate. Thank you for this.”

Another highlighted how important scripts and templates like this are for people living with autism or social anxiety.

We discuss the mental load on Mamamia Out Loud, our twice weekly podcast with what women are talking about. Post continues below. 

But while many agreed that it’s important to be respectful of people’s time and emotions, most worried that those with mental illness often feel like a “burden” anyway, and this message might not help.

Since the tweet was posted a few weeks ago, the words “I’m at capacity” have gone viral, with tweets popping up all over the place.

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Whether you agree with what Fabello said or not, you’ve got to admit, the tweets are pretty funny.

Been listening to That’s Incredible? Tell us what you think.

MMSurvey
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