Boundaries

Boundaries. You name them, I have never had them. I didn’t really even know what boundaries were until my therapist broke it down for me. When I say boundaries I mean sense of self and protecting that self.  What do I want. What do I not want. Where is my actual spacial boundary. What do I consider my space and who do I want in it our out of it and why. Am I able to tell someone who is in my space to get out of my space. Am I able to establish a boundary where I feel safe in any environment. Am I able to say no. Am I able to explain what my boundary is and why. Am I able to speak my wishes and my hesitations about my own personal space. 

These are questions I have been asking myself. Reflecting on these questions I have been accutely aware that I never say no. Whether it is a hug or someone sitting next to me or just telling someone they cannot come over right now to my house. I have not thought about myself or my needs or my boundaries or when someone violates my space… because no one taught me how. My space was violated most of my life with abuse. So my ability to establish my own space and how close I want someone in my own personal space has not been established. It couldn’t be. My space was invaded with molestation and rape. I HAD NO SPACE. This has left me open for many triggers and PTSD episodes. I have often felt like I cannot say no because every time I ever have, I was not respected.  If I know a man is coming towards me and wants to hug me, but has cologne on, I will  allow him to hug me. Every part of my being is saying no. But up until this point my ability to set a boundary has been non existent. Then I would spend the next few hours in a dissociative state until I could wash my clothes and scrub my skin raw in the shower. All because I could not just put my hand up and say no. 

Establishing boundaries is imperative in the healing of sexual abuse. It is crucial. Just last week I was able to tell someone that I was sexually abused and his cologne would be very triggering for me and THAT is why I could not hug him. It is THE very first boundary I have ever set. It was very empowering to not cower and not be submissive of the boundaries my body so desperately needed. And he responded with complete understanding and compassion. It was a very positively reinforcing moment for using my voice and protecting my body’s needs. Not everyone will respond to my boundaries with understanding. I know this. Not everyone will listen or respect my boundaries. I have recently been shown this. It was a simply boundary that I set this past week. Someone wanted to come over and spend the night. I said no. I said that she could come over for a few hours but spending the night is something I can not do right now. It was a very clear boundary- I am not okay with what you are suggesting because of (bland) but we can do this instead- I cannot have an overnight guest. She did not accept this boundary. She pushed and she pushed to get what she wanted with no regard for my boundary. The consequences of her actions resulted in not being able to see us at all and infact me putting up a larger boundary that said I personally did not want her in my home period. Putting up this boundary and having someone so blatantly disregard it created my need for a larger boundary.  Something I also have never done. She had no respect for my boundaries and I was not okay with that. Setting up boundaries will not always end feeling victorious. Yay! I set up a boundary and told someone what was not okay for me. But they didn’t care. They didn’t listen. This is hard. When you finally set up your boundary and the other person just doesn’t care. That was very triggering for me because when my “no” doesn’t mean no to someone else it is incredibly upsetting. It actually resulted in me having a seizure.  My point in sharing this experience is: setting up and implementing boundaries is not easy. I did not back down though. Once my boundary was set, it was set. That boundary was me listening to my own body and what it could handle and not handle and stating very clearly my expectations of another person. It is victorious though, even if it doesn’t feel that way, even if they don’t listen, because you have chosen to speak. Speaking in the face of a manipulator or a bully or a selfish person will always be victorious to a person who has been beaten down by similar abusive individuals. I will always consider my voice to be a victory, even if in that moment it may not feel that way. 

It is not your fault or responsibility if someone chooses to not respect your boundaries. That is on them. We have the right to FINALLY after living for years of having our space violated, establishing a protective space that has a voice. I can say no. You can say no. No to a friend stopping by. No to being hugged if you don’t want to be. Even no to something so simple as your child wanting you to lay in bed with them before they sleep. If tonight is a night you need to be alone, then they will be okay. You can lay in bed with your child another night and they will be okay. It may be as simple as someone offering you food that you don’t want or hand me down clothes you don’t want and actually saying no. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken someone’s hand-me-downs just to donate them to goodwill because I could not say no. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have done things I did not want to do, accepted things I did not want, because I did not know how to say no. I couldn’t say no. I had no boundaries. 

Boundaries are about listening. Listening to the parts of yourself that have been violated. Listening to the parts of yourself that want protection, security, and safety, and putting a voice to those needs. It is a process that will be ongoing or me.  Part of setting up my boundaries is learning how to tell people no. Learning what is best for me and my healing and implementing that. Setting up boundaries is giving my body the nurturing and protection that it never received. Those boundaries have to begin with me. I have to figure them out. I have to then voice them. I have to then understand that if they are not respected, that does not fall back onto me. I will not be guilted or burdened with someone elses inability to respect my boundaries. No has to mean no. I will stand firm. My body deserves it. It is time to give my body the boundaries it has needed since the day those boundaries were violated.  I have said before and I will say again, I am a work in progress. Healing from trauma is a continuous work in progress. Boundaries are a big part of that healing work. This is only the beginning. 

34 thoughts on “Boundaries

  1. Thanks for writing this Bethany! I can relate to so much. We have people in our system that are learning how and when to set boundaries. It’s incredibly hard though. Sometimes it feels like we will be hurt badly if we say no. But finding our voices feels like a sort of freedom. We have an old friend that stops by unannounced, even though we have told him over and over that we don’t like that. He just blows it off and says in the south that is what they do and his people opens the door, welcomes him in, and caters to him. This is what he wants from us too. And we did it every time because that was what he expected. And we have insiders who are afraid of violence if we dont give what is expected of us. But the last time he knocked on the door, then called from outside the door, we just ignored it. It was a panicky feeling with a lot of fear. But he finally went away and after a while we started relaxing again. We had some backlash emotions and thoughts but those also lightened up over time. Boundaries are good. Keep up the great work. -B

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  2. It is wonderfully freeing to be able to say no, as you said. Great post. I’m very happy for you. Yes, some people are understanding, but those who aren’t – well, what can you do? Just let them go their way. I don’t understand people who insist on imposing themselves on others. We should all respect one another’s boundaries.

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  3. I began my boundaries journey by reading a book called Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. They speak of God wanting us to set healthy boundaries so the book is not for everyone; but, for me, it was my bible as I renegotiated what was acceptable in my relationships. I also had the support of a very good therapist. Learning to say no is never easy, and some people just will not accept it. I wish you lots of strength on your journey.

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  4. Hello Bethany, I am always impressed with the ability you have of expressing what so many feel. The first part of what you wrote are emotions and limitations I, like the others here have also said, have and try to deal with. You seem to understand the emotions so well and so much better than many people. I fail to express the feelings and how it so twists my interactions with others and my own view of life. You do it very well. I am glad to see you are making improvements, and moving forward. I know it is a hard fight and one that wears you out to keep fighting. I don’t know if this will help but I will share what a psychologist treating me suggested. He said I had what he called a “Bunny” personality, meaning I was unable to defend or protect myself, letting others do as they wished to me and giving in to them. Just what you said about boundaries. He suggest Ron pratice with me, to get me to establish my own wants and try to express my needs. For example when Ron would ask me if I wanted to go out to eat, I would answer “If you want to”. If he asked me where I wanted to go or what I wanted, I would respond with basicly saying whatever he wanted or where he wanted to go. So Ron was told to gently guide me into answering with what I really felt or wanted, to get me to assert my own wishes. If I got upset Ron changed the subject and let it go, doing what he knew helped me. It worked some. Please let me know how you are progressing on the boundary issue, it does help to know others have the same issues and are able to overcome the feelings. Best wishes. Hugs

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    • Hi Scottie, I always look forward to your experience and insight. I do the SAME thing when my husband asks where I want to eat. I don’t think of myself. It is the tiny things like that. I love how your therapist explained it as a bunny. I very much can relate to that and connect to that. Thank you for sharing and the advice.
      These have been my first boundary steps. One day I feel very empowered and one day I feel tired and defeated like I would rather just go back to being stomped on. Speaking is exhausting to me. And I feel an inner rage that I have gotten a grip on that comes from so many years of having my voice ignored and my body used. So much so that when I do make a boundary and someone steps right on it I feel the blood rush to my face. It takes serious control to then say nothing and walk away. These emotions that have come up after stuffing them down for so long have been quite the battle to reign in and learn how to

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      • I am glad you are getting strong enough not only set the boundaries but to speak up and enforce them. I do understand the stress and the awful feelings after you do it. Thank you for sharing. Hugs

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    • Ok that didn’t let me finish writing! I don’t know exactly what to do with these feelings. I’ve never had a boundary for anyone to actually step on. It is all new for me. I’m glad you have someone who loves you to work through it with you. I keep talking to my husband about it and he is very encouraging of my setting boundaries and is very proud of me for trying.

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  5. Unbelievable that I am reading this right now after the conversation I had with my therapist yesterday about boundaries and PTSD. What is it with you and me???

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    • We have already established we are somehow living in a twin world. Separated at birth 🙂 living similar lives in diffferent places.
      We do have some crazy coincidences. My therapy is on tuesdays! This was our topic, boundaries, which is what prompted me to write on it because it was so fresh on my mind.

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    • Omg your blog post just made me cry about the girls you picked up. And you talking about the conversations in your head. Omg i do the same thing ALLLL the time!!!!!! If someone could hear my mind conversations!!!!!
      I’m so glad you SAVED them. They could have been kidnapped or geez anything could have happened to them! I love god messages and I have never believed in coincidences! Sometimes we are just led and we have to listen.

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  6. Awesome post. Love yourself first and healing will surrender. Those that don’t respect or understand your journey of healing do not understand what loving thy self first means. They have their own healing to address. GOD (omnipotent positive energy) is for all especially those that seek it.

    Blessings, Emma

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