Boundaries

Growing up in the family I did, boundaries were essentially non-existent. At least mine weren’t. I wasn’t allowed to speak for myself. My thoughts and feelings were deemed unimportant or outright wrong. I remember my mom and older brother deciding for me that I wasn’t going to a 4 year college right out high school as I sat there listening to them decide my life for me. My thoughts and feelings made no difference. A weeks before classes started, I was told I was going to live with a different brother to attend the local junior college across the street from his house. I had already enrolled in classes at another junior college where some of my friends were going for the same reasons. I begged and pleaded, but my desires and plans made no difference… I was sent off despite making other life plans. This is one of a million stories just like it that show how much my life and choices meant to those who supposedly love me.

As I got older, my voice still didn’t matter in my family. Setting clear boundaries about not being able to handle more than a few hours at a family holiday away from home while I was suicidal and in treatment didn’t matter. I was promised that my boundaries would be maintained, which is why I agreed to go. I was happy to stay home so I wouldn’t put limits on other’s enjoyment. When the time came and my anxiety was through the roof, I was exhausted and couldn’t bare another moment in all the activity my feelings were dismissed as unimportant. I was told to suck it up and we’d leave in the morning.

Over the years, I learned to fight and say NO. At first, I felt guilty and ashamed for demanding that my feelings and boundaries be respected. I learned to say “This is what I’m doing” no matter how anyone else felt about it. I started learning that their opinions don’t matter.

You’d never know now, but I used to be very shy, quiet, timid. Getting me to express and opinion was like pulling teeth. I had a supervisor at my first job in mental health who told me she was making me talk during staff meetings. She wanted to hear my opinions and observations. She was the first person to outright tell me what I have to say and what I think are valuable. It was a long time before I reached the point I’m at now. It’s been nearly 20 years since then.

There reached a point with my family where I had to stop all contact. Not because we don’t love each other. The reason is that there is still an attitude of “Jodie doesn’t know what she’s talking about” for a multitude of reasons. I learned fairly early on that I had to fight, literally– scream, yell, throw things at times– to get my point across and be heard. Quiet conversations and respectful requests were never honored. My opinions were never viewed as holding any weight. The damage this did to both sides was horrendous. I stopped fighting to stay in the sick family system and left where I wouldn’t hurt or be hurt.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had relationships where I’m not able to speak freely and be taken seriously. I recognize the pattern of behavior in myself very clearly when I find myself in a situation or with people who lack the ability to respect my feelings and needs.

My communication goes from a calm, respectful place to being a lunatic banging my head against the wall trying to be heard and get my needs met. This is the person I’ve been with the trustee every time something major has come up which requires his attention. He thinks for me and makes decisions for me regardless of what I think, feel, say, what research I’ve done. He puts me into a catagory of being a child, disabled… he treats me the same way my mother and siblings always did. I scream and rage out of sheer exhaustion that what I’m saying actually needs to be taken seriously and action needs to take place. As my mother did, he ultimately gives in after I’ve had a rage bad enough to shake him to the core.

It saddens me greatly that I have any relationships now with people who fail to value who I am and what I have to offer. I have mental health challenges. I’m the first to admit them. I am also the first person to take more responsibility for being wrong because of them and question myself. There are times I am wrong. Absolutely.

If I’m raging out of control, I am usually at that point from being pushed there for being treated like I’m less than and my needs ignored. When I get so off center that I can’t stop ruminating about a situation and find a way to be kind in getting things done… there is always more to the story than just me being upset and out of control. Unfortunately, there are people involved who never see how they play into this. I am viewed as difficult, unreasonable, unstable. These are things I am not unless there are circumstances so far outside acceptable that I go back to behaviors of aggression and rage which have worked well with those who failed to take me seriously in the past.

I have such remorse every single time I have needed to use those unhealthy coping skills since learning and practicing better ways. I am better than that. I am worth more than that.

A final thought, for I know I am not the only one who experiences these things.

Just as a broken clock is still right twice a day, there are instances where the person who appears insane is totally sane.

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