Boundaries. Everybody’s got them. I seem to have a lot of them. Or, as one person, not so very kindly told me - my boundaries are like landmines. It has taken me a long time, and a great deal of therapy, to finally become friends with my boundaries.
The first boundary that I remember, and still have to this day, is “please don’t touch my feet.” I don’t know where this came from, but for some reason, my feet are incredibly sensitive. It is painful to me to have them touched.
In my college debauchery days, I would ask a lover not to touch my feet. It was then that I realized that there are 3 kinds of people - those who respect boundaries without question, those who totally ignore them, and those that seem to respect them, but take them as a challenge to be conquered. It was an easy way to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly relationships.
After the rape and assault, I was left with a shitload of new boundary issues. The very public loss of control over my body left a permanent and indelible mark on my need for safety and privacy. This played out in mostly in being very sensitive to how people approached me and once they were close, how they respected my need to control my private self.
In the beginning, I couldn't have anyone physically close to me. Even my closest friends had to approach very slowly and cautiously lest I start to trigger and freak. I was basically untouchable. Fortunately therapy helped correct that extreme reaction, but I still to this day need to know that someone is approaching. I startle easily and have a lot of anxiety around this issue And I continue to be a very private person. I never want to be in the spotlight, I never want my name or info out there, and I want to be in control of my own story.
Still, I have always had a feeling that my boundaries made me different, and more than anything, I wanted to shed the “differences” of trauma. How could I ever feel that I had conquered the trauma and the PTSD and “not letting them win”, if these boundaries were still dictating so much in my life? And so I fought against these boundaries for a long time. I tried to ignore them. If someone violated them, I always felt that is was my problem to fix. I always felt guilty for having this weirdness. I apologized to people . . . a lot.
Until this year.
This has been a pivotal year for me in terms of growth and overcoming PTSD and having healthier habits for myself and with others. I think this growth has come as a result of years of therapy finally seeping into my pores, and also dealing with cancer, which quickly, and most effectively, rearranges one’s priorities.
This year I had an on-line friendship fall apart. Most people who know me, know that I will do almost anything to make relationships work. I hate when relationships end, even if they really should. But for the first time, I actually let this one go. Willingly and with much relief. There were many reasons for this, but the one big reason was that this person could not, or would not, respect my boundaries. And I thought my on-line boundaries were pretty simple - please only email me through this one address, and please do not share my story with others. At first when she violated my wishes, I would be upset and question why she would do that. She would apologize and ask for better guidance. But then the violations continued, and I no longer felt safe or respected. She said my boundaries were too much. And I finally said, no more.
I have been doing a great deal of work around this issue with my therapist. Because, once again, I started to feel guilty and sad that my issues seemed to be ruining a once nice relationship. Here are some of the lessons I've learned -
- Your personal needs are valid. It is not necessary for you to defend, debate or over-explain your request. Do NOT feel guilty about it.
- You create a healthy boundary for yourself, not for other people. What they do/how they react to your boundaries is up to them.
- Boundaries need to be effectively communicated along with the consequence for violating the boundary. If someone makes a mistake and earnestly wants to to do better, it’s okay to work with them.
- But when someone routinely breaks your personal boundaries, the message is that your own needs and feelings don’t count. This is not a person you want a relationship with.
- People who have no respect for personal boundaries will only enhance your PTSD.
- The other person is free to complain about your boundaries, but you don’t have to sit there and listen to it.
- Do not ask the person that crossed your boundaries to validate your observation. It’s like asking the person who sexually harassed you to help you file your complaint. (I printed and posted this where I can see it everyday)
So , yes, I have made friends with my boundaries. They are like guardian angels for me. They protect and serve me well. I need to be thanking them rather than cursing them. I may have more boundaries than the average person, but I am not, nor ever will be, average. I have experienced a traumatic event and require a little space and privacy to cope. That’s all I ask. I do not wish to have me, or my story, passed around to strangers, as I once was. I do not wish for you to use my personal phone numbers or emails, unless I have given you permission to do so. If you cannot honor that, than I will never be able to feel safe in a relationship with you. And if you have a foot fetish, please do not even apply.