Thursday, August 22, 2013


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.


  1. I am sorry that you went through this with a so-called “friend.” Someone who can’t or won’t, respect your boundaries is not a friend, but has some other agenda going on. What I find particularly sad is that, much like rape culture, people who don’t respect other’s boundaries tend to blame that person for having them. In your example, your friend called your boundaries “landmines” which once again, it is the victim who gets re-victimized. It’s hard to believe that anyone knowing your story would do that, but I am glad that you were wise enough to recognize that this person was toxic and cruel, and leave that relationship.

    Kudos for becoming friends with your boundaries! What a great way to honor the need and benefits of having healthy boundaries.

  2. Thank you. I will read this advice every day. I have problems establishing any boundaries at all, which is why I often become everyone’s doormat.

  3. "I am thankful for the difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I don't want to be."


    Of course your needs are valid!!! Whether you have a traumatic back story or not!!! Yes to all of this! Yes! Good riddance to unkind, selfish people.

  4. I am so glad that you are appreciating your boundaries. They are essential! They are integral to who you are; they are good! Boundaries are an early warning system - do not ignore them. They are a form of your intuition, one which women in particular, often ignore. Please feel strong in your boundaries.

    It makes me happy to know that you have the courage to sever ties with someone who willfully and knowingly crosses your boundaries. That person is betraying you in a very personal way. They do not have your best interest at heart.

    Respecting your boundaries is respecting your self. Keep doing it!


  5. How anyone could consider "only email me through this one address, and please do not share my story with others" as land mines I will never understand. But consider the source. At least something good came of it - you are now free of guilt and of her.

  6. Great list 8thday. Understanding and enforcing personal boundaries is critical for PTSD people to function. e nails it - respecting your boundaries is respecting yourself. And if a friend does not respect your boundaries, they do not respect you. Absolutely time for a new friend.

    Further, I am so pleased to see how far you have come. I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone, but as you say, some things just give you laser vision into what is truly important in life. Sounds like you are on the right path.

  7. Kudos for growth and strength for being able to excise that person from your life.

  8. I have been reading the news out of Mumbai and thinking of you. Hope you are well. Sending you love and hugs.