I’m sitting in Eileen’s consultation room, her comfy sofa with tissue box close to hand and ubiquitous bottle of water to refill my ever ready tear ducts. We had been talking about a friendship I had with a Mum from my children’s school. That “friend” had taken my phone, read through all my texts, deleted some and seemed to feel entitled to do so (her husband and I were also good friends, I had helped with a fundraiser which clearly had not sat well with her). I had no reason to doubt her right to do as she did until Eileen patiently explained what a “boundary” was.
The concept of “boundary” is still an alien one to me, but I have learnt a wee mantra to help me with it.
Would I do it/say it?
Does it make me feel safe?
Where do I feel this action/comment in my body?
(That body awareness one is very important to anybody with Complex PTSD – we do not cognitively process danger, it goes straight to our bodies and our instincts.)
Since discovering the earth-shattering fact that I can establish boundaries and expect others to respect them, my life has changed exponentially. I’ve flushed out the toxic friendships, I’m quick to exit stage left when I perceive danger and I have a small expectation of being treated well by the world at large. However, sometimes it takes a wee while to remember my mantra and act. When you aren’t used to a lifetime of established boundaries, instead accepted every wrong dealt to you as being what you deserved, it’s going to take a while to have your boundary setting on automatic.
I loved a man not so long ago who’s nearest and dearest (for the most part) appeared to see me as the latest punching post, from his best girlfriend who lashed me with her acid tongue for an hour riding me up one side and down the other with the nastiest and ludicrous shyte until it was all I could do but stumble out of the room and faint on the bank of grass outside, to his eldest who dismissed me as another piece of fluff her father picked up off the street. It wasn’t until my own best girlfriend turned up for a visit and I recounted to her all the going’s on that I remembered helped by the horror on her face, not to mention how impressive her ability to use the word “fuc*” as adjective, noun, verb, adverb, and pronoun was.
I had returned to the beaten up little puddle of doormat goo I’d sworn I’d never be again. Nobody’s fault but my own.
So what are these magical Boundary things and why are they so important? Is it a barrier for others not to pass? Is it a protective cloak, impenetrable wall that will stop others from hurting us?
I believe Boundaries are the nirvana of PTSD recovery. When those bastards are automatic, grounded yet fluid, you know you are one healthy human with a healthy brain that EXPECTS to be treated with respect, compassion, and understanding. When they are faltering, half-assed and barely visible, well then my love, you and I still have a long way to go but we’ll get there. If it kills us, we will get there.
Another trick I use is to put either my children or my friends in my place. How would I feel if they were spoken to or had this done to them? If you feel an instant desire to pummel the perpetrators head into jello then a boundary has been crossed.