Autoimmune Disease Support Group

Our  Mascots are Marlie and Wilson!  

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries may not be something you have thought much about .  But boundaries are very important in keeping us safe.  Boundaries can be physical or emotional.  When a physical boundary is crossed, you probably know it immediately.  Your boss brushes past your arm every time he explains a task, or one of your co-workers riffles through your desk when she thinks you are away for lunch.  These are easier to identify.  But what about an emotional boundary?  These keep us safe as well.  Safe from what?  Safe from stress which impacts our level of wellness.  We must protect ourselves at all cost!  But what if we are new to the concept? 

What worked in our twenties or thirties may no longer work.  We are constantly changing and growing. Not to mention, we are now dealing with autoimmune disease or other chronic illness such as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/CFIDS). How do we start to set boundaries in a way that we can get our needs met thereby decreasing stress on our body, spirit and mind?

How do we know when a boundary is being crossed (or ignored or trampled?) Well, our emotions will tell us.  We will FEEL ANGERAnger is a sign that you have a boundary that is not being honored.

What do we do if we are feeling anger?

            First, STEP BACK, soul-search to see what is the real issue that is bothering you? (As an example)   Are you really angry at the dishes in the sink?  Or is it that you are beginning to feel like the maid?  Are others in the house capable of picking up after themselves, but just being lazy and selfish assuming you will just do it like you always do?  OK, so you are angry!  You identify the real issue that your family should be picking up after themselves so that you don't have to do it.  Now... WHAT to do? 

            Second, you need to address the issue, but it’s best to wait until you (and they) are in a place to receive what is being said.  Now is not the time to discuss if one or both of you is boiling over, yelling or crying.  Take a cooling down period then chose a low-stress time to discuss.  Try starting with a non-defensive statement like "I have been meaning to discuss something with you.  Perhaps you weren't aware that (state the issue such as leaving dishes in the sink).  You might not be aware of how achy and tired I have been lately. I would really appreciate it if you would make sure that any dishes you use end up rinsed off and put into the dishwasher.  Thank you so much."

            WHAT WORKS?  Try composing “I FEEL…” statements. 

            Complete this sentence:  “When you do _______ (whatever it is), it makes me feel as if _______  (state how you feel)..."  OR
            TRY A STATEMENT THAT PUTS THE ISSUE ON YOU,  “This doesn’t work for me anymore because.....  ”.   (As an example) Say you have been picking up a friend on the way to work for the last month.  Over the last week she has been late almost every day.  You can say, "Being late doesn't work for me.  My boss is on me if I am even one minute late.  I don't want that kind of stress.  I don't mind picking you up but I need you to be out here by 7:30."  (and don't apologize!  If this were the real case, they would owe YOU the apology!)

            Once you start setting boundaries, there will be PUSH BACK.  Friends and loved ones often need to test you to see if you are serious.  For example, you’ve had the discussion that you no longer want to accept phone calls after 9 pm.  You explain that due to your illness, it is important to get to sleep early and are beginning to wind down for the night at 9pm.  The person agrees and states that they understand, however, a week later, the phone is ringing at 9:05pm.  WHAT DO YOU DO?  You have two choices!  Choice #1, Answer the phone, saying “Is this an emergency?” If the answer is “no”, then you do not allow the conversation to begin. Saying, “I’m sorry, this doesn’t work for me to start a conversation this late.  Let’s talk tomorrow.” And then END THE CONVERSATION!  (Controlling people will want to try to get their way.  They will blurt out “well I only want to tell you this one thing…”  DO NOT BLUR THE BOUNDARY.  Stand firm and just repeat your statement and then HANG UPChoice #2, Caller-ID!  Let it go to Voice Mail! 

When you are available for a conversation the following day, return the call.  Don’t be surprised if the controlling person won’t pick up the phone (DO NOT LEAVE AN APOLOGY MESSAGE!  Just say, I’m returning your call from last night.  We’ll talk soon AND HANG UP!)  Or, they will pick up the phone only to let you know that it now DOESN’T WORK FOR THEM to speak at this time.  Which is FINE WITH YOU!  Just say so!  “Oh no problem at all!  We’ll talk again soon.  Have a great day!”  

            Some controlling people might PUSH BACK three or four times before they see that you are SERIOUS!  Stick to your guns my friend.  Nothing is sweeter than taking back control of your life!  It’s good for your health AND your self-esteem!

            This process may disclose TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS! (See our Blog for more on toxic relationships!)  If you do decide that someone is toxic.  There is no need for drama or fanfare!  Simply take back control and YOU decide where, when and how much of your time you are willing to devote to this person.  If you don’t have the emotional energy on a particular day, make good use of your Caller ID!  Let it go to voice mail.  Perhaps you were napping or you were out in the yard and didn’t hear the phone!  ;)

            It is unfortunate that this process sometimes stirs up the grieving process.  If a relationship is toxic, or if you are the ONLY ONE interested in creating a healthier relationship with this person, you may have to take a step back.  I personally have given up chasing people down to be in relationship with me!  I now feel that if a relative or friend won’t return phone calls or texts, well, it’s their loss!  When they are done having their temper tantrum, I will love to hear from them.  If they chose not to call or write, then it only means that they are still in tantrum and the interaction would only serve to stress me out anyway!  If I have reached out to this person 4 or 5 times only to be ignored, why would I choose to put myself through times number 6, 7 or 8?  Doing the same thing expecting different results is the definition of, what???  Right!  INSANITY!

            You will need to grieve the loss!  Feel the anger, scream into a pillow!  Allow yourself to cry when you experience the depression and sadness of the loss of this once important relationship, or phone a friend.  When you arrive at acceptance, (5 stages of grieving) you will see that you can only control yourself.  People who cannot forgive THEMSELVES will never be able to forgive you.  You cannot GIVE TO SOMEONE ELSE what you are unwilling to GIVE YOURSELF!

           One last tip.  Start slow.  Set a boundary or two with people you don't care much about.  Ask that neighbor to please refrain from parking in your second parking space, tell your co-worker that you would rather your phone go to voice mail than to have her picking up your calls... trust me, it's easier to start with people who ýou don't love.  Once you get two or three successes under your belt, you'll be ready to negotiate rougher waters!

          Cleaning up your boundaries will make your life so much smoother!  Go get ém tiger!!!!