Remnants

The past week has been challenging to say the least. I lost my dad on Oct 25, and a cascade of unrelated events followed. The details are unnecessary, but to say I am tired and worn would be an understatement.

After receiving a message shaming me for the pain my bio father and his wife are going through, I wrote a long letter. In it I let out the hurts and heartbreak they dealt to me over time, and for the first time, publicly told my side of the story.

One of the things I mentioned in the letter was how I used to hide in my closet because it was the only place in the world where I knew I couldn’t be “in trouble.” As I started my day today, I remembered that, even after I left his home, I still found the need for that safe space. Even though my room at my mom’s was a safe space, I still needed a sanctuary, somewhere I knew I couldn’t be found. So, in the only corner of the closet that wasn’t exposed with the folding doors were open, behind the long dresses I hung up to shield me from prying eyes, I made a little nest where I could hide.

Until this morning, I had completely forgotten about my hiding place. Now, however, I remember going there several times. I’m not even sure I needed to when I did, but it the only space in my tiny world I was certain I could control. It was dark and silent, in it I could find peace and release the anxiety that would build up.

What I also didn’t realize was that over time, I have continued to keep my little closet space, but I’ve expanded it a bit. My home is now my safe space, my sanctuary. It is the place I go to hide – it’s the only place where I have complete control. When people come to it unannounced, I feel that same sense of anxiety that I had when I would hold my breath, hoping no one would find me in my closet when I was hiding from the world.

Setting Boundaries…

The following are the boundaries that I am setting for myself this day:

  1. I will not accept more guilt and shame than is mine in any given situation.
  2. I will not accept someone else’s behavior as ok or understandable if they continue to be angry, vindictive, or overly protective after I have made sincere efforts to apologize, repair the damage, and change.
  3. I will not accept less than forgiveness when I am sincere.
  4. I will separate others feelings of hurt/anger from their need to be hurt/angry and accept being but not needing to be.
  5. I will not allow myself to feel unintelligent, apathetic, or insensitive just because someone says or insinuates I am.
  6. I will separate the difference between healthy discussions and chiding/excessive reprimand.
  7. I will separate my issue from their issue in an argument.
  8. I will follow the guidelines set in The Anger Formula, not only when I am angry, but when someone else is angry at me in order to determine which part of the situation is my responsibility and which part is their responsibility.
  9. I will be willing to remove myself from the situation if my penance is not sufficient to appease their feelings of anger, hurt, or protectiveness.

These are boundaries that I must set because my boundaries were stretched as a child. Because of my inability to set boundaries, I have allowed many to take advantage of my willingness to make things right. They have often used it to make themselves feel better by inflicting excessive guilt and shame, thus making me feel stupid and insignificant. I recognize that my father’s inability to deal with his own anger issues, and his subsequent “therapy,” led to my inability to set boundaries with others. My greatest asset and my greatest downfall in this has always been my desire to please others.

Learning that there are acceptable limits to how far I must go to please or appease another has been very difficult for me because of my desire not to incur further wrath or other implications from individuals with unhealthy needs. However, to continue to strive to meet unhealthy needs and expectations is unhealthy for me. It is damaging to my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. If I am ever to feel competent, intelligent, and complete again, I must set and abide by these boundaries.

From this moment on, I will strive not only to set boundaries that are healthy for me, but for others as well by showing that unhealthy boundaries, needs, and expectations are not ok.

10 Things I Have Learned…

1. Even though abuse may be the cause of my behaviors, it is not an excuse for them.

2. Knowing what occurred, how it occurred, or how many times it occurred is not as important as simply understanding that something did occur.

3. Repressed memories are repressed for a reason.

4. My psyche is an amazing thing. It knows what I can handle and when.

5. Telling the story is not as important as sharing the secret.

6. Counseling that focuses on the events more than their effects does more harm than good.

7. You will not find validation until you validate yourself.

8. The cycle may begin with someone else, but it can end with me.

9. I am not responsible for my abusers bad choices or the consequences thereof.

10. The objective of healing is to learn and grow.