Archive for the ‘Setting Boundaries’ Category

Sorry to be posting so late today. My son is still out of school on Spring Break through today, so he has kept me hopping. I am sooo ready for him to go back to school tomorrow!

Last night, I watched the TV show V for the first time. I was a big fan of the original miniseries back in the 1980’s, but one of my favorite shows conflicted with the airing of this remake. I have since learned that my DVR can record two shows at once (Hooray!), so now I have added V to my queue. (I am in the process of catching up on TV shows I missed while I was out of town for Spring Break.)

Anyhow, the premise of V is that alien “visitors” are pretending to be friendly but are actually manipulating humans for their own nefarious purposes. They promise one thing but then push and push the boundaries until they get their way.

Sure enough, when I went to sleep last night, I dreamt about V, and the dream segued into people in my life that keep pushing the boundaries, such as my mother/abuser. I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, and I was sooo angry! I decided at 2:00 a.m. that I would blog about this.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is the key to feeling safe. Because my mother/abuser has no concept of respecting boundaries, I continue to feel unsafe whenever she tries to worm her way back into my life.

I don’t know why watching V gave me such an aha moment, but it did. Well, that combined with all of your comments and observations about how I keep telling my mother the same thing – she just keeps refusing to listen. I am not being unclear – she is just being hardheaded and determined to get her way.

Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by people like that – people who just push and push until I give in. I feel like I am b@#chy a lot, and yet that seems to be the only language that hub and my son seem to be able to “hear.” I will say, “Please don’t do that,” then “Don’t do that,” to a firm “Stop,” to “Stop f@#$ing doing that before I f@#$ing rip your head off!!!!!!” Both hub and my son will look at me surprised and say, “You didn’t have to yell,” to which I reply in an exasperated voice, “Clearly I did!!!!”

I sometimes think I would have to leave my entire life behind and start over in order to have relationships where people are not constantly pushing my boundaries. I am making improvement. It just sucks that I have to be in a battle of wills constantly with those who are supposedly closest to me (all family). It is hard to trust when you always have to be ready to do battle.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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I have thought about the comments that readers have posted about my draft letter to my mother/abuser as well as comments made by my sister and one of my close friends. I have reached the conclusion that I needed to write that letter more than I needed m/a to read it. I needed to know that I had the courage to say what needs to be said, even if m/a will never be in the place to “hear” what I have said.

Unfortunately, m/a is not sane, so she is never going to be able to “receive” any message I send like a sane person would. No matter what I tell her, she is going to hear what she wants to hear. If she was willing and/or capable of respecting boundaries, she would have done so long ago, and there would be no need for me to write her yet another letter explaining the boundaries.

So, what do I do now? At the moment, I do nothing. Silence won’t be misconstrued, although if there is a way to do it, I am sure she will find it. I have a busy enough life that I don’t need to be wasting time trying to construct the “perfect” letter that an insane person will read in the way that it should be read. My sister has relayed the message that I will be out of town on Mother’s Day weekend (when m/a will be in a nearby city visiting with relatives), so there is no urgency on my end to write to her.

Thank you for helping me work this out. I am proud of myself for writing the draft letter, and I am reassured that I am not too weak to confront her. This breakdown of communication is not because I am not strong enough to say what needs to be said. The problem is on her end – an inability to “hear.”

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared last week, I am at the beach for Spring Break with hub and my son. We are having a good time, so please don’t think I am spending all of my time thinking about my mother/abuser because I am not. However, I am continuing to be plagued by nightmares, causing me to wake up feeling shaky every morning.

I read three of your comments to my Monday blog entry before I lost Internet access where we are staying. We stay my father-in-law’s beach house, which does not have Internet access, so I am at the mercy of obtaining wireless Internet access from wherever I can get it, and I lost it here after the first couple of days. Alas. I plan to go to a local restaurant that offers free wi-fi so I can post this blog entry and read your other comments.

I also spoke with my sister. I emailed her a draft of the letter, and her response was to do whatever I needed to do. She just wants me to let her know before I send anything so she can avoid answering the phone when our mother/abuser calls her to complain about it. However, to this day, m/a never told her about my “Back the f#$% off!!” note, so she isn’t sure if m/a will contact her about a confrontation letter or not.

The part that makes the angriest is that my mother’s insanity takes away so many of my choices. I would like either never to see or hear from her again OR confront her about what happened. I hate this in-between crap. I am sick to death of hearing (whether in her letters or secondhand through my sister) that m/a is baffled as to what she could have done to deserve being treated like this. She is being treated much more kindly than she deserves because she deserves to rot in a prison cell, but I haven’t pressed any charges.

Mia makes a valid point that my letter would be good for a sane person but not an insane one. Because she is not sane, any letter to my mother probably will just encourage her as it would any other stalker.

I don’t know. I am frustrated and angry because I could not have been clearer about my boundaries, and she won’t respect them. I have the tools in my arsenal to “force” her to obey them (the truth), but that could cause her to have a psychotic episode which could hurt someone else. It isn’t fair, just like nothing in my childhood was fair.

The good news is that my sister already relayed the message that I will not be in town over Mother’s Day weekend, so I can check relaying that information off my to-do list. (I purposely did not ask my sister to get in the middle of this, but my mother put her there.) Mother/abuser actually had the gall to go on about all of the “excuses” I am making not to see her. I don’t recall making any excuses. Saying, “I don’t want to see you,” and “Back the f#$% off” sound pretty direct to me.

Edited to add — I really like MFF’s suggestion of a very short version:

If you can respect my boundaries, then we can write letters monthly. If you cannot, then I am not interested in maintaining a relationship with you.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My sister recently had a birthday. Our mother/abuser called her to wish her a happy birthday and then spent most of the conversation b@#$&ing about why I won’t talk to her. That really rubbed me the wrong way and motivated me to write the following draft letter to my mother/abuser, which I have not sent and don’t know if I will:


I got your letter about coming to [my state] in May. I will not be in town that weekend.

You keep asking why I don’t want a relationship with you. Fine – I will tell you, although you should know already. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the severe child abuse I suffered throughout my childhood, and being around you triggers my symptoms. S&L [my most sadistic abusers and her best friends] were monsters, as were their “friends,” and I will forever bear the emotional scars of all of the hell they put me through as a child.

My childhood was filled with a lack of boundaries, and the fact that you have repeatedly refused to respect my boundaries tells me that you have not changed. I have told you repeated that we could communicate by letter monthly but that I don’t want visits or phone calls. Despite me being very clear about these boundaries, you have repeatedly tried to push past them. This triggers my PTSD symptoms, making me even less interested in maintaining a relationship with you.

I have been through thousands of dollars worth of therapy, and I have worked very hard to overcome all of the pain from my childhood. I just want to live my life as best I can, despite the nightmares, panic attacks, and triggers that are a part of my everyday life. Although I have worked hard to manage my symptoms, PTSD will always be a part of my life, and you are responsible for much of this. I do not hate you and wish you no ill, but I also do not need to have you in my life always pushing me to move my boundaries to accommodate what you want.

I don’t want to hurt you, which is why I haven’t gotten into this before, but this has gone on long enough. If you can respect my boundaries, then we can write letters monthly. If you cannot, then I am not interested in maintaining a relationship with you. I am not saying this to hurt you. I am saying this because my own sanity depends upon me being able to have people in my life who respect the boundaries I set. You have not been very respectful of the boundaries that I have set, so it is what it is.


(While I was posting this, Motley Crue’s song came on — “Girl, don’t go away mad. Girl, just go away.” Too funny!!)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Got Another Letter from my Mother/Abuser, a reader posted the following question:

How do u guys deal with the fear and powerlessness unwanted contacts evoke? ~ Sameena

I lean on my friends a lot. I have learned from experience not to take any action in the moment because I might regret it later. Instead, I let a friend know that my mother/abuser has contacted me again. I let a friend (or more than one friend) read the letter or listen to the message on the answering machine because my friends can be more objective than I can. I then listen to their advice but don’t act on it in the moment.

As I shared here, I just received another unwanted letter from my mother/abuser telling me of her plans to come to my state over Mother’s Day weekend (oh, the irony!). I did nothing that night except tell friends about it and blog about it. The next day, I bought plane tickets to visit a friend in another state with my son.

I deal with the fear by taking action. My mother/abuser might choose to come to the state, but I can choose to leave the state. This helps alleviate my fear and feelings of powerlessness because I feel empowered to protect myself. She cannot make me stay in the state and wait for her visit.

I guess I no longer feel powerless. Instead, I feel angry – like I am dealing with a stalker boyfriend who takes any tiny shred of kindness and turns it into an invitation for reconciliation. I need to tell my mother/abuser that I will not be in the state, so don’t bother, but I have done nothing yet. Hub has told me that I better get her that message because he sure doesn’t want to see her.

What p#$$es me off is that my mother/abuser is forcing me to go against my own nature to deal with her. My first choice would be to address the truth, but that is likely to cause her to have a psychotic episode, and I don’t want to be responsible for her hurting anyone in that state. My second choice would be to send her the occasional picture and letter to spare her the embarrassment of having to tell people that she is not in contact with her daughter. This is a kindness that she does not deserve but is in keeping with my own character. Clearly she cannot handle that.

So, that leaves me with one more option – telling her to go to h@#$, which goes against my character but might be the only option I have. It makes me angry that she puts me in this position. I don’t want to do that, so right now I am simply doing nothing. I know I will need to address it at some point, but I am choosing not to in this moment.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Just to recap for newer readers – my mother sexually abused me as a child and provided access for most of my abusers, so I really don’t have any desire to keep this woman in my life. I also have a nine-year-old son who I don’t want anywhere near her. Meanwhile, my sister has chosen to continue a relationship with her and allows her to visit with her grandchildren (14 and 10).

I cut off all personal contact (only letters) with my mother/abuser in 2003 under the advice of my therapist. I set boundaries about what could be in those letters – no talking about the past, reunions, etc. Despite this, my mother/abuser repeated disregards the boundaries, apologizing for stupid things that have nothing to do with the abuse. Until she takes responsibility for the hell she put me through as a child (which will never happen), we have nothing to talk about.

Last year, I chose not to send her a birthday card, and that is when all hell broke loose. She saw that she had nothing to lose, so she started calling and threatened to visit. I sent her a note saying, “Back the f@#$ off!!,” and she left me alone until we saw each other for the first time at my sister’s college graduation in December 2009. Since then, the letters have started again because she thinks that seeing each other in December (where I was looking for places to vomit and was pumped up on Xanax) means that we now have a fresh start.

Now that you are caught up … She had another birthday recently, and I (stupidly) sent her a nondescript card with a couple of recent pictures of my son. I thought this was staving off round two, but apparently it sent her the wrong message in light of the letter I just received:

I was wondering. May 8th [Mother’s Day Weekend!!!!] I’ll be up in [a nearby city] to visit [relatives]. Is there a way that on May 9th [Mother’s Day] I could see you? Then we can sit down and talk out our differences. The maybe we can become friends once more. Or I could see you on May 8, before I get to [city] and have a short stop on my journey up there. I’ll pay for your lunch. Let me know if this will work for you?

Talk out our differences!?!! Become friends one more!?!! When were we ever friends?? It didn’t feel real friendly when my body was offered up to all of her “friends” sexually on and off camera!! These are not “differences.” We are not arguing about paint color or the best sports team. She RAPED me, and she allowed her friends to RAPE me. How do you talk that out?? “I didn’t like it when you let your friends bury me alive or lock me in a box for hours. I wasn’t crazy about the gang rapes or having my first orgasm at your hand when I was a toddler.” No, sorry, don’t see it happening.

I called my sister, and we are going to visit my grandmother [father’s mother] out of state that weekend. I haven’t been to see her in a couple of years because returning to my hometown wigged me out too much. I think seeing my grandmother once more before she dies is a much better use of my time, and maybe I won’t wig out so much knowing that my mother/abuser is in another state.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Staying Married While Healing from DID, a reader posted the following comment:

Can I ask how we can bring up the topic of wanting and needing our own bedroom? Whenever we’ve made comments about it, he doesn’t take me seriously. I did convince him that we had to have a king size bed though and that helps some, as we have a huge barrier between us of stuffies and our fuzzy blanket that he doesn’t like to get too close to. But how do I convince him that I’m not trying to be mean, I just need a sex free zone and a space to call our own? ~ Annelisa

Let me share how I got my own bedroom. When I started the healing process, I got sick … a lot. I would move into the guest bedroom so I wouldn’t get hub sick. I noticed that I slept better when I wasn’t sharing a bed with another person. Once I realized this, I stopped dissociating/switching at night and was aware of how frequently I was awakened by hub’s presence (frequently by his snoring). I used his snoring as an excuse to move to the guest bedroom halfway through the night. This went on for several months … I would go to sleep in our bed, move in the middle of the night, and awaken in the guest bedroom.

I told my therapist that I really wished I had my own room, and he asked why I didn’t. Like you, I didn’t want to hurt hub’s feelings. However, I reached a point that I really needed my own room, and the weight of that need was greater than my fear of upsetting hub.

I finally told hub that I decided to move into the guest bedroom because of his snoring. He objected at first, saying that married people are supposed to sleep together. I pointed out that the operative word was “sleep,” and this half of the married couple was not getting much sleep. I told him that I was not making a statement about our marriage and that this would not interfere with our sex life. (I had a longstanding rule of no sex after 9:00 p.m., and we always go to bed later than that.) Even though I wasn’t in the best place emotionally for sex, I pushed through to have sex a little more frequently for the first few weeks to drive home the point that my relocation was not a sign of wanting a marital separation.

We have had our own bedrooms for years now, and hub is long over caring about having separate bedrooms. He can keep his bedroom as messy as he wants, and mine is always clean. I have a “no sex” rule in my bedroom – that only happens in his room. He is just fine with it. Child abuse survivors don’t typically know how to set boundaries. This is a good opportunity for practice.

Related Topic:

Setting Boundaries in the Bedroom after Child Abuse

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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