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Posts Tagged ‘Setting Boundaries’

SunriseI met with my therapist yesterday and feel much better about everything going on in my life. By the time I walked into my therapist’s office, I knew what I needed to do, but I needed his professional opinion to validate that I wasn’t a complete jerk.

What I **wanted** to be able to do was send a simple card to communicate that I care and am thinking about my ex-friend without opening the door to further contact. I don’t think this will be possible in this situation, just as it was not possible either with momster or an ex-friend from high school. In all three cases, the relationship must be on the other person’s terms, which doesn’t leave room for me to define what I want the relationship to be like. Since all three of these people have only given me two choices – my way or the highway – I choose the highway.

My therapist pointed out that I am not “doing nothing.” I made sure the school counselor knew about the situation (she already did from the daughter), and I have prayed. Those are two constructive things that I have done for my ex-friend, and this enabled me to stay true to my own values even when she has painted our relationship into a corner that does not leave me the freedom to send a simple card.

This discussion only took about half of the session, so we talked about the last few months. I have felt so off-balance for all of the reasons that I have already blogged about. My therapist pointed out that so much of my life has been in flux for the past couple of months, which is causing me to feel destabilized. The word destabilized really resonated with me. I haven’t had the alone time to use most of my grounding tools since hub has been home for the past couple of months (he returned to work yesterday), which is likely part of why I have been feeling so out of sorts for so long.

My sister and I are taking a trip together, along with our children, to the beach for several days. We are keeping our return open-ended because we both very much need the break. Trips to the beach typically help ground me, so I am hoping to return focused.

One issue I haven’t blogged about is that I haven’t received any classes to teach for my part-time job in six weeks with no end in sight. I also work a second part-time job that helps with the cash flow, but it’s not as rewarding. I am thinking that perhaps now is the perfect time to start writing the book that I keep thinking about writing “someday.”

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Continued from here.

On Saturday, I spent the day hanging out with a friend, which was great. She advised me (again) not to read any letters or cards from my mother/abuser. In fact, she said I should not even take the letters into my car or house because I don’t need to take the negative energy there with me. Her advice was to burn the letter in an outdoor trashcan and not to read anything else she sends.

I was “off” on Saturday night and took a sleeping pill to make sure I would actually sleep. It worked, but it was a restless sleep. I was very tense on Easter Sunday morning with a bad headache. I felt like I was walking in my sleep – not really present and no energy.

I took a nap (something I rarely do), hoping for a restful and dreamless sleep, which is how naps usually are for me. In fact, when I go through a period of intense nightmares, I try to build nap time into my schedule so my body can rest while I nap since it is not resting at night when I sleep. I fell into such a deep sleep that I kept “waking up into another dream.” I was raped again in the dream. A disembodied hand was after me. It was simply awful. I was so shaken that I had to take more Xanax to get through the afternoon.

I keep telling myself that I just need to get through the evening. Tomorrow, hub will go back to work and my son will go back to school. (Last week was Spring Break, so I have had precious little “alone time.”) I can go to the gym in the morning and work off some of this adrenaline. I can also read my book as I work out, and I can sit back and watch a favorite TV show during lunch. I am in desperate need of “me time.” I still have a ton of work to do for my job, but I have got to nurture myself tomorrow, or I am going to lose my mind!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am writing this blog entry on Easter Sunday, so hopefully this awful weekend will be a distant memory by the time you read this. Three days before Easter, my mother/abuser sent me a card. For those of you who have been following my saga, you will remember that she sent me a card in February telling me that **she** was letting **me** go. You can read about that here. I had a feeling it wouldn’t last, and it hasn’t.

My sister had given me a heads up that my mother planned to send my son something for Easter. Whatever. I have been too insanely busy with my new job to deal with mother drama. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to get the card. It basically said that she loves me too much to let me go … can’t do it … blah, blah, blah. She said she would respect my wish for her not to contact me, but she wanted to send holiday, birthday, and Christmas cards/presents to my family. I set the card aside and didn’t really process it.

The next day (Earth Day), I saw the African Cats movie that stressed the protection and sacrifice that “all” mothers provide for their children as shown by these wildcats. This apparently triggered me, but I didn’t realize it.

After the movie, I went back to my friend’s house for a while, and I out of the blue told her about my mother’s card from the day before. I also mentioned how much I hate Easter because all of my friends “go away,” etc. (I also experienced a severe trauma on Easter Sunday when I was two years old that affects me to varying degrees from year to year.) I noticed that I was feeling and acting “off” – talking fast and louder than normal, feeling detached and lightheaded, etc. I didn’t know why.

Then, I found another card from my mother in the mailbox when I got home — this time to my son. It was just an Easter card with no money or present in it. She signed the card, “Love, Nana” with little hearts drawn on it, and that really did bother me. I got more and more triggered but didn’t really realize it until it was really bad. I emailed my friend and said that I was very triggered but didn’t know why. I took a Xanax, but even that didn’t calm me down much.

My friend is the one who connected the dots – that my reaction had to do with this unwanted and unexpected contact from my mother over a holiday weekend that is triggering for me anyhow. As soon as she said this, I started crying and just wanted to rock myself. I wound up binge eating (I’ll write about that) and having a bad headache on Saturday.

This is getting too long. More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I survived my first Mother’s Day without it being horrible. Hooray! Last year, I spend the morning in tears. I don’t even remember the specifics of why, just that I was angry with both my husband and son. I burst into tears when I walked into my Sunday School class. A nice lady hugged me close and said all the right things. What a blessing not to go through that again this year!

Mother’s Day has always been tough for me because it “forced” me to “celebrate” a mother who sexually abused me. There is just something fundamentally wrong and f#$%ed up about that. A local radio station talked about a poll in which 6% of the respondents said they were “not crazy about their mother.” The DJs were horrified, but I just kept thinking about my own situation. Why should I appreciate and treasure the woman who started raping me when I was just a toddler??

I think one reason that Mother’s Day was “not horrible” is because I finally gave myself permission not to recognize her. For some reason, until recently, I have not felt like this was an option. From the moment my therapist validated my choice not to send her anything for Mother’s Day, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt more present in my body, and I did not feel like I was losing my mind every time I heard a Mother’s Day ad. I guess I really am healing in this area. :0)

The funny thing is that it is not like Mother’s Day was such a great day. It was my husband’s first without his mother, who died around Christmas last year. He is not particularly demonstrative for Mother’s Day anyhow, but he was doubly not into it this year for obvious reasons. However, the sun was shining, and I enjoyed the day walking my dogs and hanging out with a friend and her kids. I even bought my friend some flowers because her family is terrible about recognizing her for Mother’s Day.

It has taken me a long time to get to this place, so I am just enjoying having my first “not horrible” Mother’s Day. And, who knows? Perhaps next year will even be a decent one.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

My therapist gave me “homework” every week. That homework was to practice setting boundaries. He told me that setting boundaries was the key to feeling safe, and he was right. Until I learned how to set boundaries, I could not feel safe. I was always at the mercy of whomever I was interacting with.

Setting boundaries was extremely hard for me to do. I learned at a very young age that I had no boundaries. Anyone in my life could take anything he or she wanted from me, and I was powerless to do anything about it. The people around me would lead me around like a puppet. I was so easy to control; it was pathetic.

There were two exceptions to this: (1) I refused to have sexual intercourse before getting married; and (2) I could stand up to keep my child safe. I did allow boys to pressure me into doing more than I wanted to do, but I was resolute in not having intercourse with them. I am not sure where my strength came from, but it was there.

As for my child – I shocked hub and his parents by being able to turn into a complete b@#$% on behalf of my child. For example, they could not figure out how to work the car seat correctly one time and drove my baby home with the car seat not completely fastened. This passive little wife/daughter-in-law went off on them, telling them that they would not be allowed to transport their own son/grandson EVER if they could not be responsible enough to buckle him into the car correctly. (They never made this mistake again. LOL)

It took me a long time to learn how to set boundaries. I thought setting boundaries meant being a b@#$%, and I though that “being a b@#$%” was the worst thing in the world. My therapist assured me that I needed to “act like a b@#$%” in my own head to come even close to being “normal” in setting boundaries.

I finally learned how to do it by recognizing that each time I let another person walk all over me, I was choosing to harm myself rather than say no to an inconsiderate person. As I got better at setting boundaries, I noticed that it was only the people who were used to treating my badly who had a problem with it. Those who had no desire to “use” me thought it was great.

I have gotten much better about setting boundaries, but I still flounder from time to time, especially in times in which I am feeling vulnerable. Also, it is much harder for me to set boundaries with family members, and that is where I need the boundaries the most.

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Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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BedroomIn my last post, Setting Boundaries in the Bedroom after Child Abuse, I shared that I chose to move into my own bedroom even though I am married. Because of being awakened multiple times to be abused as a child, I had a very hard time sleeping through the night with another person in the room. Carving out my own space where I can be alone at night did wonders toward helping me to heal.

I have found so many benefits to having my own room that I did not think about when I first made the decision to move into my own room. A big one is the ability to sleep in a clutter-free room. As I shared in my post, State of My House = State of My Mind, I feel so much better when I spend my time in a clutter-free environment. Unfortunately, this was not possible as long as I shared a room with hub.

The above picture is a photograph of hub’s room this morning. I made no changes whatsoever. He had already left for work, and this is how he left his room. Notice the huge pile of papers all over the floor beside the bed as well as the piles of stuff toppling over on the bookcase. I cannot live that way, yet he freaks out whenever I “touch” his stuff because he says he knows where everything is.

Meanwhile, take a look at the photo on this blog. That is my bedroom with no changes made. I have no clutter in my room. Everything is always in its place. I need my room to stay clutter-free so I can sleep better and so I have a place of refuge when the rest of my house spins out of control.

Also, my room smells great. I burn a vanilla-scented candle each night before bedtime while I do yoga and meditation in my room. The scent of vanilla calms the startle reflex, so having that scent in my room enables me to sleep much better. I also run either a humidifier or an air purifier at all times (that’s the cord on the right) to provide white noise that masks sounds that would otherwise cause me to jolt awake.

I love having my own room. I love feeling safe and secure in a clean room that is exactly the way I want it.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Bedroom Before I chose to heal from my history of child abuse, I was always tired. The only time I ever got a good night’s rest was when my family went on vacation. Because my husband is so tall, sharing a full-size bed is not an option. So, when we would go on vacation, we would sleep in different rooms. Suddenly, I could sleep well, and I felt more rested than I had in years. I chalked this up to being too stressed out in my day-to-day life and unwinding while on vacation. However, I really did not think I was particularly stressed out at home, so I was perplexed by this.

As I moved toward being ready to heal from the child abuse, I become sick – a lot. Whenever I was sick, I would sleep in the guest bedroom. Once again, I slept so soundly. As soon as I returned to the master bedroom that I shared with hub, I struggled with waking multiple times throughout the night and feeling dog-tired during the day.

When the flashbacks started, I realized that the problem was having another person in the room while I was sleeping. I was awakened too many times to be abused as a child, so I had become hypervigilant during the night. Any sound or movement in my bedroom would instantly jolt me awake. Also, hubs snores, which only made the situation worse.

So, after talking with my therapist and building up the courage, I moved into my own room. That is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I sleep well every night. If I am triggered, I can lock the door and know that nobody will be entering my room. I never have sex in my bedroom, so I never confuse my past sexual trauma with my present.

Hub was bothered by this decision at first because he said a husband and wife are “supposed” to sleep together. I countered with, “The operative word is sleep, and I cannot sleep with another person in the room with me.” Also, we only have three family members and a four-bedroom house, so there was no need for us to double up in one room. Where I slept at night had no bearing on our marital relations because I was very clear from the beginning that I was never to be awakened for sex.

For me, having my own room has done wonders for enabling me to sleep at night. It also provides me with the privacy I need to deal with my child abuse issues when they arise.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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