Saying No & Expecting Better

I’m being myself and setting boundaries and it’s a trip, man. I’ve been doing it for a while, but my capacity for saying No and Stop that has been steadily increasing. In addition, my fear of being rejected, misunderstood, or purposely harmed has decreased. I’m at the point in my healing where i’m present, conscious, and mindful enough to feel strange and different. Like, brand spanking new, just out of the box. It’s quite the experience. I’ve been tackling some bigger problems that have been an issue for years, and most of those involve how i deal with other humans.

I’ve tolerated low-key abuse from a loved one for years, now. I’ve done so due to guilt over being crappy at relationships in general, and making awful mistakes in our relationship, specifically. They’ve seen me at my worst. I was dissociated to some degree most of the time in the beginning, and after that I was in and out of control; erratic is putting it mildly. I’ve let them down more times than i know or could count, and i’m to blame for some of the burdens they carry.

So when they called me names, i let it pass.
When they broke stuff, i reminded myself i’ve broken stuff, too.
When they invaded my personal space aggressively, i backed down.
When they invaded my personal space gently, i shut down.
When they broke promises or otherwise let me down, i overlooked it.
When they picked at me: corrected my language, questioned my beliefs, treated me as less than, called me out for behaviour they themselves were displaying…
I dissociated. I questioned my reality.
I became smaller and smaller.

Now i am stronger. I know myself better and see things more clearly. I’m present and mindful in most interactions with loved ones, so i’m not nearly as apt to accept another person’s version of events over my own. I understand there’s perspective and sides of a coin, which includes my perspective and my side. I’m beginning to know my worth and i no longer fold like a cheap suit, allowing someone power and control over me. EVEN LOVED ONES.

We’ve been dysfunctional since the beginning, but that was on me. Eventually things shifted as the nature of the relationship changed. I won’t accept abuse from anyone any longer. However, our ties are the kind that i will never sever. And because i’m older and wiser, i can take the lead (and frankly i should) on changing the way we treat each other. It’s not been an easy adjustment for either of us, but especially them. I’ve been sick and dysfunctional for most of their lifetime. This is just and right and good, but in a very real way it isn’t fair. Many of our interactions have been unfair to them.

But this is for the best – and that’s true for both of us.

I’m laying down firm boundaries:
– You cannot speak to me like that;
– You must contribute this, this, and this to our relationship;
– Destruction of property will not be tolerated;
– Aggression will be met with you being removed from my space.

It took some years to get here, because they deserved time to come around to the changes in me. Almost no one else gets that time, but they do, and trust me, they’ve earned it. The best thing i’ve done for them, and for our relationship, has been my commitment to myself. Let me be clear though – i utterly reject the belief that one must love oneself before being capable of loving anyone else. In my life it is provably not so. It was my love of them and others, that gave me the will and the strength to learn to love myself.

I couldn’t love myself as a child. I didn’t possess a child’s normal, natural selfishness. I was alive only for the consumption and pleasure of others. I remember thinking about my uncle when i was very small. I knew i was alive because of the feelings in my body when i thought of him. It was pure, joyful, beautiful, love. I know i loved others, but i was so dissociated all the time i rarely felt anything. I certainly loved my grandparents, and my long time babysitter, but i adored my uncle. If you’d asked me i would’ve said i loved my mother, of course. And the man that i called Daddy. But inside my body there were no feelings that would normally be associated with love. I felt a desperate ache; a pain, mixed with an imperative to please and placate. There was numbness, too. And a dark, sucking void of nothingness filled my bones instead of marrow.

It never occurred to me to love myself – i barely thought of myself. In some ways i was no more sentient than a sneezing sponge. No more than a houseplant that grows towards the window filled with sunlight. I was responding to external stimuli in an instinctual way.

Now i am a fully sentient being, one who is seeking homeostasis. That involves relationships with loved ones around me being healthy and respectful. There are things i want and don’t want in a relationship that are subjective, others are objective. This is a transitional period for everyone in a relationship with me. Everyone. From my husband, to my children, to my friends, to the people who provide me with services. It’s all changing.

For people who’ve been in my circle for a while, it can be startling, off-putting, frustrating, annoying, and very, very inconvenient. Most people fight change, especially when it requires them to change, as well. A shift in perspective, a rebalancing of power, different responses, attitudes, behaviours… I’ve been met with anger and pushback from some people. Others have seemed resentful, almost afraid, and those people have noticeably pulled away.

I can’t find it inside me to be sorry for a bit of it.
I have empathy for their struggle, but i’m not remotely tempted to blur any lines or change my path.
I will continue to draw lines in the sand, to put up curtains, fences, doors, too. I’ll flip the deadbolt on any door to anyone. I already have. Some doors are locked up for good, some i might open if there’s a knock.

I’m bringing a better, more genuine, and absolutely more functional version of myself to the relationship table. Anyone is free to think of me what they will, and stick with our relationship or walk away. I’ve already marked some that seem to prefer me more fucked up. I can’t know for sure what their reasons are for that, but some appear to thrive on drama, some are chronic rescuers, others surround themselves with those they can control. And some, as i wrote about a short while ago, just aren’t that into me.

This relationship is primary, and significant. I’m laying down boundaries but i’ll never walk away. This is in both our best interests. It’s dicey now, but i know it’ll get better. For them, for me, for us. This trip is worth its ticket price.

Enjoy the rest of your week, if you can.

Love and Peace,
~H~



IMAGE: Mick Haupt

Seriously

WARNING: References to suicidal thoughts.

**********

Love and boundaries. FML.

I was raised to have none.
All the better to enslave you, traffic you, and just generally abuse you, my dear.
~ My mother the wolf

Whatever people wanted to do to me, i generally let them. Sex stuff was strictly controlled by my system, which saved me from sexual abuse by peers, but adults could get away with anything, and school-aged kids could humiliate and torture me at will. I did nothing. I never fought back. I would try to avoid, to stay away, but once some bully had me cornered, they could say or do whatever they wanted, as long as sex wasn’t involved. Somewhat strange, is that i was never beaten up physically at school, or after, although i was often followed and threatened and hurt by harsh words. I think my size (Amazon) was intimidating.

Over the years i’ve learned to stand up for myself. Despite the years of screaming and yelling that came from other parts of me, i myself am not violent. When my system was basically unleashed on the world around me due to a severe bipolar mania, i broke a lot of shit. Dishes, glasses, i kicked holes in doors and slammed them off their hinges. I threw things at walls, and one time i threw a chair through a front window. And even worse, there were times during this first, years-long bout of madness, where my people would confuse my partner for a past abuser. I couldn’t control them, and he didn’t know how to handle me switched, so there were times when he pushed for communication too hard, got in too close, and they would scratch and bite at him, and even pull out his hair.
I’m fortunate he stuck with me through that.
He would have been well within his rights to have me arrested and charged.
He saw me as sick and forgave my physical acting out.

It wasn’t long after i was first in therapy with the person i’m working with again now, that i was able to regain control of myself enough to stop the violence. It’s been a decade since i fought him off like a wet cat, and at least a half dozen since i’ve broken or otherwise destroyed anything (although i can still occasionally slam the shit out of a door).

The world’s current system of criminal justice, levied against my childhood abusers would have been nice. I’m in my 50s now though, and my primary abuser is long dead, some of the others that i have names for are either dead or dying, and there were many whose names i cannot recall, if i ever knew them in the first place. I’ve never thought about revenge towards them. Not even my mother. Oh, i’ve reimagined what i might say to her as she lay dying in her hospital bed, only days from the coma that would cradle her to her death.

I had my girlfriend drive me when i went to visit her. I’ve always been a crappy driver.* I’ve got too much going on in my brain to pay proper attention i think, and even back then i knew i was too emotional to get behind the wheel and not have an accident. This time i asked her to take me to see my mom because i’d made her a cassette with music on it (yes, i’m mix-tape years old) and wanted to talk to her. The song list was gross. It bore witness to me years later of how sick and twisted my relationship with her was, as it was filled with love songs, e.g. Without You, by Badfinger.

“I can’t live, if living is without you… “

And i begged her to love me with T’Pau’s Heart and Soul. Yeesh.

I went to her room and she graciously received me (/s), and i gave her my little gift, and then proceeded to apologise for being such a bad daughter. I told her how her accident made me realise how lucky i was to have her for a mom, and how desperately sorry i was for all the difficulties she’d had because of me.
Seriously.

She raised her arms up off the bed and spread them open to either side of her, splaying her fingers wide. She shrugged and nodded and with lips slightly pursed, she magnanimously (/s!) forgave me. I wept with gratitude.
Seriously.
Of course she didn’t say sorry back.

(My mother said sorry to me once in my life. I was 3 or 4 and i said “Fuck” while playing with my dolls. She slapped me across the face so hard i fell off my chair and later couldn’t see out of one eye. She did a lot worse things than that both before and after though, so i don’t know what moved her that day.)

At least she died a week or so later.
Of sepsis.
She rotted from the inside out.
Damn right it’s poetic.

Raised with no boundaries and to take the blame for everything.
I come from a country that’s made gentle fun of for saying Sorry a lot. Take my cultural influences and my upbringing, and i’ve said sorry countless times. Every day, multiple times a day. My first response to so very many situations and happenings is, Sorry! I know that sometimes i drive my husband and sons batty with my constant apologising. It’s not just, Sorry, i oversalted the soup.
It’s, Sorry you have a headache (because i’m annoying and needy and do stupid shit).
And, Sorry kids, i know between the nature and the nurture i’ve completely fucked up your lives forever.
When we used to watch team sports on television and our team was losing, i’d say sorry and leave the room because i felt like it was my fault.
Seriously.

After years of counselling i’ve been able to tone it down quite a bit, but a new close friendship i have has made it clear i have a ways to go. She’s told me a number of times to stop saying sorry for things that aren’t my responsibility, have nothing to do with me, or were due to circumstances i couldn’t have helped. She lets me see the love and the frustration on her face when she says it, too. So i know i still have a problem.

I know now that i have an overblown, highly developed sense of blame, and i’ve been working hard over the years to temper it. To be honest though, i struggle. I’ve hermitted a great deal over the last number of years, because i’m just not well enough or together enough yet to do a lot of peopling. It’s too complicated and too fraught with emotion for me. It takes so much effort and energy to be present and conscious and stay in the face while being around others. Now i do it in small chunks, almost always with just 1 or 2 people. If it’s a group, i don’t last more than 3hrs, except for a wedding i went to this summer where i lasted just over 4 – but i was switched for the last hour and some, so yeah, 3 hours, tops.

I put my personal growth in this area to the test a few months ago, when i stopped taking the blame for a loved one’s problems, and removed them from my safe place. It was incredibly difficult, it took years of poor treatment for me to do it, but it was an empowering experience. I now know i can say Stop, and No, to a loved one, and i’m not bad and i won’t die.
The problem is, that was just a dress rehearsal for what i’m facing today.

Today i say Stop, and No, and draw a boundary around myself that’s been decades coming. It’s a big deal, the biggest, and i might pay dearly for it. The cost may very well be losing the relationship. I have to do this though, or there’s a good chance i won’t make it through the therapy i’m currently in. I’m afraid i’ll just stop it and walk away. I’m afraid i’ll get sick and locked up. I’m afraid i’ll get overwhelmed, lose control, and end the relationship myself, in an unhealthy way. I’m afraid i’ll fold in on myself, and those soft, suicidal whispers i’ve been hearing lately will get louder and start suggesting a plan**…

Right now as i’m writing, i’m reminding myself that this person’s reaction to my boundary will be their own. I cannot control it, and more importantly, i won’t even try. They get to think what they think about it. They get to think whatever they wish about me, and whether what i’m doing is right or wrong. They get to question my motives and even come up with an answer that i think is incorrect. They get to misunderstand and get as hurt and/or angry as they want to get.
I’ve written down what i want to say, because i know my Bits N’ Pieces are going to be active and talkative in my brain, so i’ve made sure i don’t miss anything that i think is important. I want to chicken out and not do this, but i can’t. This ache in my belly will consume me, and i’ll lose myself for who knows how long? I want to send the words by text or email, because it’s going to be brutal for me -i’ll probably cry my face off while reading it out loud- but this relationship deserves a face-to-face.
I
I
I
I deserve a face-to-face.
Seriously.

I know this is a little vague, but as i’ve embraced a more rational and critical method of thinking, i’ve learned that i’m the kind of person who prefers the unvarnished truth. You don’t need to sugarcoat it, and you can be as blunt as you’d like. I would just rather know what’s real and what’s not. I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible – even if it hurts and changes my worldview or drastically alters my circumstances.

Maybe i’ll write about that sometime soon.

Sorry this is a bit of a downer for the holiday, but it’s the truth.
Sorry.
Heh.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*I quit driving a long time ago, don’t worry.

**I’m doing all the things i know to do when i have suicidal thoughts. There is no current plan, but i’ve stepped up the frequency of my therapy appointments, and i’ll be sharing this uptick in invasive thoughts with her this week. I’m maintaining my house and my personal hygiene, but eating and sleeping are difficult. My BFF is spending the day with me tomorrow, and that will put a spoon or 2 back in my drawer for later. My thoughts do not determine my actions so much as my conscious awareness of them facilitates better choices and decisions. I’m not at the place where a higher level of care is required. I assure you that if it was, i’d go get it.