Small Steps Towards Healthy Boundaries

Today was a good day. I managed to do a few things that I wanted to, and my mood has been relatively stable. I wasn’t happy, but I also wasn’t depressed or sad. Not empty either. Just normal. I can’t remember ever feeling like this. Perhaps the mood stabilizer is finally working. Whatever it is, after the depression that has been hanging around for the past month or so, this is a welcome relief. And I’m so incredibly grateful for it.

In my New Year post, I mentioned my goals for 2017. And today I’ve been thinking about my goal of setting healthy boundaries.

Boundaries have always been hard for me. I didn’t realize just how much, until I started therapy. At first, the boundaries in the therapeutic relationship made me feel hurt, angry and confused. But through the months, I’ve found that they provide me with a sense of safety and structure. My therapist knows I can cope with my emotions, and that I can deal with things that come up in my life. Hell, I’ve gotten through 32 years without her. Through some of the worst and most traumatic moments of my life, with little or no support. So I don’t need her to constantly be there for me. Besides, If I start to rely on her all the time, I’ll eventually stop putting in the effort of caring for myself. That being said, I still sometimes get annoyed with the boundaries, but those moments are few and far between. So this is an example of me needing to be respectful of other people’s boundaries. Which I’ve become quite good at. It’s not perfect, but still a big improvement.

Then there are my personal boundaries. And this is where I struggle the most. I’ve been trying to become aware of my limits. What makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I’m still in the learning stage. But we have to start somewhere right? I need to start putting myself first more often. One of my current problems is discovering a boundary I need to set, but then being unable to fully implement it. I feel bad and guilty about having that boundary up. If someone pushes a little, I cave. But I can’t expect myself to become perfect at setting and sticking to them overnight. So I’m not going to be too hard on myself.

I came across this inspiring Ted talk today. It was just what I needed to hear.

Protected: Already Missing Her

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Footprints

When I first heard this song a few days ago, it brought to mind my relationship with my therapist. It’s strange how I seem to be able to connect a lot of things to therapy.

Because of the boundaries that exist in any therapy relationship, there have been times where I felt like my therapist had ‘abandoned’ me. When she would push me, and encourage me to hold myself, and not become dependent on her to take care of me. That I needed to do that for myself, and was very capable of that. That I had made it through 30+ years without her. Sometimes those words hurt, and I felt that she didn’t really care. In my mind, I felt like I needed her to save me. Especially during periods of suicidal ideation. I want to be able to phone her at 2am and tell her to stop me from taking it further. But those damn boundaries. I know it’s not realistic to bother her after hours. But the emotional mind doesn’t think like that.

Since starting therapy, she’s been there for me every step of the way. She never left my side, even when I pushed her away, and tested her. She’s been my safe zone. When there’s a rupture, I panic and feel like she’s giving up on me and letting go of my hand. But I’m learning that just because there’s ‘conflict’ in a relationship, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

She’s gotten me through many dark times. And even when I don’t see her for a while, the work we’ve already done together has made me stronger and better able to look after myself.

When I feel she doesn’t care enough, or isn’t there enough, the truth is very different. She’s still there. She’s still holding me. She still has my hand. I know she cares. Not just because she tells me she does, but also by her actions. She does so much for me. In a way, she is carrying me.

With the upcoming therapy break, a lot of emotions are coming up. Fear. Panic. Pain. Anxiety. How will I survive without her? What if she forgets about me? What if she doesn’t come back? We’ve been talking about the break and preparing for it, but that doesn’t make those feelings go away. There’s no magic pill for that. But I know that even though I won’t be able to see her, she’ll still be holding me in her heart.

She’s shown me time and time again that I can trust her. And I do. Sometimes my mind just needs to catch up to my heart.

 

The Healing Bond

In my post ‘The Therapeutic Relationship‘, I wrote about my connection with my therapist, and the fear that often accompanies it.

On Monday morning, in preparation for our session later that afternoon, I asked her to open up that post for our session (she has access to my blog). I wasn’t sure whether she had read it, but I thought it was important that she does.

Most of the session revolved around talking about our relationship, my fears and things I had left unsaid for so long. I didn’t run away from it this time. I fully embraced it. And I’m so glad I did.

I got to see a side of her that I’ve never seen before, a more vulnerable side, and it was absolutely beautiful. My heart just softened. I felt this overwhelming love for her, and warmth filled every part of me. That moment right there… That moment is one I’ll never forget. It’s etched in my memory forever.

One of the things I told her, is that I sometimes worry that I’ll be replaced by her other clients. That I won’t be important to her anymore. She put that fear to rest by saying that she’ll always make time for me. That she cares about me. It felt really good to hear that.

I also asked her whether she thought I was still making progress. Because I feel like I’m not. But I spent some time thinking about this since that session. And I reached the conclusion that I am making progress.

I’ll give two examples.

I never really had boundaries with people in my life. In my head yes, but I was unable to communicate and enforce them. Now, thanks to this healing relationship, I’m starting to become better at it. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, it came so gradually. I still have a way to go, but there’s definitely progress.

Since I started seeing her at the beginning of March this year, I had this obsessive attachment to her. I would bombard her with emails. When she went on vacation for about a week, late in April, that didn’t stop me. I even sent her an angry email. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and what did I do? More emails. I was in crisis mode.

She always had an open policy, where I could contact her anytime. But I took it too far. I misused it greatly. In the last email she sent me during her vacation, she wrote that she feels strongly that we should have no contact between sessions, or have two sessions a week. But I couldn’t afford two sessions a week, so that was out.

I was devastated. I felt that the connection we had, had just been shattered. She had broken my heart. She had taken something away from me. I felt rejected and abandoned. When we had our next session, she was open to discussing this, and we reached a compromise. I could contact her during working hours. No nights or weekends. I still wasn’t happy with that arrangement, but it was better than absolutely no contact between sessions.

In our session on Monday, we revisited this topic. I told her that I don’t want this boundary anymore. That it hurts. That I’m jealous of all her other clients who don’t have this boundary. As usual, she listened and took to heart what I was telling her. She said that April is long gone, and she’s willing to give it a try and drop the boundary. I asked her whether she thinks I won’t misuse it this time. I liked her answer. She said that we know one another well by now, and she believes I won’t.

And I don’t plan to. I don’t want to use it unless I have to reschedule a session. It’s not about a boundary. It’s about me respecting her time. I want her to have her evenings and weekends to unwind and enjoy. And you know what? I’m actually glad she had set that boundary, because I grew from it. I learned from it. I learned to hold myself between sessions. To sit with my emotions and thoughts. To self soothe. I don’t feel the need to contact her in the evenings and on weekends, even though for some reason those are the hardest times for me. That is progress.

After this session, I feel an even deeper bond, a closer connection.

I want to encourage all of you going through therapy to be open and honest with your therapist about your feelings regarding the relationship. It’s so important for the healing process.

The universe has handed me a lot of shit, but it seems to have made up for it by connecting me to this amazing therapist.

The Familiar Taste Of Poison

This song represents a few different things for me.

We long to be free. But during agonizing, vulnerable times, we’re unable to resist the pull.

The Familiar Taste of Poison

“Drink the wine, my darling” you said
“Take your time, and consume all of it”
But the roses were only to drain my inspiration
The promises were spoiled before they left your lips

And I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

I tell myself that you’re no good for me
I wish you well, but desire never leaves
I could fight this till the end
But maybe I don’t wanna win

I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

I don’t wanna be saved
I don’t wanna be sober
I want you on my mind
In my dreams, behind these eyes
And I won’t wake up
No not this time

I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

A familiar taste of poison