I've spoken about boundary setting before but it's worth another post as it is a skill which you have to constantly practise and refine. It's very easy to say I have boundaries - you have to put them into practise and therein lies the key.
Last October I started seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis after a series of events forced me to seek help with decoding my life and where I had come from and was headed. Bad decisions, choices, difficult circumstances with children, burnout and stress had led me to the point where I finally recognised that not only could I not do it all, but I could no longer do it all alone.
Looking back through my notes of my sessions one of the very first things we covered was boundary setting. This was, is and will most likely always be, my major issue. I'm was not good at setting them or keeping them. This lead to me being walked over and in turn beating myself up. So we slowly started working on this - it was a starting point.
My biggest challenge initially was fitting the boundary to the situation. And learning to trust my gut. You can't just say I'm not going to let X walk over me anymore. You have to refine it. If X treats me with disrespect on the phone I will calmly state that I don't appreciate the manner in which I am being spoken to and that I am ending the call and proceed to disconnect it. Cause and effect... and follow through... I'm still working on the follow through at times but I'm better at it.
2014 has seen me saying no more than ever. To friends and family and their reaction is always one of total amazement. And as the year has progressed so I've 'lost' relationships. The most fatal thing a people pleaser can do is say no. It is completely unacceptable to the people who have enjoyed your undivided attention, energy and 'devotion' - even though it may have been at the complete expense of your sanity.
Initially I found myself still over-committing and pure guilt would drive me to attend functions despite overwhelming exhaustion and at the expense of my health. In June I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue (http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/what-is-adrenal-fatigue). However to confirm that the diagnosis was correct as I was suffering from almost daily migraines I was referred to a Neurologist for tests to rule out any kind of brain tumour. I was not yet 38. And I sat up and took note - the 3 weeks waiting for an appointment makes you wonder all kinds of things and with a history of various cancers in our family and my recent stress levels, cancer is a very real possibility and scares the hell out of me.
I realised I could no longer carry on living at the pace I had been. I've been told before I don't just burn the candle at both ends - I burn it in the middle as well. Setting boundaries with others was one thing. I had to start setting boundaries with myself and get serious about it.
So the 2nd half of this year has seen me following my instincts. Part of the AF is that I often suffer bouts of extreme tiredness. I can't explain it except to say that I've fallen asleep behind the wheel of my car in the middle of the day... just like that. I can be completely fine and 15 minutes later unable to function on any coherent level. So now I trust my body. I've had to cut back on things I do. People as a result now consider me rude as I am selective in what events I attend. It's called self-preservation - I avoid where possible driving at night on my own and long distances, day or night. While I may consider a few events over a weekend I will see how my week goes and withdraw if I know I won't be able to cope... this weekend for instance I had 2 events planned - an exhibition opening on Friday night and a city walk on Saturday afternoon....
So how do I decide. It's a simple question. What value will it add to my life? Will it fill me up or deplete my few resources I have at present?
Both events are photography based which is my passion. So I have to weigh up other considerations.
The exhibition -
Pros - beautiful photography, a chance to catch up with an old school friend
Cons - A Friday night after a long emotional week, a crowded area (I don't do well with crowds), too much noise, driving nearly 50km home at night on my own in probably misty conditions which are common at this time of year (I'm half blind at night as it is)
The walk -
Pros - chance for street photography, able to have space to move, learning about the city I live in and its history, it's Saturday afternoon giving me a chance to rest on Friday and Saturday, exercise and fresh air,
Cons - again a long drive but I can be home by dusk and get an early night.
Simple to see where the value lies. The exhibition will continue for another 3 weeks giving me a chance to pop down during the week. The school friend and I can meet for a quiet cup of coffee giving us time to catch up without trying t dodge crowds and shout the last 20 years of history at each other. The walk is a once off this Saturday only. And if I get to Saturday midday and I'm simply not feeling up to it - simple - I cancel.
Another skill I've learnt is to say NO without explaining myself. Unless an explanation is required a simple "Sorry but I can't make it" will suffice. I no longer feel the need to explain myself and justify why I am not doing what everybody else expects me to do. If they don't like it - tough. They free to voice their dissatisfaction. Again I will choose whether or not to take up the request for a justification. Perhaps for a close friend or family member it requires slightly more explanation but often it is acquaintances who require them - those closest to you don't need it. I know I can just say to my best friend that I'm too tired and she'll understand and won't ever hold it against me and that is what friendship is about.
I know I've upset people this year by last minute cancellations and I never wish to hurt anybodies feelings by doing that. But I would hope that if they count themselves as my friend they would understand why I felt the need to cancel - even if it was at the last minute. I'm never one to do things without reason. And while I enjoy the company of my friends, enjoy indulging my photography hobby and getting out and about, living a long and healthy life so that I see my children become successful adults and perhaps have families of their own is more important to me.
To live a healthy life you need to have healthy boundaries. And it is an ongoing process. Don't expect instant results. And expect to lose people. But ultimately you will reap the benefits. A healthier, happier you. That is what counts at the end of the day.