A friend once introduced me by saying, “This is Sandy—she has shitty boundaries.”
At the time, he was absolutely right.
I was coerced into a sexual relationship by a doctor who was treating me. One of my therapists was a sexual predator. I didn’t see either of them coming.
Since then, I’ve worked hard at keeping control of my own power. It still takes time to realize I’m being stepped on or pushed, but when the lightbulb goes off, I push back now. It’s difficult and painful, since the old traumas tend to rise from their graves when I stand up for myself. I’m told this is a form of PTSD. Great. One more acronym for my file.
Like everything else, if it takes too much effort to push back, or the discomfort of it is too much, I bolt. Run from the danger, run from the past, run-run-run. But, I’m working hard at that, too—working to stretch my tolerance for distress, which includes the distress of planting my fence posts in the ground and defending them.
I had to do that at work this past week. I have a set schedule that I can count on now—1:30-4:30, Monday-Friday. I can plan around it. I can plan on it. But some of my co-workers keep trying to undermine it. “Can you meet with a client at 10:00?” No. “Can you come with me at 1:00?” No. “If you could flex a bit,” they say. Or the last straw for me on Monday—”We can wait until you’re ready.” Ready for what? To be valid? To be Normal?
I watched my brain do it’s thing—thrash around with the Ghosts of Boundaries Lost and make preparations to quit the job. But, then a miracle happened. I’ve been watching this s-l-o-w shift for a while now. It’s like my mind puffs out, a little more air in the pink balloon up there, and other options present themselves. Suddenly, I remembered that my boss is on my side, that she wants me on the team. So, I sent her a careful email. “Help. Do you have any ideas?”
Her response was immediate. “I didn’t know this was happening. I’m sorry. It will never happen again—I’ll make sure of it.”
So, when I met with Luke Skywalker yesterday (my interim therapist), the Ghosts were swirling. Just walking into his office brings them up anyway—he’s my care-provider, he’s a guy. The Crypt yawns wide. He gave me some options—stick them back in the vault for the time being and play a game of Uno with him instead or take them on. I’m not one for pussy-footing, so I said, “Come on, let’s go.”
Most of that work yesterday was simply staying with the feelings as they rose and fell—terror, shame, guilt, self-hatred, self-recrimination. There were moments I couldn’t catch my breath, moments I cried so hard it scared me worse than the emotion. As I write about it now, a sudden swell of despair passes through me. It’s so strong it washes in the idea that death would stop the pain. The return of that old impulse, however fleeting, shocks me. And pisses me off. How dare those old perverts still have any control over me!
It’s always a restless night when the Ghosts swarm, so I’m heading off to the pool a little bleary-eyed and emotionally hung-over. But, I’m heading off to the pool. And then to my new therapy group, and then to work. Because I’m getting good at mending my fences. And I’ve got the barbed wire scars to prove it.