Anyone lucky enough to have grown up in a healthy home, not an abusive one, has this beautiful gift (many beautiful gifts actually, but only writing about 1 today) of personal boundary knowledge.
Up until a few years ago, I was not aware I had any boundaries. Growing up less than human removed my sense of self before I was ever able to establish one. I never knew I had the right to personal space as a child, there was no such thing. It wasn’t something I wished for either, because I never knew it could exist.
Both of my parents regularly violated my emotional and physical boundaries, it was my norm.
A few years ago I finally had enough knowledge, strength, and belief in myself to push away my still harmful parents. Yes, at age 35 they still had a hold on me. I am not ashamed of this, it is a simple fact. Several events came together to wake me up and release me from my delusional prison, way too many to list right now, from my earliest posts.
I realized quickly that I had to push away my AF completely. He had no remorse. He will never admit to being anything other than a perfect father, he says his only problem was he loved me too much. (did you just vomit a little? I did)
At the time, I also pushed away everyone from my family of origin, until I could sort out who was safe and who was not. My brothers respected the line and did not cross it. But my mom? At first she was outraged at the change. She was not able to step outside her bubble of perfection yet, her beautifully handcrafted world based on denial and lies. Every time I drew a line, she pushed it, and was often able to cross it. Until I built up enough strength to enforce my boundaries. The first time I kept her out, and me safe, was a huge victory. I was no longer helpless and powerless and it felt so good to get out from behind my protective fortress.
It took years, of her pushing, and me pushing back. It became an expected cha-cha, back and forth. Tiring? Yes, you bet. But worth it? Yes, unbelievably so. For something near miraculous happened. She stopped pushing. She let me take the lead and only came as close as she was invited. I didn’t answer every email or phone call. I stopped calling her so often. Weeks would slip by without her influence, and I started forming my own opinions, seeing the world with my own eyes. Once outside of her bubble, I allowed myself to be imperfect.
And then the miracle happened. At age 66, she popped her bubble. A series of events became undeniable, and brought out her mama bear instinct, and showed her she had a self as well. My AF had also removed her own sense of self, we were all hurt by him, wounds cut clear through our souls. You may recall the wedding from last October, the one with not one, but two pedophiles in attendance. Two pedophiles invited and warmly welcomed into the family celebration. Two pedophiles permitted access to dozens of cousins and nieces. I lost it that day. I could no longer play nice, and had an outward display of rage and loudly warned my brothers and mother of the harm of these men, and left the wedding. I said I could not control who they invited, but I could not be a part of it. I allowed my mother see my fear, my anger, and above all, she saw my pain.
For the first time, she saw my pain, and could not deny it. The magnitude was unbearable and changed her world. Why had I kept that hidden for so many years? Because I thought I had to. Because I didn’t know how to express it. Because everything was locked up deep in side of me.
Since that day, my mother has been changing. The lies have stopped. We have real conversations that include the ugly stuff, not all unicorns and rainbows. I still keep her at a safe distance, but I have noticed that her pushing is less like pushing these days, and more like polite requests.
I made a choice last month when I was in a severe PTSD crash of depression and suicidal, to let her know about it, after the worst had passed. At first she reacted badly and started calling and emailing constantly, and trying to get me to go back on meds. I recognized that she wanted to help, not to control, and so I told her,
“I know you are trying to help, but my therapist and I don’t feel I need medicated at this time. The crisis has passed. If I weren’t coming up out of this, then yes I would seek out other measures. If you continue to push me like this I will have no choice but to push you away and keep you at a safe distance again.”
Her response did not come immediately. But I was overjoyed at her response, oh yes I was. She changed her tune, said she loved me, that she is there for me and asked if it was snowing. She backed off. She did not retaliate or manipulate. I dare say she understood. She had just slipped into bad habits for a bit there because she was fearful. I have to allow her to make mistakes, just as I now allow myself.
I felt powerful too. I know understand I have this power to enforce my own boundaries with everyone, all of the time. Relationships take 2 people, and the line is different with each person. I’m starting to understand this delicate social dance. Sure wish I learned all this as a teenager like so many do, but hey, I’m a firm believer of better late than never.
It is never too late to make a choice, make a change, and make it better.