June 27, 2010
To everything there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. ~Anais Nin
We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. ~Anais Nin
Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake. ~Marie Beyon Ray
What the caterpillar calls the end the rest of the world calls a butterfly. ~Lao Tzu
One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again. ~Abraham Maslow
The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can. ~Mike Dooley
Celebrate endings – for they precede new beginnings. ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. ~Nido Qubein
You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty minutes and watch your heart start beating. ~Barbara Sher
And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself? ~Rumi
May 7, 2010
As you may have surmised from my previous posts, Todd and I have quite an extensive history. We have known each other for about six years now. In fact, our wedding date, July 3, is the 6 year anniversary of the first day we held hands. We were at a Fourth of July celebration at a local park, and yes, there were fireworks. 🙂 I was 17, and he was 18.
Many things have transpired during those six years. We dated on and off, we were friends, he lived in Costa Rica for two years as a missionary for our church, I graduated from college, he worked, I worked, he got his own apartment, I drifted here and there and struggled with my mysterious illness… We broke up, got back together, broke up, got back together… There were good times, bad times, peaceful times, frightening times. My personality and inclinations changed from one moment to the next. He continued to grow and change as well, but at a more normal pace. He was more consistent, I fluctuated unpredictably. One moment I would be giddy with joy, the next I would be in the blackest depression. One day I would be bouncing off the walls, the next I would be wracked with panic and despair. One day I would be clinging to him, the next pushing him away with all my might. One day praising and adoring him, the next cursing and threatening him. Life with me was a rollercoaster. Our relationship (when we had one) was a soap opera, a sitcom, a Liftetime movie, a romantic comedy, and a horror film all rolled into one.
Towards the end of August 2009, in a moment of desperation and intense disassociation, I did something that made Todd vanish from my life forever… or so I thought. After I realized what I had done, the pain and remorse I felt was so horrific that my emotions shut off completely. The morning after Todd and I said goodbye, I went into a hypomanic phase. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. My social anxiety vanished. I became the most social, outgoing, spontaneous, talkative person you ever met. I was constantly in motion, never stopping to think or barely breathe. I got into all sorts of trouble. It was as if I had no fear, no inhibition. I went wherever the wind took me, not stopping to consider the possible consequences of my actions. Most of the things I did were self-destructive – alcohol abuse, cutting, victimization, etc. I won’t go into details of all the things that happened to me during that time, but most of them were quite traumatic and resulted in three suicide attempts. During this time, Todd had no idea what was going on. In addition to our resolve not to have any kind of contact with each other, he entered Boot Camp in November 2009 where he was practically unreachable, and went directly from there into Air Force training.
He eventually heard what was happening from my mother, who had always been like a second mom to him. I knew that they were emailing back and forth, and I was ok with that. To be perfectly honest, I thought about him a lot, and missed him tremendously. As I began to recover, I came to realize how much I really did love him and miss him. I looked back at our relationship in a completely new light, made possible by my new understanding of what I was dealing with – Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything started to make sense. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t necessarily my fault either. It was this nasty mental illness that ruined everything. It wasn’t that we were essentially toxic, or wrong for each other. I had always been so confused about why it never seemed to work between us even though our love for each other felt so real and deep. It was so frustrating, and I always felt so torn between the love in my heart and these fears and insecurities that tortured me nearly every waking moment. Now, I understand them. I can see what was happening. I can also see how patient he was with me. He never gave up on me. I was always the one pushing him away. He always welcomed me back with open arms, with forgiveness, with unconditional love and acceptance.
And yet, for these last few months, I didn’t feel ready to talk to him yet. I was afraid. I was afraid of messing things up again. I was afraid of the BPD monster trying to sabotage our relationship again and push him away. I was afraid of the cycle repeating itself. I was afraid because I’m not fully recovered yet. I was afraid because I haven’t reached my “ideal” yet. I was afraid because I’m not “perfect” yet. Afraid. Fearful. Hesitant. Hiding. Waiting. Stuck…. Well, I expound about this in my April 27 post “Turning Point” so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say, I mustered up the nerve to talk to him again. And it went full speed ahead from there!… Uh… Obviously… 😉
I have a confession. Todd has proposed to me before in our relationship. Having been together for so long, it was bound to happen at some point, right? The last time he proposed to me, about a year and half ago, I said yes… And suffered a major panic attack afterwards, one of the worst I have ever had. And why? Well, for a couple reasons. First of all, I still didn’t understand what I was going through at the time and was very ill. Second, at that point in my life (and only until very recently) I still clung very tightly to the notion that before I could truly be HAPPY, I had to be PERFECT.
Throughout my life, I have never let myself experience happiness until I had reached a certain perceived level of perfection or accomplishment. Not skinny enough? Sorry, can’t be happy. Not in control of my emotions? Sorry, can’t be happy. Don’t have my life all figured out? Sorry, you can’t be happy. These are the kinds of things I told myself. These thought patterns have been part of who I am since I was a very young child and have affected the entire course of my life. I keep myself down, I keep myself in a rut, because I don’t let good things happen until I have achieved my ideal, if ever that may happen.
Problem is, my “ideal” is unrealistic and unattainable. My idea of perfection is, well, PERFECTION. And perfection is, simply put, IMPOSSIBLE. So as long I do not allow myself to be happy until perfection is attained, I will never, ever be happy. Until I relinquish my quest for perfection, I will continue to keep myself down. Unless I somehow lower the unrealistic expectations I have of myself, I will never allow myself to realize my dreams and experience any measure of happiness in life. I will never let myself be in love, get married, have children, have a successful writing career, be creative… the list goes on…
I won’t let myself experience life to the fullest.
Perfectionism is a deadly disease.
Once I let Todd back into my life, and opened my heart and mind to being loved and accepted without reservation, without condition (which took a lot of effort and strength and self-acceptance on my part)… I felt something starting to shift in my brain. This may sound strange, but it was almost a physical feeling, like my brain was actually beginning to make new connections. Things started to click….
I AM NEVER GOING TO BE PERFECT.
I AM ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS OF SOME SORT.
I AM ALWAYS GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FAIRY TALE ENDING, ONLY A NEW BEGINNING OF A NEW ADVENTURE.
I’m always going to have flaws and imperfections. I’m never going to feel happy all of the time. There will always be struggles, whether it be with myself, in my marriage, with my family, whatever… I’m never going to be perfect…
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT.
THERE IS JUST ME.
I AM ME.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT?
I AM OK WITH THAT.
For the first time in my life, I’m ok with being imperfect.
Sure, I want to improve. Who doesn’t? But I’m ok with who I am now. For the first time, I’m not beating myself up because I have a few extra pounds around my waist, or because I have scars on my arms, or because I woke up with a few pimples on my chin. I’m not torturing myself because I wasn’t totally happy yesterday, or because I felt guilty for no reason, or because I got irritated at someone. I’m not perfect. And you know what? I don’t want to be.
I’M PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.
Besides, if I were perfect, everyone would hate me. And that would suck. 😉
This new mindset will still take some getting used to. I still catch myself slipping back into the perfectionist, extreme, black-and-white way of thinking. I will probably still struggle with it for a while, and it will take time. But I know what it feels like now to accept and love myself. And I need to hang on to that when it gets hard.
So here I am. More comfortable with myself than I ever have been, and loving it. I never thought I would get to this point. It seemed to happen over-night, but when I look back, I see all the tiny steps I took to get to this point… Finding a good therapist I connected with, opening myself up and talking, expressing myself through this blog and through writing poetry, connecting with others, getting back out in the world socially, welcoming love back into my life… And even smaller, baby steps that made those larger steps even easier… Getting out of bed in the morning, exercising, eating right, drinking water, taking showers, taking my medication, listening to music… The small, simple things DO matter. Tiny step by tiny step until one day you realize you’re where you want to be… or at least that you’ve come very, very far.
And, really, there never is an end to the journey. You will be on it forever. Always learning. Always growing. Always finding new ways to love yourself and to love other people too. Life really is a beautiful, wondrous adventure…
April 10, 2010
Tremble precariously on my skin
Until, heavy with sorrow, they fall –
Drenching the ground with my pain.
The invisible thread that connects
Our two hearts is tightly wound,
The hurt in yours vibrating to mine.
I feel your pain – it becomes my own.
Harsh words pierce like a dagger, I know.
I wonder if at times you feel
Nothing at all – so I feel for you,
Knowing you deserve so much more.
When I was a little girl I would cry for you.
Though I’ve grown, I am still scared,
Still wonder if we will be broken apart,
Would I be enough to fill the emptiness?
In those days, I would hide in my room.
Now, I just escape in my mind –
Running from the tension, the chaos,
The sound of you softly crying, trying to be strong.
You never want me to see you break down –
Closing the door, wiping away the tears,
Not saying the things I already know,
Not wanting me to be afraid.
But I’ve been afraid all along –
For you, for me, for us all.
Hurt feelings, broken hearts,
Wanting to feel accepted, yet falling short.
Nothing left to do but cry and hope
That one day you will be happy on your own terms.
And maybe I will learn to forget what
I have always felt I lacked –
That the void may be filled for both of us.
I don’t have the answers,
I still feel like a helpless child –
But I love you…
And I hope that helps somehow.
March 30, 2010
It was an interesting day… I feel a bit uncertain about it. Some parts were fabulous, some parts not so great. It may be just the fact that I am becoming more acutely aware of my quickly changing emotions and what brings them on, or perhaps today was just particularly emotionally volatile…. But whichever it was, I felt like someone was playing “tug of war” with my mind. I felt great this morning. I woke up early to help out with a service project at my church. It was so great to do something “outside” of myself, and I felt more comfortable around other people than I have in a long time – probably because I was thinking less about being watched and judged than I was about getting the project done. It was a nice change.
However, it seems like Newton’s Third Law of Motion – every action has an equal and opposition reaction – is actively at work in my life. As soon as I had come down from the “high” of the morning, painful thoughts began to push and shove their way into my mind. How frightfully inconsiderate! Here I was, having an near perfect day so far, and then my mind takes a 360 on me! Even my mom (who was with me at the service project) noticed a change. I had developed a bad case of what I call “Velcro mind” – when thoughts get “stuck” in my brain and drive me to the point of despair and/or neuroticism. I did my best to fight it despite my stomach knotting and anxiety threatening to creep in. I tried listening to some upbeat music, but it didn’t help. Baking is an effective distraction for me, so as soon as I got home, I went straight to the kitchen. Desperate to keep myself from slipping, I vigorously whipped up a batch of snickerdoodles. I don’t think anyone has ever baked cookies with such great drive and purpose I did today! I wound up with about four dozen to, and baked goods are a dangerous thing to keep around the house, so I decided to share the bounty by delivering most of them to friends (which activity also helped me escape from my mind, at least for a while). I owe a lot to those little savory morsels of buttery, cinnamony sweetness…
So everything was again right with the world. My mom, my sister, and I ventured to Coco’s for dinner. I decided to let myself splurge a bit and ordered shrimp pesto pasta with garlic parmesan bread. It tasted so good and before I knew it, I had completely obliterated the thing. Almost immediately after putting the fork down, I was hit by a tidalwive of shame and self-loathing. Even though I had decided that I wasn’t going to purposely “diet” today, I still felt disgusted with myself, and that familiar gut-wrenching anxiety set in full force. Every sound in the restaurant seem amplified, and the lights much too bright. I covered my eyes and tried to breathe but the feeling persisted until I was back in the car. Thoughts of self-harm fought for dominance, and I was tempted to just give up and give in to the negative emotions sweeping over me. Instead, I asked my mom if we could stop at the bookstore. One of my favorite hobbies is creating collages from pictures I find in magazines, so I thought that working on that tonight might help keep my mind off what I was feeling.
Now what I’m dealing with is a guy that just won’t get a clue. I started to talking to him on Facebook (big mistake) and became so fed up that I literally screamed with frustration. No matter how clear I have tried to make it, no matter how many times I have said, “Sorry, I can’t see you” or “Sorry, I can’t talk” or “I really need some space right now,” he has kept pushing and pushing and pushing… Finally, he said something tonight – the straw that broke the camels back… “So, when are you coming to visit me in San Diego?” EXCUSE ME?! How dense ARE you?! Then he started to say how he’s tried to be understanding and be a good friend even though I kept pushing him away, etc. Now, this is a person that I became “friends” with during a time in my life where I was completely fake. I put on a different mask for each person. So the girl he got to know is not the girl I am today. I said right out “I don’t know how much more clear I have to be that I’m not interested. I’m not the person you once knew. I have changed. I have different desires, a different direction, and a different outlook on life. I really don’t believe we have much in common anymore. And I need to stop being pressured. I need to move on. This will be our last conversation.” As I wrote it, my heart was pounding and my anxiety level through the roof. Confrontation and directness is the hardest thing in the world for me. It makes me feel like I’m somehow “bad” or “mean” or “unfair.” But something inside me snapped. I couldn’t take it from this guy anymore. NO means NO! For so many years I have let people walk all over me. Rarely have I ever stood up for myself. But I did. And I know it was the right thing to do… But I still feel so awful. The voices in my head are saying “You were too harsh,” “How could you be so mean to someone who tried to be so nice?,” “You can’t even have a normal friendship,” and “There’s something wrong with you.” I feel like crap. Did I do the right thing? Did I handle it the right way? …
Why does this keep happening to me?
How did I develop so many unhealthy and even poisonous relationships?
Am I right in eliminating them now?
Who do I let in, who do I keep at bay, and who do I shut out forever?
Am I thinking black-and-white again, or is this simple self-preservation?
I can’t handle this right now… That one conversation shot me down into a complete emotional mess… I feel sick…
March 22, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I went and saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I don’t care what some people are saying, I absolutely loved it. But then, I’ve always been a Tim Burton fan, not to mention a Johnny Depp fan… and an Alice fan… so put them together? I’m all over that!
There were a few things in the movie that really hit home with me. The story of Alice in Wonderland has always fascinated me – I think because I could relate to Alice in lot of ways. She is suddenly dropped into this world that doesn’t make any sense to her, and she’s expected to find her way home despite nonsensical advice from well-wishing Wonderland residents and a plethora of mind-boggling obstacles. Seeing Tim Burton’s version of the Alice story – which is actually more of a “Return to Wonderland” in which Alice is older, but apparently not much wiser (ah touché, Mr. Burton) – turned Lewis Carrol’s fairytale into an even more of a metaphor for my own life.
I found an article written by Jill Brown, in which she makes observations similar to mine (full article at http://singlemindedwomen.com/women-relationships/alice-in-wonderland/)
Throughout the film there is a debate as to whether or not this is “the” Alice; the real Alice of before, now grown up, who has the courage and spirit to help the suffering characters to defeat the tyrannical and oppressive rule of the Red Queen. Alice goes through her own doubt and self-discovery during her adventure to try to discover for herself whether or not she is indeed “the” Alice, the champion of good and right in this magical reality.
This reminds me of the part in the Alice in Wonderland book when Alice first runs into the Caterpillar:
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)
Like Alice, I will wake up in the morning as one person, and through the course of day feel like I’ve been transformed into three or four different people, all before the sun goes down! Part of my disorder is that I have a hard time with stable identity and emotional regulation – “changing with the wind” so to speak. I’m definitely working on that, but it’s not easy. The slightest thing can completely change my entire mood, attitude towards myself, decisions for the day, etc. Because of that, I can get really confused about what is real and what’s not, what’s me, and what’s not me. Is the person who is crying/laughing/angry/happy/sad right now “the” Edde… or some other Edde that has decided to momentarily inhabit my mind and emotions? Is this an imposter, or the champion that will one day conquer this monster called “Borderline Personality Disorder”? Like Alice said, “I can’t explain myself, Sir, because I’m not myself you see!”
I think the most compelling scene in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and the one that resonated the most with me personally and will with all the single minded women out there, comes about half way through the film when Alice is doubting her significance and role. She doesn’t believe she’s been to Underland before, thinking her previous voyage was just a bad childhood dream and so she doesn’t want to step up and help the Mad Hatter in his rebellion and resistance against the Red Queen. While she expresses her reluctance to take action, the Mad Hatter says to her something along the lines of, “You used to be much muchier before. Yes you were much more Alice the last time we met. You have lost your muchness.” (Jill Brown)
Last week I posted on my Facebook as my status: “Edde is finding her muchness.” A good friend commented saying: “Your muchness is where it has always been! In your child like spirit – Children are much more courageous before they are taught to fear. Remember your wonderland Alice.” I thought about how true that was. Little children are naturally… “muchier.” They don’t usually sit around wondering who they heck they are and why they do what they do… They’re just… them… Before the cruel world teaches them to fear, to question their worth, to lose touch with their spirits. In her childhood Wonderland, Alice started to doubt herself. Not only was she constantly changing size, she was always being asked “Who are you?,” “Are you sure you’re real?,” “What is an Alice?” The only way she could ever get back to reality was by standing up for herself, stomping her little foot, and proclaiming her identity. Then she could return to the world of grownups and hold her own. Tim Burton expanded on this dimension of the Alice story. Alice had to first believe she was the champion meant to slay the Jabberwocky before achieving that magnificent feat, thereby gaining the courage to return to the real world and assert herself as a strong, independent woman. This underlying message of empowerment can resonate with everyone who has tried to figure out who they are in this crazy, nonsensical world.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
I think it’s safe to say Alice and I have have a lot in common haha!
But really… I think every girl is a real-life Alice in her own unique way…Trying to make it through the maze of this strangely confusing yet stunningly beautiful wonderland called “life.”
March 15, 2010
This letter was written by a fellow blogger who also deals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It struck a chord with me, as it expresses a lot of things I have not yet been able to say, and I wanted to share it here.
We know how difficult it is to have us in your life. We know how hard it is to hear us in our depths of despair. We know how we may come across as manipulative, controlling, unwilling to change, attention-seeking, even intolerable. We know. But step back for a moment, really look at us. Inside, you will find the most compassionate, empathetic, kind, giving people you will meet. Yes, you are tired of the chaos– as tired as you are, we are drained, worn down. Yes, you feel trapped by the relationship, as trapped as you feel we are birds banging our heads against the cage wanting to fly. I implore you, do not tell us we do nothing to improve, we have been seeking help most of our lives, we have been fighting to get “normal” forever. We have been actually getting up every morning, this in itself is comparable to climbing Mount Everest, this is “doing something.” We are not about control, manipulation, lies, we are about fear. We love you, possibly more than most people can feel love and are in sheer terror of losing you, this is the control you speak of. Don’t turn your back on us (unless you are in danger of your life, but most BPD’s I have met hurt only themselves). For when you turn your back on us, you have reinforced the idea that we are unworthy, hopeless, and cannot make it in this world. In my experience, most of the conflicts that arise with BPD’s and Non-BPD’s is miscomunication. Be clear about what you mean, extremely clear, because what you say is perceived by us as something different. Be reassuring. Don’t say, “I can’t take this right now,” simply start the sentence differently… “You have every right to feel the way you do, but can we talk later. I will call you back at such and such a time.” Be validating. Don’t ignore a text or a phone call, we have been ignored all our lives and feel invisible. Don’t tell others that we are “crazy.” We are a lot healthier than most people walking around ignoring their feelings, we are learning how to cope. Don’t tell us we are being overly dramatic, overly sensitive, we are not dramatic, our feelings are real and yes, we are overly senstitive, but is that such a bad thing? I am proud to say that I am sensitive, I am proud to say that when I love, I love with all my soul, I am proud to say that I do understand you, but can you even try to understand me? I am not here preaching about how BPD’s should be catered to. As an analogy: if we had cancer, would you say “I’m tired of taking you for your treatments, fight this on your own?” For some, BPD is as terminal as cancer. As long as they are in treatment and learning to cope, be there because one day that bird that is banging their head against the cage will fly free and you will miss the opportunity to fly with them…
March 10, 2010
The smallest light illuminates every corner,
The tiniest spark pierces the night.
A gentle flame burns away the darkness,
A single star guides the lost towards the light.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
March 2, 2010
One of the books I’m reading as part of my therapy is “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Itbasically teaches you about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with yourself and other people, and addresses issues that arise when boundaries are not maintained. It helps you learn what you are responsible for and what you’re not, and when to say “no.”
The lack of boundaries has always been an issue for me, and until I started therapy, I really had no grasp of the concept. I didn’t understand that I wasn’t responsible for everyone else, and that others did not have a right to invade my “space,” in a sense. I didn’t even understand that I had the right to say “no” without feeling guilty, or that I could be in control of what (or who) does or does not have a place in my life. This book has been very educational and has helped me to recognize the need for boundaries in my life and the tools to create them (and stick by them despite pressure from others).
Last night I read the chapter on “The Ten Laws of Boundaries.” The principles described here really hit home with me, so I wanted to write about them and how they apply in my own recovery:
Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Basically, this is the law of cause and effect. This is simple reality. You can’t avoid consequences. If you overspend, you will most likely get into debt. If you eat right and exercise, you will have better physical health. Obvious, right?However, in human relationships, some people try to save others from this law by stepping in and reaping the consequences for someone else. For example, if every time you overspent, your mom stepped in and covered for you, she would be keeping you from experiencing natural consequences, and you’d never learn anything. You would do it over and over again.
I’ve found that I have a tendency to “step in” when it is not wise that I do so. Sometimes I have this “savior” mentality where I feel like I want to save those I love from ever being hurt. I’ve gone to great lengths to “fix” something for someone else, but by doing that, I not only drain myself, but I take power away from them – I keep them from experiencing the consequences and learning from them. This is called codependence. I have also been in relationships where my partner attempted to do the same for me – to “rescue” me from pain naturally occurring from the choices I made. In those relationships, I never really grew… I assumed that whenever I “messed up,” my partner would step in and “save me” (usually in an emotional sense).
Law #2: The Law of Responsibility
Cloud and Townsend write: “We are to love one another, not be one another. I can’t feel your feelings for you. I can’t think for you. I can’t behave for you. I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can. Likewise, you can’t grow for me… You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself.”
This kind of goes right along with Law #1.We are responsible “to” people but not “for” people. This was an important thing for me to learn, as I have always felt responsible for other people’s happiness. I felt if I couldn’t make everything all better for them, I was failing them. In reality, they are responsible for their own feelings. I am ultimately responsible for mine.
Law #3: The Law of Power
Under this heading there is a Bible verse that really hit home with me. It expresses my own feelings about my struggle with the thoughts, feelings, urges, tendencies brought about by depression, borderline, etc:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keeping doing…waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members (Romans 7:15,19,23).
This is a state of powerlessness, a state I know very well and fight against every day. Though I do not have the power in and of myself to overcome these patterns, I do have the power to do the things that will bring the fruits of success later on:
- I have the power to agree with the truth about my problems.
- I have the power to submit my inability to God. (I cannot make myself well, but I can call the Doctor! I can ask for help from my therapist and those I trust.)
- I have the power to search and ask God and others to reveal more and more about what is within my boundaries. (Communicate and be open to evaluating myself).
- I have the power to turn from the negative I find within me. (Not that I’ll be perfect, but I can recognize that those things aren’t good and take the steps I need to replace negative behaviors with positive).
- I have the power to humble myself and ask God and others to help me with my developmental injuries and leftover childhood needs.
- I have the power to seek out those that I have injured and make amends.
The serenity prayer says: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. In other words, “God… help me to clarify my boundaries and to know what I have the power to overcome myself, and what I need to turn to You and others for help with. Help me to know what is me and what is not me.”
Law #4: The Law of Respect
If we want people to respect our boundaries, we must respect theirs as well. Hearing “no” has always been hard for me. But if, we love and respect people who tell us no, they will in turn love and respect our no. “Freedom begets freedom.” When we accept that others have the right to set boundaries with us, we feel better about setting our own.
Law #5: The Law of Motivation
We fear that other people won’t respect the boundaries that we set with them. This is quite an issue that I struggle with. I’m afraid if I tell people no, or be specific about my needs, they will be disappointed, angry, or hurt (I’ve learned to fear this from past experiences). I’m afraid I will be abandoned. Sometimes we do a lot for other people, not out of love, but out of fear. Fear that we will not be loved anymore if we confront them or say no. This is a false motive that keeps us from setting boundaries, and it includes:
- Fear of loss of love, or abandonment.
- Fear of others’ anger.
- Fear of loneliness.
- Fear of losing the “good me” inside. (“I’m being selfish/unloving”)
- Guilt (When I say no, I feel bad)
- Payback (You receive things with a guilt message, so you feel obligated to give back)
- Approval (The other person becomes a symbolic “parent”)
- Overidentification with other’s loss. (Haven’t dealt with their own losses so they feel someone else’s sadness to a much greater degree)
If I do things for others for any of these reasons, I’m not really free. I’m not doing it out of love and being a good person. I just get bogged down more and more. “Let God work on the fears, resolve them, and create some healthy boundaries to guard the freedom you were called to.”
Law #6: The Law of Evaluation
Sometimes we assume that if we set boundaries, we will get a negative response. Though this is sometimes true, that doesn’t mean we should avoid boundaries. Ultimately, when we set boundaries, the result is good for both you and the other person (in the long-term). It leads to honesty, relief from guilt, and better communication of who you are and what you need. Though it may be difficult because setting boundaries sometimes requires confrontation and hurt feelings, if we do not do this, anger and bitterness will set in because we are not being open about our own limits and needs. Doing so also gives the other person permission to be honest as well.
Law #7: The Law of Proactivity
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cloud and Townsend give the example of someone who has spent years being passive and compliant, and then suddenly exploding out of nowhere. Though this reactive phase of boundary creation is helpful (especially for victims) and frees that person from a feeling of powerlessness, being stuck in this phase does not allow for the development of proactivity. “This is where you are able to use the freedom you gained through reacting to love, enjoy, and serve one another. Proactive people show you what they love, what they want, what they purpose, and what they stand for. These people are very different from those who are known by what they hate, what they don’t like, what they stand against, and what they will not do.”
I went through my own phase of “reactivity” and “rebelliousness,” in a sense, where I felt like I was fighting against people and ideas all of the time. While it made me feel powerful, it was also a very negative place to be. I started to pass off judgments about people without even really thinking, and I just felt like arguing all of the time. I eventually realized that’s just not where I wanted to be and needed more positivity and love in my life.
Law #8: The Law of Envy
Envy focuses on what others have or have accomplished, or in other words, outside of our boundaries. It can lead us to neglecting our own responsibilities can become a destructive spiral downward. Instead of envying what someone else has, look at yourself and figure out why you feel like you’re lacking so much. Why are you resentful? Do you really want that? Then you need to work on yourself, instead of focusing so much time and energy wishing you could be like someone else. Comparing yourself to someone else never leads to growth. Taking inventory of your life and your desires does.
Law #9: The Law of Activity
God gave me the ability to take initiative. He will match my effort, be he doesn’t do my work for me – that would be an invasion of my boundaries. Passivity and “shrinking back” never pays off. I am supposed to try, to put the effort in. I’m going to fail and make mistakes, but at least I’m trying… And that’s what’s important. The “trying” part is completely my responsibility. When a baby bird is ready to hatch, if you break the egg for it, it will die. The bird needs to peck its own way out of the egg. This strengths the bird and allows it to function in the outside world. If you rob the bird of this responsibility, it will die. If God or others “hatch” for me, I will ultimately fail. I won’t have my own strength to get through life. That’s why problems and struggles are so important, and why God doesn’t fix everything for us. If He did, we would never learn and grow.
Law #10: The Law of Exposure
“The Law of Exposure says that your boundaries need to be made visible to others and communicated to them.” Because of the fears described earlier, we set “secret” boundaries. We withdraw, resent, or experience the pain of someone’s irresponsibility instead of being honest about how they effect us. If boundaries are unexpressed, relationships suffer. Nothing good ever comes from lack of boundaries. If they’re not exposed directly, the will be communicated indirectly (passive-agressiveness) or through manipulation.
We need to make sure people can see us clearly. Boundaries help us to be seen and heard. If we do not communicate our needs, desires, things we are uncomfortable with… we hide parts of ourselves in the darkness. “When our boundaries are in the light, that is, are communicated openly, our personalities begin to integrate for the first time. They become ‘visible’ and then they become light. They are transformed and changed. Healing always takes place in the light.” This was incredibly eye-opening to me. It helped me to understand at least part of the reason why I struggle with feeling like a real person and why I’m different depending on who I’m with or what situation I’m in… It’s my lack of boundaries and communication. I’m so afraid of “losing” people, of being rejected or abandoned, I “hide” myself and allow anything and everything into my person. My personality is not integrated. Once I start setting boundaries, being honest about who I am (my needs, wants, beliefs, values, etc), I will start to feel “real” and I won’t “lose” myself around other people. And this will allow myself to heal and discover who I really am. Amazing!
I wanted to share all of this because it has taught me so much. My goal is to work on having healthy boundaries with other people, so I can feel better about myself and have successful relationships. This is just one chapter of the book… The rest talks about boundary myths, boundary problems, how boundaries develop throughout your lifetime, etc… I might be writing about this book again sometime soon. There’s just so much information to process… Wow, I just pretty much wrote a book of my own. They’re going to kick me out of the library here in a minute so… Goodbye!