The therapist looked just like her website photo, which helped me relax a bit. I'd been so tense, my jaw ached and my shoulders had hiked up toward my ears. We sat across from each other in strategically placed chairs, tissues within my reach.
I told her, "I'm here so I can share details about what's going on with my loved ones without betraying their confidence; private things they wouldn't want me to share with my friends. I really need someone to listen."
She was attentive as I described the painful crisis my daughter was experiencing. I described the personal stress I was under, and the hurtful things my stressed-out partner said.
I explained to the therapist, “I feel other people's feelings. And right now there’s three of us dealing with big stuff, and I can’t tell which of my feelings are mine and which are theirs. So, I’m carrying it all. And it’s too much.”
I was at a breaking point. What would happen if I couldn't pull myself together and continue being the glue that held everyone else together? I was struggling with health issues, which included physical pain, fatigue, brain fog and depression.
I wanted to feel better. I wanted my loved ones to feel better. These two desires intertwined. I could not feel better unless they did.
My adult children's problems had become ... well, adult problems. There was no stepping in and making it all better like when they were kids. My stress heightened my partner's anxiety and stress. And then he wanted me to be my usual calm self while he vented. I was so weighted down I was barely functioning.
When I finished sharing my hurt, frustration and overwhelm with the therapist, our time was up. As we ended the session, she suggested that I needed help with setting personal boundaries.
I don't cry easily, but I cried for hours that day. The truth hit me hard. I'd been taking responsibility for everyone else's feelings, and then feeling bad about myself when I couldn't make things better, and resenting them for burdening me. No wonder I was exhausted!
I was furious. With myself, with the family dynamics of my childhood, with this pattern of over-responsibility that seemed normal because I'd been doing it my whole life. Part of me wanted to put a stop to the pattern and part of me was afraid to. Very afraid. And I didn't fully grasp why.
A few weeks after that therapy session, my doctor diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease: Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Even my immune system was on overdrive and doing more than it needed to, which was not making things better.
The diagnosis was a huge wake-up call. If I wanted to get my health back and improve my relationship with myself and with others, I needed to learn about setting healthy boundaries.
And that's what I did. Once I began to create a much healthier personal boundary, it didn't take long for me to experience surprisingly big, positive changes in my relationships with loved ones. And my health began to improve.
Now, four years later, I think, Wow! Things have really changed. Instead of taking responsibility for other people's emotions, I am compassionate toward their challenges. Oh, I still have the odd relapse, but I know how to reset with self-compassion and that's what matters.
I learned (and I continue to learn) what healthy boundaries are, why they're important, and why they were unhealthy in the first place. I learned the beliefs that need to shift to accept your own boundaries (and other people's), and how to develop and sustain them.
With sound therapy, guided meditations, EFT, Systemic Constellation therapy, and more, I now guide others towards establishing healthy boundaries for themselves. This has become a passion of mine because I know first-hand the positive difference boundary-setting makes. And I'm seeing clients empowering themselves in their relationships, and feeling more at peace and secure within themselves. Beautiful!
Have you given much thought to your own personal boundaries? Do you often say yes when you want to say no? Even when you’re exhausted? Do you feel responsible for other people’s feelings? Is your sense of self-worth tied to feeling needed by others?
Let’s take a compassionate look at the often hidden dynamics of unhealthy boundaries and begin shifting perceptions and beliefs about what your genuine responsibilities are.
Imagine reclaiming your energy for yourself — placing it right where it belongs!
I'll be sharing what I've learned and some transformative techniques in my upcoming two-hour workshop: Setting Personal Boundaries: Reclaim your Vitality and Improve your Relationships.