Tag Archives: boundaries

Trusting myself

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It was beautiful and sunny afternoon, so I decided to take a walk with my dog.  We got ready and walked for a bit without passing anyone else.  There are walking trails that go all over my new town so we took one of those.  I have safety issues on the trails, but I’m getting a lot more comfortable.

As we were getting near the end of our trip, we got to a place where we would pass a few more buildings, some railroad tracks, and then a golf course would be along the road the rest of the way.  I looked down at my phone to read something and heard a car approach and stop across the road.  As I glanced over, a guy got out and started walking toward me.  Pretty quickly.

As this guy started toward me he said “hey, I noticed you have a cell phone and I am having car trouble, can I use your phone?”  All my safety bells instantly went off and thankfully, I replied without even having to think about it.  I said “nope, sorry, it is a work phone so I can’t let you use it.”  He scowled at me and kept coming, so I said “please don’t come any closer, you can’t use my phone, sorry.”  I had continued walking the entire time, but looked right at him.  He was definitely surprised by my lack of willingness to help.

Now, I’d like to take a moment to explain that I am well aware I have more safety issues than many people.  But I am also 100% sure that as I walked toward the area that guy was not out of his car flagging down people to help him.  In fact, I am positive that he pulled into the driveway and got out and then started coming right toward me.  There is plenty of traffic on the road, it was not horribly hot or horribly cold, and there was definitely no emergency.

In any case, he was surprised that I wouldn’t help him, but when I would not stop looking at him and said loudly not to come any closer, he stopped and started walking away.  I picked up my pace, but I kept my eye on that guy and then when I was too far to be safe looking behind me, I glanced back a few times to make sure he was back at his car.  I couldn’t see where he went.  But what I know for sure is that he didn’t stay at the side of the road to flag anyone down for help.  He was not within my view.

As I walked away, I started to feel guilt and shame!  It took me a little by surprise.  I totally shamed myself for not helping this guy and felt guilty and rather stupid for being so unwilling to help and assuming the worst.  After all, I told myself, this is a small town for gosh sakes, most people would think I was really rude for not helping him and a bit crazy for feeling so nervous.  I felt those things, but I can say happily now that I didn’t feel them for very long at all.

It was like a switch was flipped.  All of a sudden I realized that I can protect myself however I want to and it wasn’t about being nice to some stranger.  It wasn’t about him, my life and safety have to be about me.  And that’s ok!  I trusted my gut, instantly and without question.  Hooray for me!  That doesn’t happen very often to me.  I try to ignore my gut a lot.  This time I went with it.  And I’m really glad I did.

I know that he could have really needed help, but I also know that it doesn’t matter because he could get help many other places from many other people.  What is important is that I felt extremely uncomfortable with the way he was approaching me and I protected myself without thinking about it.  I felt something was off and I didn’t worry about hurting his feelings before protecting myself, and my dog for that matter.

If there is one thing I could do over as a teen and young adult, it would be to stand up for myself more and not worry so much about creating conflict.  If there is one thing I could do over as a mother, it would be to demand that my kids be allowed to voice their own opinions and be heard more by their father.  I don’t think they ever felt their feelings validated by him and because of that, they doubt themselves, they don’t trust their guts, and they don’t feel able to stand up for what they actually think and feel with him.  And with other people sometimes too.

I have worked hard to explain to my kids that no parent is perfect and I made lots of mistakes.  But I also will never go back to how I was, and I feel closer to them now than ever because of that.  They know that I value their opinions and choices.  They know I will always support and listen to them.  And I’ll continue to teach them to trust their guts.

Walking that day and taking control of me without worrying about what that guy thought felt great.  I’ve worked hard to learn that it’s ok to trust myself.  To protect myself.  And that’s what I did that day on my walk.

Trust your gut.

KK

A New Year and a Look Back

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A lot can change in a year. And for me, 2014 was a really big year for change.

I started 2014 with many conflicting emotions and a rather high level of anxiety. I didn’t trust myself and I felt trapped by many of my own thoughts. I was thinking about buying a house or trying to decide on continuing to rent, and I had all of the stress that went with those decisions. I was getting ready to start my 12-week group which was one of the scariest things I have ever faced. I was at the end of a divorce that I agonized over for way too many years. I was helping my teenage daughter cope with the change of living in two homes and helping us both deal with the fact that my now adult son was living out on his own and not in our daily lives.

That’s a lot of stuff. And really those things were just daily life from January to April, which left a lot of year left to live.

Thankfully, 2014 started out a bit full of stress, but became a year of fabulous positive change as well.

I bought my house on May 27 and they only considered my income and credit.  ONLY ME.  I did it all on my own and that felt awesome.  Moving is always stressful, but this was a lot more fun because as I moved in all the decisions were up to me.  I could put colorful things and things that mean the world to me everywhere I wanted and that makes me feel comfy and good.  One of my greatest friends got to visit this summer and helped me settle in even more and decorate my sunroom, which is a really awesome space.

Spring and early summer was also a time for a lot of excitement, a bit of giggling, and a dash of anxiety as I began a positive new relationship and experienced a first date for the first time since 1995!  Scott and I went to high school together and reconnecting with him all these years later has been really, really great.  He and I reconnected at a time when I least expected to be taking any time for dating, especially any dates that would lead to an actual relationship.  I was in the middle of my therapy group, just a week divorced, and kind of a mess of feelings.  But from our first messages to each other, we have never stopped talking and he has very quickly become the best friend a girl could hope to have by her side through whatever comes our way.  In just 8 months together we have had many of the best times I could imagine ever having and we have also faced a lot of challenges…and whenever I feel like my “stuff” is just going to be too much for him, he is right there to tell me that I’m worth it.  He has listened to me scream, yell, doubt myself, doubt him, be stubborn as a mule, and cry my eyes out.  Scott is thoughtful, understanding, spontaneous, dedicated to who and what he loves, smart, respectful, a great listener, charming, trustworthy, a great father, a fabulous dancer, and makes me laugh each and every day.  I love you, Scott.  Thanks for being you and being in my life.

Going through summer was fun not only because of my new love, but because I got to become more and more settled in my home and finished up the first and most difficult therapy group after 12 long weeks.  Being a part of that group with the other terrific women I met and grew to care about so much was more rewarding than I imagined it would be when it started.  Disclosing my sexual assault experience was liberating and began a healing process that I had buried and ignored for a very long time.  I feel very fortunate to have met the people who helped me go through that process.

I have continued my individual therapy and it has brought with it some new challenges that I can now manage with better coping skills.  And I love that. Fall brought some personal challenges, some a surprise and some things that were just buried under the more obvious things I have faced that are now ready to come out.  I like that therapy place where I can say anything and get an unbiased opinion on how to handle it, when I could have done something differently, and when I really did a great job of communicating and maintaining my personal boundaries.

I also love that no matter what happens to me each day, the first person I think of to tell is Scott.  I always sold myself short on that part of my relationships.  I always felt my girlfriends were the people who should be there for that stuff.  I love that Scott has become my best friend.  I still value the love and friendship of my best gals, but I adore knowing that my partner in love has my back and loves me no matter what ridiculous thing I do or say.

This fall, I wrote a post about Thanksgiving being difficult for me.  And I love that I could get to Alaska for Thanksgiving.  Spending time with my friend there is like a reset button for me, she and I have known each other for so long there is a complete relaxation to being together.  I love her family, and being around her just makes the crazy in my head easier to bear.

Looking at December and the end of 2014 seemed SO far away just a minute ago.  But all of a sudden, there it was right in front of me.  And as years go, it was a really great one even though it started out a little tough.  Letting go of my marriage was difficult, but we have maintained a relationship that allows us to continue to love and parent our kids the best way possible and I am proud of that.  Celebrating the holidays with my kids has always been a favorite thing for me and this year was no different.  The way our family looks has changed, but the love we share is still the thing that puts a spring in my step and can bring a smile to my face anytime I think of it.

2015 has started off better than any year for quite a long time.  I look forward to the new and exciting things ahead and the continued healing I will explore in my therapy and in a new group I will be starting soon.

I hope your year will be great too.  You deserve it!

KK

Creepy quiet

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I have not one, but two repair people coming to my home today.  This gives me a lot of anxiety.

I think when people think of survivors of sexual assault, they think of people who have anxiety related to walking alone at night, going to nightclubs, excessive drinking at parties, and other situations the victim “shouldn’t have been in” which put her at risk and now cause anxiety.  I can’t say that I feel comfortable walking alone at night because I don’t.  I won’t walk my dogs at night, I don’t like coming home after dark from being out somewhere, and I don’t enjoy complete darkness in my house.  I even have trouble exercising in my own neighborhood during the day when I’m alone because, at times, my mind starts to wonder about my safety.  Thankfully, I am not completely controlled by my level of anxiety and I am still able to get myself to do many of the things which make me anxious.  In addition, in my rental home and now my own home I feel completely comfortable even when I am alone.  I LOVE that feeling because it gives me an enormous “marker” of how far I have come in my healing.

I think what people don’t think about in terms of survivors of sexual assault is that it can affect EVERY single area of life from then on for many survivors, not just those “risky” environments.  I am one of those people.

Going to the regular doctor is horrible for me.  Being “put under” at a doctor or dentist is just an awful feeling.  On one such occasion, I had to reschedule because I just couldn’t manage to calm down enough to have the stupid procedure.  Being on college campuses is not enjoyable for me.  I have trouble in elevators sometimes.  And being in my house alone when repair people have to come in is REALLY difficult for me.

With repair people, I think I felt a bit better when I was married.  Which is strange because I was still alone in the house during the day when repair people would be there.  The way I deal with it now is to make sure I ask a lot of questions about the person before they come out to do the work.  I always expect to know the name of the person who is coming to my house, I do NOT accept a company telling me just the company name and an “I’m not sure who will come out.”  And when that person arrives, they had better have some ID and some personality.  I won’t be keeping you in my house to do whatever it is I’m supposed to pay you to do if you are super creepy.

Since buying my house, I have had to deal with a lot of different people for different house stuff.  Most have been fine and I get through it ok the majority of the time.  Lucky for me, the only guys who kind of gave me the creeps (so far) were here on a day when the best boyfriend in the world (mine) was here, and even though he was supposed to leave to get home for some appointments of his own, he stayed until they left.  I didn’t even have to ask, he just gets me and could see my discomfort.  He absolutely rocks.

The guys were creepy quiet.  I hate that.  If your job requires you to go into the homes of people every single day, please learn how to look at and talk to people so you are not creepy.  One had shifty eyes too.

In any case, I am waiting for 2 separate repair folks to come today.  I hope they aren’t creepy.

Fingers crossed.

KK

I won’t compromise and I’m not sorry.

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Grab life and move forward.  Feel deeply.  Love hard.  Have fun every chance you get.  Don’t worry about mistakes.  Everything works the way it is meant to work.  Chaos is good, it keeps me moving forward without giving a lot of thought to what I’m doing.

This is how I have plowed through life, starting with my teenage years.  I didn’t like to plan, I liked to have fun, and I enjoyed waking up and going on adventures even when the people around me tried to convince me to slow down and think about it first.  Even when my gut said, hey you should stop and notice this, it could be important.  Consequences?  Those aren’t things you worry about when you have life by the tail and are hanging on for your perfect, happy ending.  Except, I don’t think I ever thought much about what that happy ending should look like.

That’s ok when you are as young as I was and taking on life as chaotically as I was comfortable doing most of the time.  What I am facing now, is that I shame myself for being that way back then because I stayed that way.  I justify the negative experiences I have had by saying I wasn’t cautious enough, controlled enough, nice enough, girly enough, and I wasn’t always honest.  I wouldn’t say if I was uncomfortable.  I didn’t hold firm to my ideologies to ensure that life was exactly what I deserved.

You have to compromise to be in relationships, right?  Wrong.  One definition I found for compromise is this:  to accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmmm.  That makes me squirm a bit in my skin.

Accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmm.  Yeah, I don’t think I’m willing to do that.  Not ever again.

I have a bottom line.  So do you.  I have a core set of values and needs.  So should you.  I feel like those things are not negotiable.  They have to be serious things, obviously, not just “I like musicals so if you don’t there’s the door.”  You have to discuss things, you should negotiate some matters, you want to consider the other person’s opinions and decide if you want to change yours.  But that should never mean giving up your bottom line.  It is a boundary issue.  And that is something I never understood before recently.  And something I will be honest and say I am still struggling with just a bit.

I am having a great time rediscovering me lately and I know I’ve been saying that a lot.  It feels really, really good the majority of the time.  It stills feel scary sometimes too.  Because I built and lived with very poor boundaries.  If I didn’t want someone to walk out of my life, I let a boundary go so that they would stay or so that I felt I should stay.  If I wanted a person to like me, or love me, I was willing to ignore the fact that they were mean, or jealous, or a liar, not willing to be emotionally supportive, or said hateful things that I find unacceptable.

A book I reference a lot right now in my life is Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield.  I love the book.  I read it a lot.  On page 103, Charles Whitfield has a table of characteristics of safe and unsafe people.  When I have to look at a relationship in my life that is feeling “off,” I always check out that page first to see if the person is in the “safe” column.  If a new person comes into my life, I open to that page.  The safe characteristics that are most important to me include supportive, are real with you, accept the real you, validate the real you, and hear you.

I feel conflicted and a bit gross even writing those down here!  You know why?  Because it feels selfish to me.  The book focuses on knowing and protecting my true self and that is something I believe many people always felt I did fairly well.  I guess maybe I should have been an actor.  I feel like I’m a pretty supportive person to those I love.  But I also feel like I have spent a fair amount of my life being a person in the unsafe column.  “False with you, unclear, indirect, boundaries unclear/messages mixed.”  Those are the items I see which I feel fit me for a long time in my relationships.  And that is difficult to digest.

I moved out on my own in November 2012.  That feels like a very long time ago.  To be fair and completely honest, I had a pretty great marriage for many years and he is not an awful person at all.  He is not even the person I most often think about when I am writing negative relationship stuff.  Since I moved out, I have realized that those unsafe characteristics of my own personality really need some work.  And apart from the sexual assault healing, that’s why I go to therapy.  To understand me and to make changes that I feel are necessary to change those unsafe things to the safe characteristic instead.  Top of the list for me would be wanting to have appropriate boundaries and being clear and direct.

I know I’m improving.  I know this because I have met someone who is new to my life and I have maintained my boundaries and been clear and direct.  It’s pretty awesome.  What’s coolest about it is that even though it is new, it is completely authentic.  I know that in my past, this would not have been the case.  Because when you first meet someone there is a tendency for people to give in and compromise your own stuff.  To impress, to seem more the same, more of a match.  And I don’t feel the need to do that at all.  In fact, I’m more me than I have been in about 20 years when I’m around this person.  How freakin cool is that?

Many of the things that I used to love to do, and want, and be fell by the wayside after the assault.  I compromised who I was and what I liked to do to fit what I thought I needed.  To be good enough.  To fit into what I thought being a grown up really had to look like.  It wasn’t all bad, I’m not saying I haven’t had a terrific life.  I raised two awesome children, I have amazing family and friends, I finished two college degrees, traveled a lot, and had a lot of great times.  I’ve always been surrounded by some quality people who have been there for me through it all.

Going forward I won’t compromise, and I’m not sorry about that.  It feels good to finally understand that it’s ok to just be me.  And that in just being me I could be exactly the right person for someone who feels good about just being who they are too.

KK