You’d think setting boundaries so you’re not a complete push over would be a good thing, right? Well, usually when you’re setting boundaries and have to actively be aware of that, it’s because the relationship you have with this other person or people is not healthy. Toxic relationships come in many forms and don’t exclude people because they are friends, family, or coworkers.
Anyone can create a toxic relationship, even yourself. I had the unfortunate situation of doing so while I was in high school, and lost a good friend due to my refusal to listen to their advice and doing the same things over and over (then crying to her about it later on).
I’ve recently had to set boundaries with a family member and it’s been both one of the best times of my life and also one of the worst. When you have to limit or cut contact with people due to them pushing or crossing boundaries can be both freeing and depressing. I’m going to tell you about my experience with setting boundaries and how that’s effected my mental health.
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A while ago I composed and sent a letter to said family member about how I was setting these boundaries with them. I mentioned how they had repeatedly crossed these boundaries over the years and I had finally reached a breaking point.
I wrote what the boundary was, when they crossed it, and example of how it can relate to their own life and situations so they could understand it better, and what would happen in the future if they crossed these boundaries again.
I requested they not contact me until I contact them. Unfortunately that hasn’t really been accepted, as they have contacted me about some things since then, some I feel frivolous, some a bit more important, but nonetheless, they haven’t stopped contacting me.
I haven’t really spoken to them since August and honestly, it’s been the best time of my life. Part of that has to do with adding some mental health medication to my daily routine, but it also has to do with the fact that I’m not constantly worrying about the next conversation with them.
Setting Boundaries with Family Has been the Best Thing
Something I realized in college was that growing up, my family never really had proper conversations. Most of them were either superficial “small talk” or complaining. I never realized how much all that effected me until someone in one of my classes freshman year told me all I was doing was complaining. To me, that was how everyone communicated!
Unfortunately, that hasn’t really changed for my family. Most of what they do to talk is complain or gossip. Not only do I not want to be subjected to all that negativity, I have also moved on from all the small town gossip that goes around.
And I haven’t had to deal with that in months. It’s been so freeing!
I’ve also been able to focus on other things besides my next conversation with them, like work, my blog (which has been booming recently in terms of views and productivity!), and my own mental health. I’ve been so productive that I have posts scheduled at least 2 months in advanced, and all I do in my spare time is research ways to get better at blogging, social media, and improving my online presence.
My stress levels are down, my anxiety has been more manageable, and I haven’t really needed to take any emergency panic attack medication, either. All in all, my life has been so much better without having to deal with family like I did before.
These past months have been the best months I’ve had in a while. Of course, there are still stressors I can’t control, like things at work, and my own internal struggles with life, but overall I can feel the weight of anxiety has lifted from my shoulders. And I mean that pretty literally. I’m one of those people who carry their stress in their shoulders.
I was recently able to take a day, not bother with my phone or the internet, and just play a Pokemon game on my gameboy. This was always something of an issue when I was a kid, because as an introvert, I would need days by myself to recharge and to do that I would play the original Pokemon games. Unfortunately, no parent wants their child playing video games all day. And if you’ve ever played a Pokemon game, you know there’s a lot of grinding involved.
So I spent most of a day just… playing the game. I was able to experience the things I did as a kid as an adult and not have someone constantly telling me to do something else. I was able to play, guilt free, and disconnect from the world for a while.
It was a great day.
Setting Boundaries with Family Has been the Worst Thing
Since I haven’t spoken to this family member since August, I’ve had to go through holidays that are all about family and getting together, by myself.
Thankfully, my family doesn’t really do Thanksgiving, and really hasn’t since I was a freshman in college. I usually had multiple papers due during the “break” which made going back to visit family not worth the trip. So spending Thanksgiving alone is something I’m far more accustomed to.
However, spending Christmas alone is something new. The guilt I felt when I told other family that I would not being going to visit this year and instead sending their presents via UPS was unbearable. I honestly started crying. But why? I felt so guilty for not subjecting myself to sever anxiety, passive aggressiveness, and and overall slightly uncomfortable situation for a few days… because they’re family?
And that’s the problem.
Society puts such a huge emphasis on family and how important it is. But what happens when you have family that isn’t that good for you? When you have to set boundaries like I have because it’s not a healthy situation?
You’re left feeling guilty and sad and alone.
I have finally accepted that this was the best thing for me. I need to put my own mental health ahead of other people’s feelings at this time in my life. I’ve recently had a bit of an existential crisis/break down not that long ago, and I don’t need to add any external problems to my life at this time.
I don’t know what I’m going to do as far as the future with these boundaries, because it’s clear that even after all of this, the family member still isn’t listening to what I’ve said. They’ve also been very passive aggressive or downright rude in the few times they have contacted me even though I told them not to (obviously unless someone is seriously injured or passes away).
There’s a comment I received on a Reddit post I posted about all of this when it first started that I think back to when I start having these bad thoughts and feeling down about the whole situation. To paraphrase, they said something like,
They are mad at YOU for telling them not to hurt and abuse YOU. Remember that.
While abuse always seems like such a harsh term, it has such a broad definition that emotional abuse tends to be forgotten about. But it’s still a very real thing. Remember than the next time someone crosses one of your own boundaries.
- Not having an external stressor in my life has been the most freeing time I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t had to worry about them, their interactions, and how I’m going to have to deal with them.
- Not having to deal with this family member also makes it a little depressing during the holiday season. When everyone is going on about family and you’re all alone, it can be quite hard.
- Verbal and emotional abuse are a real thing. Repeatedly crossing boundaries isn’t healthy and is a toxic situation. It’s up to you to remove that from your life.
Have you ever had someone cross boundaries with you? How did you deal with that?
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