In the book “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by Anne Katherine, M.A. the author has been instructing her readers on how to establish boundaries in specific areas of daily life.
In the chapter titled “Boundaries for Illness and Chronic Conditions” the author shares the following thoughts:
“When someone suffers from an emotional disorder that affects their thinking, behavior, attitude, or mood, sometimes the only thing that will save the situation – other than effective treatment – is boundaries.”
“This is done not to control the other person, but so you can determine the kind of experiences you allow into your life. You have the right to limit contacts that are hostile, abusive, or crazymaking.”
“In my own practice, I’ve learned that when a client has a disorder that causes them to be manipulative, I do them a disservice when I allow their manipulations to work. Accepting manipulation only feeds the disease. In contrast, holding firm boundaries feeds and encourages the healthy person buried under the disorder.”
“Don’t hide behind your disorder or use it as an excuse.”
“Take responsibility for your behavior. Make amends for the hurt.”
“Most people will respond to consequences. By setting firm boundaries around the actions you will not accept, you can influence the course of your relationship with almost anyone.”
The author explains that by setting firm limits and not accepting any excuses, we can gain power over our own emotional space.
“Still, I’ve been amazed at how people with all sorts of physical or emotional conditions will repeat a behavior that is rewarded and stop a behavior that costs them something they want.”
“Never accept abuse. The cost is too high and the other person is never benefited.”
Having been a ‘peer counselor’ and advocate for the disability community I know first hand that many people who live with illness and/or chronic conditions harbor some degree of bitterness about their conditions. They can fall back on using their condition as a justification of their behaviors and attitudes, dismissing their hurtful or manipulative treatment of others. They can expect some degree of ‘allowance’ be given them as compensation for their condition.
There are also people who have conditions that affect their ability to control or understand their behaviors. Making the determination as to which one is dealing with is a delicate thing.
I actually think this applies to everyone, not just people with illness and chronic conditions. Boundaries are, after all, limits we set on how we behave, how we speak, what we decide to allow into our lives. Boundaries apply to every aspect of our lives. We actually set boundaries all the time, but just don’t think of them as boundaries.
I have said on my blogs that I really haven’t established any boundaries because I’ve been uncomfortable with them, as a boundary in my family often led to a permanent end to a relationship and I’m too concerned with everyone else’s feelings. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand, to get their feelings hurt.
I realized that I have established and enforced boundaries regarding my personal space but didn’t recognize them as such.
I don’t allow anyone to smoke in my home. I’m allergic to cigarette smoke, I suffer terribly when I’m exposed. Even smelling it on someone’s clothes, hair, belongings, is enough to trigger a physical response for me. I’ve made it clear to everyone who comes to my home that it’s not permitted in my home, in fact, on my property. I don’t offer ashtrays to guests on my deck or in my yard to discourage smoking here. I don’t want to find cigarette butts in my yard, as they can be dangerous for Kodi. Certainly, a person can smoke if they choose to, that’s their decision, but I don’t have to accept it in my space.
I don’t allow certain language in my home. There are words that are representative of attitudes that are offensive to my family and I. A person can speak any way they choose, but I do not have to accept language and attitudes that I find offensive in my personal space.
Both of these boundaries, these limits, address the emotional and physical safety of my home. I find them completely reasonable and if someone doesn’t want to abide by them, I have never had a problem showing them the door. I think what I need to be able to do is see my body and the physical space around it in the same way I do my home. My body, my psyche, my emotions are my ‘home’ as well and I shouldn’t take exception to setting limits that govern what I will and will not accept in regard to myself.
I think in one way or another, every one of us has some degree of emotional or physical illness. We may not admit or acknowledge it, we may not recognize it, but I believe there is a lot of dysfunction, widespread throughout society. This is why I think this applies to all of us, not just when dealing with people living with illness or chronic conditions.
I am working on determining what I am going to allow to come into my life, what kind of treatment I’m going to accept from others, what I’m going to allow myself to do for others, not to ‘control’ or ‘change’ others, but to take care of myself by regulating how I respond to others, how my life is impacted by the actions and attitudes of others, how much I do/give for/to others. If I make these kinds of decisions, if I create limits, boundaries, then I am in control of how and/or whether my life is impacted by external influences.