Do you have healthy boundaries with your family?
I was raised by a mom who suffered from Bio-Polar disorder and was a morbidly obese food addict. She was sick for most of my life, and her mental health issues meant I would be neglected. She told me regularly that I was responsible for taking care of her. And I translated this into – if I am perfect enough, she would get better, if she got better, then maybe she could love me. At a tender age, I decided that if I wanted to be loved, I had to be perfect. Well she never got better, and she could never love me the way I needed, and I spent decades of my life thinking it was my fault.
I remember the day I stopped crying every time I heard my mom cry. I remember the day it stop scaring me when she would bang her head against the wall and say she wanted to die. I had made a decision, I was responsible and I had to make her better.
So began a codependent relationship that would take 25 years to untangle. The road to a healthy relationship with my mom included boundaries.
I think sometimes people get confused, and believe that others need to adhere to their boundaries. Well, I have discovered I am powerless over the actions of others. My definition of boundaries is to set out what I am comfortable giving. How much money I am comfortable giving, how much of my time I can give, and how far I will travel for someone. And once these limit are reached, I have to enforce my own boundaries and stop giving. I am the keeper of my boundaries, and I need to walk away when they are crossed. I cannot force anyone to honor my boundaries, it is up to me.
I made my peace with my mom before she passed away 9 years ago. I remember looking at her, diabetes had ravaged her body. She could not walk unassisted, her eyesight was minimal, she was incontinent, and her shirt was always dirty. She had lost all of her teeth and food would run down her top. I looked at her – in her totality and I accepted her exactly as she was, I loved her exactly as she was. I surrendered to her life choices and where they had brought her. I released my mom and I released myself.
I write about this not to disparage my mom, but to honor her. She was my greatest teacher and I will forever love her. She is gone and I believe she is whole again, and we can know each other in a new way.
I made a decision as a small child to make sense of my sad world (and that decision was that if I could be perfect, then I could be loved) and I carried that belief into adulthood. This set me up for a lifetime of never accepting love, much less giving it to myself. I recreated this scenario in every relationship I had. I regularly choose men who could not love me, who were emotional unavailable and I kept trying to be perfect so they would change. I saw things as I wanted, instead of the way they actually were.
We are all searching for unconditional love, my journey has taught me until I am able to give it to myself, I cannot give it to another or receive it. It all begins with me.