Compassionate Boundaries (First of Series)

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    Nancy Virden (c)2013406

Once upon a time, I had a friend.  It is once upon a time because while I was ill and very needy at the time, she drew few boundaries and ended up burned-out. Then she was gone.

Once upon a time, I was a friend.  It is once upon a time because while my friend was ill and very needy at the time, I drew few boundaries and ended up burned-out. Then I was gone.

Today I have another friend. I have this friend because though I have been ill and very needy at times, she drew boundaries that sometimes included saying no to me.  She did not burn-out, and I still have a friend.

Boundaries are what we decide to do or not do, we cannot control the other person. If Jane Doe asked me to meet with her on Tuesday night for the third time this week already, and I told her no, she could potentially be at my door on Tuesday night.  I cannot stop her with my boundaries.  However, I can choose to not go with her- this is the boundary I draw for myself.

What are the chances Jane and I would remain friends if I answered the door that night and every night she came? Soon, I would have to say no permanently, and that would be that. I would blame Jane for being so needy and demanding, when in fact I had said yes numerous times by answering my door and going with her, right? Likely Jane will not understand why I “suddenly” changed, not knowing I had bitten back my resentment for a while now.

Boundaries are kind. Let me rephrase that, it is kindness to draw boundaries. We may blindly believe we are helping when in fact we are preventing our loved ones or friends from learning how to cope, discouraging them from finding support elsewhere (keeping them dependent), and laying the foundation for the break-up of these relationships. Then no longer are we helping, and because they have not learned important coping and support-finding skills, they are alone and in bad shape.

Boundaries are honest. Clearly, no one wants to be anyone’s doormat, crushed by another person’s whims and commands.  We need to have our own choices.  Clarity about our boundaries keeps people in the light, they know what they can expect or not count on from us. This preserves their dignity as they will only ask about what is possible, it keeps us safe from emotionally imploding, and ultimately it saves the relationship.

The next few blogs will address how to draw boundaries, what boundaries are healthy, and some practical ideas for how to say no.

Stay tuned.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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