I went looking back through the topics of discussion I have written about on this blog thinking surely I had talked about boundaries as a topic. I know I have mentioned them before, but I guess I never made it a titled topic. When I was initially diagnosed back in April of 1999 with Clinical Depression and OCD, I also learned through counseling that I needed to set boundaries so that my triggers would not be set off so much. But first, I needed to identify my triggers.
I don't talk a whole lot about the OCD part of my diagnosis, but it had a huge factor in my depression as it exploded in 1999 separate from the episodes of depression I had before that in my life. I don't think a lot of people realize there are many symptoms of OCD. Mine is the least talked about and, in my opinion, one of the scariest. Below is a short list of common and less common symptoms of OCD, an anxiety disorder, you may know about. There may be specific names for some of these that I don't know, but I know the symptoms.
-fear of germs: this is one of the most common symptoms that people associate with OCD.
-an obsession with numbers--how many times to wash your hands, for example, before the person thinks they are 'clean enough', switching light switches on and off a number of times until the person feels okay
-checking--this may tie in with obsession of numbers, such as in taking long showers (3-4 hours long) in order to be clean which in turn makes it difficult for the person to keep a steady job--checking to make sure the stove is turned off a number of times before leaving the house, going back to your house to check that the door was locked because the anxiety is too much for the person to handle if they don't go back and check.
-scrupulosity-one of the lesser known symptoms of OCD. A person who is scrupulous is someone who is "conscientious, cautious, careful, circumspect, exacting, rigorous, carefulness in attending to details" (dictionary.com). Now, add God into the equation and you see someone who sees God and tries to appease God into someone who He is not--a rigorous task master, but yet the person is constantly trying to please God in an unhealthy way through works or whatever means, but internally beats himself up. He/she has a warped view of God and his love, but he can't help it. This person is trying so hard to follow rules that he sees in his mind and thinks this is what God is about. A lot of unbelievers see God this way. But we know this is not true. Jesus came to set us free.
-the last symptom, I believe, is still even lesser known, which is what I fall into. If you read my bio then you read where 6 months after my daughter was born, all of these unsolicited thoughts came into my mind to harm my daughter with a knife. It was all very specific about it being a knife. I never understood it then and still don't, but literature I was shown at the time showed me that this is a verifiable symptom of OCD. I was scared to death of these thoughts, didn't understand what was going on, was terrified of hurting my daughter uncontrollably--like something was going to possess me and I would hurt her. Here we had this beautiful baby girl we had prayed for and others had prayed for us and suddenly out of the blue these horrible thoughts plagued my mind literally day and night. I prayed and prayed, cried until I thought I couldn't cry anymore. I was afraid my husband would leave me because I had suddenly turned into some crazy woman who may hurt his/our baby. Everything went through my mind. I was so so scared.
I am re-telling you this with the purpose of showing where I had to learn what my triggers were first. After my initial hospital visits, getting on medication, and going through counseling--I quickly learned what my first triggers were just through experience. I didn't want to look at or be around knives when I was at home. I didn't like seeing knives in movies or TV shows. Anything I saw on TV where a child, especially a baby or very young child could get hurt would bring me to tears and to a high anxiety level. Then that could trigger the depression and cause me to crash if the medication level I was at was not working properly.
And so my obvious boundaries followed suit--not watching TV or movies that were violent or were about kidnapped children, missing children or harm to children in any way. And added to that were not watching movies that were depressing in any way like movies you knew were going to end in a sad way. I tried to make sure that I didn't stay in the house too long by myself when my daughter was at daycare and my husband was working. I would go to a movie at the theater or go out to lunch by myself. I had my counseling appointments about once a week and outpatient counseling when I was recently released from a hospital stay. We were not attending a church at the time which was not good. The one we had gone to was no longer an option and eventually closed. It was not a good time to not have a church home and be without close Christian friends. That could have helped a bit. I had one friend from our former church who was bi-polar who I had asked to come visit me during my second hospital stay. I felt she would understand some of my feelings.
Then as I got better I had to learn new boundaries when I would overdo it with housework and wear myself down. I think I would try to overcompensate for my absences at hospitals in the past by trying to do more at times than I should have. Then when I got plugged into a church eventually, I had to be careful how much I volunteered to help--not to overdo things or it would become overwhelming. Those were trial-and-error boundaries. And with that, I had to not worry what other people thought of me--whether I was volunteering enough, or not. I had to learn what was best for me regardless of other people or what agendas were going on with the church.
As you see, your boundaries can and likely will evolve over time from when you feel less able to handle things mentally to a time when you feel stronger. Those boundaries are extremely important for you to follow once you identify your triggers. Going outside those boundaries will only cause you to feel anxiety and stay stagnate, even possibly go backward in your mental health care, rather than going forward, moving ahead and getting better. Your boundaries are also important for those around you and for them to know so they are not crossed. If someone doesn't respect them then you don't need to be around them.
Your mental health care matters tremendously and boundaries are a huge part of understanding yourself, your limits and how far you can safely go within your own mental parameters. Take the time, write them down and follow them, and maybe you'll need to adjust them over time. Don't minimize them to yourself or to others because then you are minimizing yourself. You matter.