I lost my boundaries. It was a soul destroying experience, over a number of years, underpinned by people who felt entitled to use me any way they liked and expected me to be grateful. Looking back I see parallel things happening in a number of relationships, not all of it domestic and some of it deliberately caused by professionals. I learned not to have an opinion, nothing was private, nothing was mine. I had no right to refuse, and therefore no way of holding boundaries.
As I became conscious of this, I locked down in every way I could. We had very few visitors to the boat, and in part that was because I did not like sharing it. That was my safe space, I guarded the threshold fiercely. I created emotional distance from everyone except my husband and child, and I reinforced that with physical distance. I was profoundly uncomfortable with even the idea of most people touching me, and made sure opportunities did not arise.
I held my boundaries very close, very tight. It felt safer that way. I felt stronger and less afraid, I’d built my castle and I could sit in it and resist efforts to besiege me if necessary. I was not going out to be bloodied in combat again.
And then we moved.
All of a sudden we had an address people could find, and it was reasonable to expect me to show up. I’d planned a gentle, cautious return to normal life in which I would lower my defences in gradual, carefully considered ways, and never so far as to feel exposed. Life apparently had other plans for me, with a startling rush of human contact, places to be, jobs to do, and most of all, people who put hands on me. People I did not know well. It’s been a bit of a system shock.
I can’t live where I was, it was a straightjacket as much as a defence strategy. I don’t actually know how to handle normal situations with normal, friendly, tactile people, and that’s not a comfortable realisation. I’m never entirely sure what’s ok, what’s too much, where I could reasonably draw lines. I can’t have no edges, I can’t be more wall than person, there’s got to be something in between and I need to figure out where that is.
I suspect what I have to do, is figure out what I want. For me. For whatever reasons strike me as being important. I know, logically, that I have a right to hold whatever boundaries I wish, and for whatever reason. It is evident that I’m not clear of my past because I still don’t feel that entitlement to do what I need without having to justify it. I still expect people to take issue and demand I do differently. I still find it hard to say ‘please don’t put hands on me’ when perhaps it would be ok to do so. I don’ trust people to hear that and not get angry with me, and again that’s history speaking and nothing to do with the character of any given individual.
The road back to some kind of viable, non-anxious, not-depressed life is a long and complex one. Every time I think I’m there, I find a new thing I have to deal with and unravel. One day, this will stop. In the meantime, I’m going to hold that thought of personal space as sacred space as best I can, and try to bring something a bit more spiritual to this need to sort out where my edges need to be.