I guess I seem to be stuck on boundaries lately. Once again, I am facing the issue of setting them but need to work through doing it in a loving and respectful manner.
I have an issue that needs to be addressed and it needs to happen soon. I understand that when I do not set boundaries and communicate them to someone, there is no one to blame but myself. So let me explain my issue and the reason the boundaries must be set. It’s almost comical when you think about it but it is truly annoying. Yes, my codependent friends, it can even be over something as stupid as what follows.
Let me back up a few years and explain what happened and my codependent reaction to it that made me literally sick. I was a supervisor at a call center and had befriended one of the team leads in our center. She was actually in the same rehab facility with my ex-husband, at the same time. She and I became friends and not knowing my illness well enough then, I got sucked up into all her drama. Her car had broken down so I had been giving her rides to and from work almost daily. One Sunday afternoon she called me and left me a message to call her back. I didn’t answer because it didn’t matter who called, I would be accused of something and a fight would start with my addict husband (at the time). I figured she needed a ride to work and I would call back later in the evening. I forgot and she did not call back.
The next morning, I went to work and was pulled into the office by my manager. All the other supervisors were in this tiny office. Then my manager told me that this woman had died the night before. Possible accidental overdose. I lost it! I cried and cried. They sent me in to speak with one of the grief counselors which made me feel even worse. All I could think about was the guilt I had because I did not call her back. I was swallowed up in the “what if’s”. What if I had called her back? What if I would have just picked up the phone when she called? I was sick with guilt and remorse.
I spent the next several months making sure I answered any phone call that came in if I could. If I couldn’t, I made sure to call them back whether it was important or not. I called back if they left a message or didn’t. I called back if I knew the number or didn’t. It got to the point that I was so stressed out and the phone had become my obsession. Then, I spoke with my counselor about it and he pointed out to me how really unhealthy this was for me and that if it was important, they would leave me a message and I could call back. He also pointed out to me that I had no control over the outcome of her using and drinking and that there was nothing I could have done to stop this from happening. These were her choices and only she could have chosen to do something differently. It was like he had given me permission to be normal. His words sunk in and phone calls got much easier. Sad but true.
That brings me to today. Like almost everyone in today’s modern, technology-filled world, I have an email account, actually have a few. I have a personal Facebook account and a couple of Facebook pages. I have Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. I also have a cell phone and a business number which forwards to my cell phone. Every last one of these accounts is linked to my cell phone and I work from my laptop all day. I am so easily accessible at any given time. However…
- If you call my phone and I don’t answer, leave me a message. If your message says to call back, I will, when I am available. If you don’t leave a message or don’t ask for me to call you back, then I probably won’t. Just depends on the message you leave.
- If you you text me, I will text you back, when I am available.
- If you email me on any of my email accounts, I will email you back, when I am available.
- If you instant message me, I will instant message you back, when I am available.
Pretty normal and healthy thinking, don’t you think? Now here’s where it gets ugly…
- If you call and leave me a voice mail, you do not need to text, instant message or email me.
- If you text me, you do not have to email, call or instant message me.
- If you instant message me, you do not need to call, text or email me.
And if you have text, called, emailed or instant messaged me, PLEASE do not call my friends and family looking for me*! Please give me time to respond! I may be busy. I may be driving. I may be sick. I may just not want to talk to anyone! I will get back to you, WHEN I AM AVAILABLE! (*This is only acceptable when it is an emergency or you haven’t heard from me in a few days.) Yes, there are times when I forget. A gentle reminder is fine but not 5 minutes after your initial attempt. I can also guarantee that sarcasm and rudeness do not motivate me to respond.
I have a few people in my life that, for whatever reason, feel I need to be at their beck-and-call. They hunt me down and it irritates me to the point that I don’t want to respond at all. Unhealthy on my part, which is why the boundaries need to be set. So, it is my responsibility to communicate this to those people. If they do not know how I feel, it is not their fault; it is mine…although common sense and common courtesy make me think otherwise.
I would love to hear some of the boundaries you have had to set!