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How setting boundaries helped me survive my disease

Life decided to throw me a curve ball when I was 15. After a year of extreme fatigue (sleeping 10-12 hours nightly and naps during the day), ulcers in my mouth and nose, weight gain and severe pain in my joints (I couldn’t even brush my teeth my wrists hurt so much) I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (S.L.E.), which is a chronic and often disabling autoimmune disease.

In this disease, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. SLS can be very difficult to diagnose. There is no cure for SLS and remissions can be rare.

The symptoms of SLE can be:

- Hairloss

- Inflammation

- Mouth and nose ulcers

- Skin rash

- Raynaud's Phenomenon

- Lung problems

- Arthritis in hands, small joins and feet

- Depression

- Malaise

- Swollen spleen

- Hives

- Photosensitivity

And more...

This was a really hard time in my life to be dealing with such a disease. I had gained almost 30 pounds, feeling like garbage, and was heading into high school.

At that age I don't think you truly understand but now that I am an adult, I truly believe everything does happen for a reason. It has given me the strength to always remember to take care of my body. It has showed me that sleep and proper nutrition is so important and that living a life with less stress, more balance and greater purpose is key.

One of the biggest things I have learned over the years of living with Lupus is how important boundaries are. Setting clear and healthy boundaries has allowed me to ensure the relationships in my life are mutually respectful, supportive, and caring. Many times, in my life when there were no boundaries, I was left vulnerable and was taken advantage by others. This led to burn out, stress, toxicity, anger, frustration and relationships ending. And this includes the relationship with myself. At my unhealthiest I was almost 200 lbs. Setting boundaries allowed me to respect my body and take care of my health. Here is a before and after picture (keep in mind they are years apart)

So, how do we kindly and proactively ensure healthy boundaries? It’s not an easy task, telling people what you need might seem selfish, aggressive, or even rude. Although this process may be uncomfortable, boundaries allow us to feel safe and respected both physically and emotionally. Honouring our limits helps us to take better care of ourselves, builds trust, prevents burnout, and infuses more meaning and authenticity into our relationships.

This isn’t something we are taught in school so; I am sharing with you a few ways to get started with setting boundaries. Thank you Calm for these wonderful suggestions.

1 | Tune in

Our bodies always give us signals when we are near a personal limit. Notice if you feel your jaw tighten or your fists clench. Maybe you start to squirm, or you break into a sweat. Perhaps you feel it in your throat or stomach? Whatever the cue, honor what your body tells you and take some time to explore your discomfort and understand the arising boundary.

2 | Understand your priorities

Your time is a limited and valuable resource. If you try to please everyone, you not only purchase a one-way ticket to burnout and resentment, you also deny yourself the pleasure and growth of focusing on what you value. Next time you say yes to someone, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself. Take some time to write a list of priorities and compare it to where you spend your time and energy to assess if you need to make any adjustments.

3 | Communicate with clarity

Practice saying no when you don’t want to do something. You don’t have to explain yourself or offer an excuse. The following phrases are complete answers: “No, thank you.” “Thanks, but I can’t.”

If someone you care about has violated your boundaries, you may want to give them more information. Here’s a helpful template to express your frustration:

When you ___________, I felt ______________.

Please don’t ___________.

_____________ is important to me.

For example:

“When you told our friends about what’s been going on with my family, I felt hurt and embarrassed. Please don’t share things about me without my consent. My privacy is important to me.“

4 | Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

If you’re not used to asserting your boundaries, you may find yourself feeling awkward, scared, guilty, or nervous when addressing a personal limit. Give yourself space and time to build up your tolerance. You may also feel supported by breathing exercises, meditation, or talking with a trusted friend or therapist.

5 | Take space

If you’re ever caught off guard by someone crossing a boundary, and you’re not sure how to respond, offer yourself permission to return to the conversation after you’ve had some time to reflect and recenter yourself. Try saying something like, “I need some time to think about what just happened. I’d like to come back to this conversation in a few hours/days.”

6 | Boundaries can be flexible

Our boundaries will change for different people, and they may shift over time based on the conditions of your life and the evolution of a relationship. It’s crucial to check in with yourself to ensure that your relational rules feel good for you. If your boundaries are quite rigid or extremely loose, it may indicate that something is going on underneath the surface for you. If that’s the case, you might consider getting some additional support.

7 | Be prepared

Don’t be surprised if some people react poorly to your feedback. People who are controlling, manipulative, abusive, or who have unhealthy boundaries themselves may be triggered when you set a boundary. You can express your limits with compassion, but it’s not your job to make it okay for them.

8 | Create consequences

Cultivate clarity around what you want to do if someone consistently disrespects your boundaries. Will you take a break from the relationship? Will you stop working with them? Choose something that you are willing and ready to do and stay firm. If this feels challenging for you, don’t go it alone: ask a trusted friend, family member, or therapist for help.

9 | Respect other people’s boundaries

People often give us both physical and verbal cues about their own boundaries. Notice if they take a step back, avoid eye contact, or seem uncomfortable. Of course, everyone is unique, and their cues will mean and communicate different things. Ultimately if you’re not sure what someone’s boundary is, you can always ask. “May I offer you some feedback?” or “Can I ask you a personal question?”

Good luck on setting some boundaries!



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