Boundaries: (Merriam Webster) Unofficial rules about what should not be done: limits that define acceptable behavior.
(Urban Dictionary) Something that was invented to keep people away when you are sad, mad, or just want to be alone.
So, I needed a full week to debrief from the craziness. Last week was both unfortunate and unnecessary, but of course I have to find a lesson in everything. As I mentioned in a previous post, for the last few weeks we have had a house guest (my step-sister) staying with us who had some “challenges” aka mental health issues. Well, her stay with us came to an ABRUPT end last Wednesday.
It had been almost three weeks and by this point, tension in the house was unbearable. My step-sister had no plan for how she was going to address her increasingly long list of issues which included finding a place to live, dealing with her mental health issues by finding a doctor and getting back on her medications, and finding a job. My step-father didn’t know how to help my step-sister, so he got to a point where he didn’t do anything. My mother had her own priorities with work and other things so she didn’t do anything. Because nothing was getting resolved, my step-father asked me to step in and see if I could get my step-sister to figure out something. I seemed to be the only person she was willing to open up to.
Just when things seem to be getting on the right track (my step-father had finally found a mental health facility that would take my step-sister in and treat her) there was a major derailment. In order for my step-sister to get into this facility, she had to call them and make an appointment herself. Well, my step-sister did not have the capacity to do that because her mental illness affects how she functions (this is what makes me so mad about mental health care here in America). After finding this out, my step-father came and got me in hopes that me talking to my step-sister would help her feel more comfortable and be able to hold some sort of conversation on the phone with the facility so that she could finally go and get help.
*Enter reality show dramatics here* As my step-father and I walked upstairs to confront my step-sister (bad idea number 1) you could already feel the tension rising. We both begged and pleaded with my step-sister to no avail. I had reached my breaking point. I realized the only way to get through to my step-sister at that point was only through some “tough love”. I had to be honest with her about how her behavior, health, and lack of cooperation was affecting not only her, but everyone in the household. The entire time I’m talking to my step-sister, my step-father is in the background saying repeatedly, “I have to go pick up your mom from work.” (after about the fourth time he announced that, I wanted to yell at him so bad).
I tried to explain to my step-sister that if she did not hurry up and begin to make some decisions for herself, she was going to find herself in a situation where she would no longer be able to make decisions for herself. I explained to her that she was going to end up back in jail or locked up in a mental institution, which, neither of those places she wanted to be. Well, I guess that struck a nerve with her and she got upset and began packing up all her stuff so that she could leave. Now at this point, both my step-father and myself are blocking the door to her room because we didn’t want her to leave, plus she had no where to go (bad idea number 2).
The first time she pushed me, I didn’t react. I understood that I wasn’t dealing with a normal person. I was dealing with someone who was sick. When my step-sister called 911, (bad idea number 3) that’s when I knew nothing good was going to come out this situation. My step-father was still standing behind me telling me how he had to go pick my mother up from work and all I could think in my head was, “You’re about to leave me alone in this house with her so you can go get my mom? Seriously? My mom can find another way home. This issue is WAY more pressing.” But I kept my focus on my step-sister and the conversation she was having with the police over the phone. Then, she pushed me again….
The only thing I could think of on my way down to the floor was how I used to watch WWF wrestling on Saturday mornings as a kid. I mean the only way I could describe what happened after my step-sister pushed me for the second time was something like a DDT (again, think WWF/WWE wrestling) mixed with a reverse barrel roll. And it was at that moment my step-father stopped talking about getting my mom from work….
I don’t condone violence, but sometimes shit happens. It took everything within me to remain calm. To deal with someone who is emotional, on top of being mental ill, is no easy task. I knew that this situation had gotten so far out of hand that it was beyond my control. The feeling I had looking down on my step-sister during our scuffle was just too much for me to bare. As much as I cared about her, my safety, mental health, and priorities were being placed in jeopardy. This couldn’t go on anymore. I told my step-sister right then and there that if she refused to accept the help that was being offered to her, then she needed to never call me again or ask me for anything. Period.
As much as it hurt me to have to tell her that, it was necessary. I had to set a boundary. I had to cut her off. Her personal issues were starting to affect everyone in the house, and I could not allow her issues to control my life. That just wasn’t fair. Sometimes you need to set boundaries for some of your relationships in order for you to remain healthy. Just because you set a boundary in your relationship doesn’t mean that you have to stop caring about the person. It just means that you recognize that certain things may be out of your control and in order for you to continue being able to do what you need to do in your life, you have to keep some people or relationships at a distance.
Of course things did not end well for my step-sister. She left our house (after a visit from 5 police SUV’s and 2 fire trucks) and still refuses to get help. I still care about her and hope that she gets the help that she so desperately needs. I just can’t extend myself and participate in her dysfunction any longer. It may sound selfish, but in the long run, setting boundaries is better for everyone in the end. See, boundaries were never set for my step-sister when she came to our house. Had they been set when she first arrived, this situation might have been (but most likely would not have been) avoided. It lets people know that they need to be accountable for their actions and their behavior, and also to treat people with respect.