Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Damn Boundaries

All people have boundaries individual to them. Even figuratively, these are tangible lines everyone needs to be aware of and respect.

However, survivors often face the overstepping of boundaries due to ignorance, disregard, personal views, misunderstanding or disrespect. It is sadly commonplace and comes in many forms.

Doctors and nurses speaking together unaware of their voices carrying private medical information beyond your consent zone.

Priests administering their belief system for your salvation without your agreement or believers judging your situation because you are outside of their belief system.

Friends and strangers asking forward questions or making insensitive comments about your illness or trauma without an educated understanding of the depth of it or issues you may be facing. 

Individuals with a sense of power, lecturing, questioning, or trying to dictate behavior outside of their scope of knowledge or expertise.

The list of perpetrators can go on, since any person can, at any given time for their own reasons or incomprehension, overstep a boundary of another person.

Often times the people overstepping are unaware they are overstepping and too often survivors find themselves accommodating this breakdown in boundaries because deferral is easier then confrontation.

It is hard to defend private and uniquely personal things. It is awkward to have to explain yourself about yourself or your crisis.

These boundaries can feel like great dams, holding back a literal sea of issues, which when ruptured can cause vents and overflows of awkwardness, humiliation, anger, sadness, guilt, and feelings of being disrespected.

Recently, I faced two such boundary breakdowns.

Firstly, during an emergency room visit, awaiting treatment during escalating pain, a stranger, who introduced himself as a pastor, laid hands on me. He administered prayers and litanies resembling last rites with a request for my burdens to be lifted which could allow me into heaven. He did this without my consent, since I was in no condition to even verbalize a consent. 

Hunched over moaning, just trying to manage to breathe through agony, is not an invite to be saved, merely a human struggling at their most vulnerable while seeking medical treatment. It was an assumption on another's part, no matter how well intentioned, and a boundary was crossed. 

A nurse interceded on my behalf, as I was in no position to protect myself.

Secondly, while visiting another survivor, a "director" questioned and chastised me regarding my support dog. They went as far as to correct me on his official capacity and amend his medical purpose, despite being appropriately tagged. They disregarded all legal documentation in order to facilitate the outcome they desired, which was me relocating my visit to a less public area.

It was an uncomfortable exchange, which I deferred to in order to accommodate the request temporarily and be respectful of their surroundings. However, after the fact, I provided the documentation and expressed my concerns, of the boundaries crossed, to supervisors, since some of those boundaries are protected by federal law.

We have the right to our boundaries. We have the right to be respected and not be belittled for what we are each individually going through. We have the right not to explain or be judged for whatever trauma we are surviving. We have the right to not be made to feel awkward or apologetic for who we are.

Dams are built for a reason. We need to respect them, even when we may not be clearly able to see or comprehend the waters they are trying to contain.

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