Marja Bergen

author, mental health advocate, follower of Christ

Why we need boundaries

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Psalm 139:1-3

Many of us living with mental health issues find it hard to realize why supporters need to set boundaries. Although I knew I had a mental illness, I never saw myself as being so different from others. So, when a good friend didn’t want to spend time with me I wondered why she didn’t treat me like her other friends. What did I do wrong? Was I really that unlikeable? I can’t describe the depth of my pain.

Eventually I “think” I figured it out – though I’m not sure. I am different. Among other things, I have an unhealthy attachment to her and talk far too much. If only my friend could have explained how she needed this boundary for her own protection, and maybe mine as well. Or might her explanation have made me feel worse?

We often have a greater need for love and attention than the average person. We may be drawn to those who treat us kindly and really seem to care. The trouble is that when we overdo seeking their attention both we and our supporters can get hurt. Those who support us have others in their life who need them. How can they look after them if we burden them to the point of burn-out? Because, yes, we can do that to them if we’re not careful.

Trouble is, in dealing with our issues, we are not always able to control ourselves. Our supporters must set clear boundaries. We should welcome such boundaries, because I don’t think any of us would want people to get tired of us and start avoiding us.

Great problems can arise if boundaries are not in place. If we get messages that everything is fine with the amount of contact we have when it isn’t, we are in trouble. It’s up to our supporters to set boundaries. They will need to take time explaining why this is necessary – very gently and clearly. It will be important to do so in a way we can hear, understand, and respect. Then we can more easily be reminded when we violate those boundaries.

Can you see how boundaries are there to help you? If you don’t have boundaries in place and you wonder if you’re contacting your supporters too often, I strongly suggest you ask them to set some up for you. Boundaries will help both you and your supporters maintain a healthy relationship.

Take comfort in the words from Psalm 139 above. Can you make going to Scripture a priority when you need encouragement and support? God should be the first we go to for our needs. He knows us better than anyone. As St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”


1 Comment

  1. Hi Marja!

    This post is exactly what I needed to read today. It is such a blessing to know I am not alone in this journey.

    I’m also glad I found you again! I think of you often. <3

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