It’s no secret to my close family and friends that I struggle with anxiety. I have been known to ruin a perfectly good day for myself with my internal worries – some of them are for good reason and some of them are completely irrational. Nels doesn’t understand my tendency to worry and get anxious, particularly when it’s something out of my control so we have been known to butt heads about it from time to time. It’s not my favorite trait about myself and definitely something that I have worked hard on over the last couple of years. I like to think that I have made good progress on that front, but it took some internal discovery to make that progress.
I think my biggest progress in my journey started and continued to evolve during the time of Nash’s accident and over the next few years as we have walked his rehabilitation journey. I started to figure out that a lot of my anxiety was held inside of a very simple, yet complex concept – BOUNDARIES! We all have boundaries but not all of our boundaries line up with one another and not everyone is self-aware enough to know what boundaries exist during interactions – which is ok, it’s just part of life – but something we have to make ourselves aware of.
I first became very aware of this acutely after the accident. During that time, our family was separated as we navigated a major health challenge with COVID looming in the background. Nels and I were never together, and I had no choice but to be strong 100% of the time with whichever child I was with. I started to realize that people around me had a huge impact on my strength as I navigated the day and as unfair as it seems, I realized I had to quickly create boundaries. As people would ask to come visit, I would immediately create the boundary that they could come and visit, but we would not sit around crying as we discussed Nash and if they needed to cry, I needed them to wait to come see me. I wasn’t trying to be cold and rude, but my anxiety couldn’t handle the looks and faces of people crying all the time. I was barely hanging on and didn’t have the strength to comfort anyone other than my own kids. Some people that I knew wouldn’t add to my strength, so I just held off on spending time with them during that period. I needed to create boundaries for my own well-being.
As we continued to navigate our journey, it became more and more apparent that boundaries were crucial for me. Nash did and still does have bullet fragments lodged in his spinal column. That will never change because the risk of removing them is far too great. The look of horror on people's faces when I would tell them that was almost more than I could handle so I called Nels one day and asked him to make a post on Facebook about the bullet and explain it. We knew it wasn’t optimal but there was nothing we could do about it. When people would give me that look it would send my anxiety through the roof, I hated that this was our reality, but there was nothing I could do to “fix” it. In those moments, I needed Nels to help me create a boundary with regards to that particular subject.
I could tell you story after story but what I have realized is that, for me, my greatest anxiety wasn’t always coming from within but a lot of times from the words and actions of those around me. When I was in the presence of people that either didn’t share the same type of boundaries as me or were unable to read that there were necessary boundaries, there started to be a disconnect between what my brain knew was right and what my emotions started rolling with. Whether it was an unintended shocked look, a question about the future that we can’t answer, or simply a statement that crossed into what was not emotionally ok for me, the lack of boundaries was creating anxiety within me. It was my responsibility to fix that for my own psyche.
People are human, people are going to lead with their emotions, and that is completely ok – it’s a wonderful gift that we have…but it was extremely freeing for me to realize that it was also completely ok to set boundaries for myself and my children. It was ok to walk away from an uncomfortable conversation or to tell someone “I am sorry, but I can’t worry about that today”. My need for boundaries goes beyond just Nash and his accident, it’s important in all aspects of my life. It’s a piece of what keeps my logical and illogical thinking in check with each other. Boundaries are a beautiful thing and much needed as we build healthy relationships with the people that we love. I am still a work in progress and always will be, but I am thankful for small steps of progress. What steps can you take to calm your soul? What boundaries might you need to set today? Who knows – maybe your boundaries will help those around you as well!