A few days ago, scrolling through TikTok, I found a video that summed up where I am emotionally. As a recovering people pleaser, a person who has taken care of others for over 30 years, and a person who was never allowed to disagree, setting boundaries has left me feeling like a terrible person.
For years, I had no boundaries with my family. If they wanted something, or thought something, I quietly gave in. From a very young age, I have known that speaking my mind would result in punishment, and so I learned to think my opinions and hold them close. Into adulthood, the few times I would express my thoughts and opinions, I would find those closest to me saying I was wrong or that I should never feel that way.
As an adult living with ADHD, I often become overwhelmed. I have learned that in these moments I need a break where I can sit in complete silence and solitude for 15 minutes. This allows me to center my thoughts and self. Never being able to take these breaks or being told I was wrong for needing them, left me confused, overwhelmed, and filled with too many emotions.
Needless to say, a year ago, when life shifted and I found myself alone, I struggled. I was unsure how to feel or what to do. And so I dove into my bad habits. I worked overtime to please those in my life. By the time October hit, I was empty, depressed, and so angry. I was angry at myself. I knew that I should have taken the time to set boundaries, to heal, and to find myself. But, after 42 years of never having that opportunity, the freedom was simply too much. I could not function in an environment where I could be healthy.
The past five months have been truly difficult. I stopped hiding, rolled up my sleeves, and dove into working on myself. I was not prepared for the emotions, the memories, or the feelings of shame. I had to learn to forgive myself, to understand that I did the best I could in the moment. I spent the entire first half of my life in survivor mode. Allowing myself to feel safety, to learn who I am, what I want, and to acknowledge my opinions has been an uphill battle.
I am proud to say I stuck with it. I love who I am becoming, the peace I am finding, and the boundaries I am setting. But I will say that learning to say no, to stand up for myself has been a challenge. By not giving in to people, I feel mean. I question what I said and the tone behind it for days. And I find myself riddled with guilt. When I can finally move past the moment, I find it absurd that I have spent days feeling guilty for standing my ground.
As is my custom, I review the situation in detail, question myself, and typically discover that I never said anything mean, unprofessional, or borderline rude. Rather, I simply said no and stuck to it. I have found that practicing my boundaries at home, where I feel safe, is giving me more confidence daily, and is making it easier for me to stick to them with others.
No matter where you are in your journey, I encourage you to stay strong, persist. Boundaries are necessary for our health. Make yourself a priority. Know that you are worth it. I will be clapping for you.
Sara Orellana lives in Oklahoma City and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.