Putting Boundaries Around Your Fibromyalgia

Putting Boundaries Around Your Fibromyalgia
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When we suffer from a chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, we are more vulnerable. What people say, and the things they do or don’t do, can have life-altering effects on us.

I believe we need to learn to set boundaries. We need to decide what we will and won’t accept, and what to do to keep ourselves from being unnecessarily hurt — even by well-meaning people.

What are boundaries and how do they work? Picture a fence around your home. The inside of the fence keeps good things in, and the fence is a barrier to keep bad things out. Your personal boundaries (your fence) can keep out things like guilt from saying no. Having boundaries keeps you in a healthier place mentally and emotionally. We might have difficulty establishing them if they weren’t instilled in us growing up.

When we’re afraid of conflict or losing an important relationship, it can keep us from setting boundaries. That opens the door for people to harm us. Not only do we allow others to violate our boundaries, but we might be sabotaging our own by doing things such as:

  • Spending time with other people until we are exhausted;
  • Not being upfront about our physical and emotional limits;
  • Giving more of ourselves in a relationship without having our own needs met;
  • Not making our opinions, desires, or emotions a priority.

When we are not well, having someone pop by to visit can be exhausting. Acting cheerful when we are feeling our worst is not only overwhelming, it is dishonest. It’s so important to make ourselves and our health a priority. Don’t dismiss your boundaries by agreeing to attend a function or following through with plans when you know you need to be in bed with a heating pad and pain meds. We need to let go of our fear of disappointing others.

It takes time to establish boundaries and help those in your circle of influence to accept them. I think the best place to start is from a place of respect for yourself and others. Let people know you appreciate their invitations, but stay true to your boundaries. One book that has helped me enormously is “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I highly recommend it.

Have you been successful in creating boundaries around your fibro? Has it been a challenge? Let me know in the comments below.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

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6 comments

  1. Mark Vogt says:

    Setting boundaries has been tough especially for a results-oriented guy like me. I grew up being taught as a young man that guys should tough things out. Those who couldn’t would be subject to many unpleasant names or more.

    Clint Eastwood in the movie Magnum Force famously said, “a man has got to know his limitations”. Of course, the bad guy tried to go beyond his limits against Dirty Harry and lost.

    For me, setting boundaries has been just as fluid as the journey with Fibro. The delicate dance is a bit like finding the edge of the dance floor and not falling off the edge when doing your best Saturday Night Fever impersonation. Part of setting boundaries for me is learning a new dance and being confident enough with it to stay on the dance floor.

    Even though no two days are alike, as I learn more about my Fibro limitations I share more of it with family and friends. They often remind of my boundaries when my “guyness” wants me to do more.

    I also share my boundaries with God who always present in my heart. His Spirit will remind me of these boundaries as well but also challenge me in lovingkindness when I get down on myself or feel inadequate.

    Thank you for your wisdom, Robin.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Mark, thank you for your kind words!

      I love your analogy of the dance floor. I think this is much harder for guys because, for the most part, society’s expectations are different. I also trust God to help me keep healthy boundaries. 😊

  2. Nancy Abel says:

    I have never been able to set good boundaries. Through therapies, I learned this was because I
    am an incest survivor. Possibly leading to fibromyalgia. I have become a recluse. It’s just easier.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Nancy, while I agree that it’s easier, it’s much less joyful. Trauma is a common life event that can lead to fibromyalgia. I grew up in an abusive home and I’m sure was a trigger on my illness. You are not alone! I want to thrive, not just survive and I want that for you too. 💜

  3. laura aponte says:

    yes. zero boundaries. Im aware I should be but it boiled down to guilt I suppose, of not being there or doing things for others I once could do, and so I’m considered more of uncaring when I back out of things I said I’d do, but realized I couldn’t later one; fibro things of that nature only we understand. but after enough of it, it does get tiring, and disinterest sets in altogether of caring what other people think, especially family. That’s where I am now, somewhere in the middle.(

    • Robin Dix says:

      Laura, sometimes it’s how we back out of things that matter: for example, saying something like: I really was looking forward to going to your party, unfortunately my illness is fairly unpredictable and to right now I need to take care of my health. Let’s make plans to get together for coffee and catch up.

      Something that let’s the other person know you’re disappointed, you’re not blowing them off, and that your health needs to be a priority. Does that make sense?

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