Setting Boundaries When You Have a Mental Illness

Setting Boundaries When You Have a Mental Illness

Hello mental health champions, how are you doing? 

Today I wanted to talk about setting boundaries when you have mental health issues. I think so often, as you always hear me say, we treat mental health disorders as different from physical illnesses. And myself and others agree that this shouldn’t be the case. However, until they are treated the same, we have to be the ones to make changes and help people understand this. One thing I have noticed is that often, people’s boundaries when it comes to mental health aren’t taken that seriously.  And I have a huge problem with this because we all know if it was a boundary related to physical health, it would most likely be taken seriously and not judged. For example, if someone with social anxiety wants to leave a party, they should be allowed to do so because it is triggering and probably panicking them. However, this most likely would be judged by others as the person being uninterested, a party pooper, or rude. But, let's say that the person has to leave a party because they need to go home and do a breathing treatment or give themselves insulin, that wouldn’t be frowned upon and people would most likely be more understanding. It always brings up this problem of people treating other issues and organs in the body as important because they are physical versus when the freaking BRAIN is involved with mental illness. BUT- you can read my last blog post to hear my rage with that… LOL. So, I really want to help you all understand ways that you can have your voice heard with your mental illness and not allow yourself to be treated wrongly or different just because you struggle with mental illness. I wanted to give you all some examples and how you can switch the dialogue to help people better understand. However, if you are trying to set boundaries with friends and family, it is always good to give them a little bit of background so that they can better understand. But, here are some ways to switch the language so that you don’t get manipulated into feeling badly. 

First let’s use the party example. One way to set a boundary is by not allowing people’s expectations to get ahead of themselves. What I mean by this is when you get to the party, instead of being wishy-washy about what is on your mind, you can be direct. Instead of saying, “Hey just so you know I may leave a little early.” you can say, “I can only stay for an hour/2 hours/etc. But I am so very glad I even get to spend this time with you!” With stating this, you are immediately letting them know that they should expect you to leave early. You are communicating which is a good thing for people to respect you and better understand. 

Another example would be “I will try to come if I can!” Don’t use this wording. It leaves a lot of room for people to pressure you and try to get you to come/hold it against you when you don’t. Instead, once again, be more direct. Use language like “ I am so sorry but I won’t be able to make it that day”. This may ease your own anxiety that stems from pressure of having to cancel at the last minute or come up with another excuse. If we are being honest, we should be able to be honest with our friends and family and just say we aren’t mentally well enough to do it, however, many people don’t fully understand this. 

Something that would also drive me nuts is when other people want to talk badly about other people I love or care about. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not at all a saint and I will 100% admit I have talked behind people’s backs before. I kind of think most people have. However, I really do try to keep it at a minimum and be upfront with the person I am upset with. BUT- this is also hard when you have a lot of anxiety with confrontation. Anyways, sometimes it makes me very uncomfortable and increases my anxiety when others talk about people I like.  A way that you can set a boundary here is by instead of staying silent and ruminating about it later, just use your words and be direct. Something I would use is “hey it is totally okay that you feel the way you do about so and so but it makes me uncomfortable talking about it so can we just switch the subject?” This isn’t being confrontational and is just laying it out there what boundaries you have. 

Another thing that I totally struggle with is taking on way too much. I am one of those people who never wants to let anyone down, even if that means sacrificing my own mental health. However, that is NOT healthy and take that from me. I have learned a lot from experience and ended up getting sick and missing the deadlines for all of these things anyways! So the first word of advice would be to learn how to say no. I know that it is also easier said than done, that’s for sure. But there are ways to say no respectfully and still be appreciative.  A good line you can use is “I really appreciate you thinking of me for this job/internship/event/ etc., however, at the moment I have too much on my plate and wouldn’t be able to give my best work. Please keep me in mind for the future!” With this, you’re leaving the door open for them  to contact you down the road, should you be interested. You are also being thankful and just saying no, which yes friend, you are allowed to say! LOL !


The last boundary I wanted to talk about today is how to correct people in regards to mental health. People can often say offensive things about mental health when they really don’t mean to. I genuinely think there are a lot of people who are ignorant of being politically correct and not offending others. Now I am not saying to be the PC police, but if something irritates you or offends you, there is a way to correct them without causing confrontation and issues that aren’t needed. Something I always try to correct is when people use mental illnesses as adjectives. It is so incredibly disrespectful and really is ignorant to the people who have lost their lives to mental illnesses. It shouldn’t be used in conversations and I try to correct people respectfully when I feel that they said something wrong. So let’s give an example. 

“I cannot stand my mom today. She is being so bipolar and it’s driving me nuts.” Now, in this example, the person speaking used Bipolar disorder as a way to describe how her mom was acting. Chances are, her mom doesn’t have a disorder. But, we never want to be accusatory when just trying to correct someone for their misspeaking.  This is how I would go about it. “I am sorry she is acting confusing to you. In the future though, do you think it would be possible to maybe just use different words to describe her behavior? It is just that I know a lot of people personally impacted Bipolar Disorder and I really don’t think it should be used as an adjective because it just perpetuates the stigma around mental health.” I recommend that you always take a second to explain your position without attacking and just explain in ways they will understand. Ask them to just change their actions next time. There is no reason that they should be offended by you just stating how you feel and asking for them to change their verbiage. 

I hope these examples of boundaries may help you in the future. I know it takes time to instill boundaries and honestly may take time for boundaries to make sense to friends and family. Just remember that people that don’t have mental illnesses may not fully understand. This is why we will do our best to help them understand un a way that isn’t confrontational or upsetting! 

I want to get into other, more specific boundaries soon but thought that this may be a good tipping point! 

Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3

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The 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.

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