Written by Chary Sathea
When it comes to family: when and where do you draw the line? What is considered “healthy boundaries”?
I for one, am new to this concept of “boundaries.”
As a child, I have always colored outside the lines. In middle school, I started ranting to the world about stupid 7th grader shenanigans on Xanga. With very little to nothing, my siblings and I were told to share toys and give as much as we can, however we can.
In my opinion, I have always been opened to the World. Boundaries were nonexistent to me. However, all that changed last year.
I was unhappy with where I was at in my career. Meanwhile in California, my parents were fighting. Flashbacks of my childhood where my dad would come home drunk and rowdy, and my younger brother and I hid for shelter. To top it all off, my youngest brother wanted to kill himself because he was so angry at life.
This was my breaking point.
Growing up, I’ve always had this pressure and guilt—as the eldest and First-Generation born—I felt it was my responsibility to find solutions to issues at home. Perhaps I was conditioned to feel this way because my mother had always deferred my siblings to me when problems arose especially when it came to academic paperwork and when she could not communicate her emotions. A tiny part of me feels that my childhood was robbed because I helped raise my siblings with my mom because our dad wasn’t around.
In our household and like many I know: family comes first. Maybe it is also a “cultural” thing, but is it though?
I have always prioritized my family, but now that I am on the other side of the country, broke, and growing into my career, I am learning to create boundaries between my family and myself. But in the process of doing so, the constant guilt feeling is hovering.
In every relationship—whether romantic or with the self—I believe in establishing a great foundation. In this case, if I wanted to help anyone, including my family, I had to help myself and take care of my mental health.
So, I started therapy about a year ago. With all the shenanigans going on in my life and my family’s out west, I had to find a solution for myself. My revelations are: I am not their emotional crutch, and I cannot save them all. They became dependent on me to articulate their feelings and play the mediator when there was conflict. Although, I am honored to be the person who is trusted and a great communicator, there was just so much weight on me because there are days where I cannot examine how I feel.
It was a challenge for me to let go of the whole I-cannot-save-everybody part. While I can offer solutions to my family members, it is up to them to actually take my advice and apply it into their lives. If they don’t, then I don’t know what else to do. At least, I tried and did my part.
I hope when you read this, your takeaway is not: wow, she really dislikes her family. Note that even though I love my family, I also have to love myself and prioritize my wellness. That doesn’t make me selfish, just protecting my safe space so I can be a better woman, daughter, and big sister.