Blog 3: Boundaries

November 2017
The plan was that I would write a blog about boundaries telling you all about how I transformed my core belief ‘I have to take care of everyone’ to ‘I embrace my power to protect my true self’. I planned to write about how I ended an unpleasant dance 30 seconds into the song instead of enduring it for the whole song.
But life butted in and gave me another lesson to learn.

In the night from October 24th-25th, I woke with a shock to find my husband on the floor, groaning and drooling. I immediately discarded my first thought ‘epileptic seizure’ with ‘can’t be!’
When I was next to him, calling his name, he looked at me pale-faced, eyes popping, unable to speak.
I don’t know where I got the clarity from, but as soon as my husband was calm, I got him a pillow, rested him on his side, swept the floor and got the phone to call 112 (911 for Europe).
By the time the operator asked me to check if my husband was able to smile, lift two hands at the same time and say out loud a sentence I hardly could pronounce, my husband was able to sit up. He did everything without hesitation. – ‘so no stroke. Thank God!’ I thought.
I was strongly reminded of my dad, who had his first stroke when he was one year younger than my husband is now.

The ambulance took my husband to the hospital and ordered a CT-scan. While waiting for the results with my husband closing his eyes, I sat there chanting a mantra: ‘this is here and now! Stephan is not my father. He is clear and awake!’ to set a boundary between me and the panic lurking in the back of my head.
I still can feel the immense gratitude for my world wide empathy network. When I shared what was alive in me in the whatsapp group around 3 am, a friend from the US was online, could hear me and give me the empathy I needed.

The CT scan revealed that it was a bleeding in his head that caused epilepsy. They kept Stephan for observation for two nights,  and after he got his medicine, he was stable and was free of seizures.

On the morning of Thursday the 26th I could take him home. The tricky part was that I had planned to join the NVC Mentoring and Assessment Days insouthern Germany and therefore leaving the same evening. That would be my first chance to meet my assessor for the certification as a trainer for Non-Violent Communication in person.
The doctors said that it was ok for me to go on a business trip, and we had asked friends to stay with Stephan during my absence. So there would be an adult around all the time, in case he had another seizure.

We agreed that I would go to Germany and that we would stay in close contact. And that I always could come back, when Stephan needed me.
I took the train to Sittard that night so I could get a lift from a colleague and we’d pick up someone in Karlsruhe on the way.
We left 6:25 in the morning and when my husband called me, we were somewhere deep in Germany in the middle of no where.

He told me he had another seizure that night. He was scared and asked if I please would come home. Everything within me was screaming ‘NO!’ And I said calmly that I couldn’t get a train from where we were at that moment and that we would talk again when I was in Karlsruhe, where I could take a train back home.

There was a hurricane of feelings going on inside of me. For 19 years Stephan and I had been there for each other, and now when his health was threatened so strongly, I rather wanted to be away and not take care of him.
My travel companion luckily was trained in Non-Violent Communication, so she could give me the empathy I needed to connect to the feelings and needs behind this strong ‘NO’:

I was tired of taking care of others: 1 1/2 years practically alone with the kids, my mom staying with us for 2 months start of summer and trying to support her move back to Berlin from the distance took its toll. The old story with my dad was triggered, and that didn’t help. I was scared and frustrated, felt lonely and above all exhausted.

I found calmth. I needed space for myself, for growth and learning, freedom and care for myself. When I talked to Stephan again, he also had found calmth in the storm of his life. He had talked to the doctor, had doubled his medicine and said that it wouldn’t make much difference to his fear if I would be there. If I would come back he would have to go to the hospital anyway. He also enjoyed the company of the friends around very much.
We agreed that I would travel on and we’d talk every day about how it was going.

At first it was difficult for me to be fully present at the Mentoring and Assessment Days. It was great that I got some good hugs when arriving.
From the second day on I was more and more able to be in the ‘here and now’.
I got the chance to get support to connect with the ‘NO’ inside of me. It was very strong and there was a lot of anger involved.
On Sunday afternoon I talked to Stephan on the phone for one hour. I told him about the strong ‘NO’ and where it came from. He told me that he already knew. He had also learned something very dear this weekend: he had learned that he is not dependent on me for care and this actually gives him a lot of freedom! Hearing this, I felt my heart open and I could physically feel the freedom coming from this for both of us.

When I came home, I realized that we both had grown a few inches. We both felt stronger as individuals and our connection was stronger, too.
By setting my boundary and not going back home to take care of my husband, and my husband letting me go, we had given us the chance to grow!
Stephan is stronger connected to his body and listens closer to what he needs, and I feel more confident in choosing to put myself first instead of caring for others.