A Brown woman wearing a blue lounge suite is seen putting a pink plaser on her knees. She is smiling and has rosy cheeks and short brown hair.
Credit: Dora Dziki

Setting boundaries: Your physical and mental health

By Katherine Prentice

In the first instalment of ‘Setting Boundaries’, Katherine Prentice helps us to navigate the boundaries surrounding our own health and that of others.

Writing this, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite; I have spent years taking on too much, and putting myself in situations that were too much for me, physically or mentally. I wish I had learned to stop, or at the very least slow down, to explain my boundaries to those around me. But, by surrounding myself with supportive people, it became much easier. The thing is, you need to be able to set boundaries regardless of your company, but not everyone listens. 

To me, setting boundaries means going through life knowing that you don’t owe people extra energy because you are ill – this is your burden, and you can’t let other people act like it’s theirs, and act like they’re entitled to pry, or to cross your set boundaries. It means outlining what you need, without needing to explain yourself till you’re blue in the face. I have experienced my boundaries being crossed, many of which I expected to be unspoken common sense. In the past, people close to me have refused my boundaries, pushed themselves into aspects of my life for the sake of answers, and then run away when they felt like it. I felt like this made sense; I was difficult to be friends with because of my health, especially since most of the time they couldn’t see something wrong with me.

“So, what is actually wrong with you?” 

Rule number one: don’t ask me this. Or anyone, for that matter. Wheelchair, walking stick, tears, or a day off, you aren’t owed my medical history. Maybe you are having to make some accommodations around a friend who isn’t well in some way, but this is human decency. Demanding answers or complaining about its interference in your life is definitely crossing many boundaries. If we’re good friends, or I’m in a great mood, maybe I’ll tell you…if you rephrase that question, of course. 

“Wheelchair, walking stick, tears, or a day off, you aren’t owed my medical history…”

It’s too easy to feel bad and answer peoples prying questions. It’s too easy to feel guilty when people need to alter your routes, or when you can’t go to a birthday party, when you ask them to sit at a concert, or need to regularly step outside of an event. You begin to feel like an inconvenience. This is where you need to set boundaries. If you’re wondering how to help a friend who is struggling with their mental or physical health, do not make them feel like an inconvenience – they have tortured themself with this idea enough already. 

Setting a boundary includes outlining to people that you need these things. It isn’t a want, it isn’t difficult behaviour, and you owe nothing in return. It is simply not answering questions you don’t want or need to. It is saying no to situations or people that are going to make things worse. If the people you are with are worth being around, they will understand. It might take them a couple tries to get it right, but they will make an effort to respect these boundaries.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments