I have been doing a lot of thinking about boundaries.
As you know, Bob, I am writing a book all about recovery from childhood sexual abuse, and it is written in an especially visceral way, and that + burnout/vicarious trauma meant that I took a six-month leave from BARCC last year; as you also know, Bob, shortly after I took that leave, the Months of Everyone Dying Horribly of Cancer began, and I did not get to focus very much on writing said book.
So there's a lot of time of this book lurking in the back of my head. And I have started actively working on it again, so the lurking has turned into random ambushing.
(The good thing about writing something that vividly explores the aftereffects of abuse is that it shines a very bright spotlight on those aftereffects in my own life. As in, I am much more easily able to say "no, this thought pattern is not true, it is my PTSD lying to me in the same way that it lies to a lot of people." So a lot of crap is working its way to the surface, but I am managing to see it for what it is, which denies it some of its power.)
One of the things I've been forced to look at recently is how I set my boundaries - or don't - with regard to my participation in my various communities.
I am having a hard time writing this. Not really because I'm supposed to be Superman, but because some people have done what I'm about to talk about in very well-meaning and non-problematic ways, and I do not have an issue with them doing so, and I don't want them to feel bad.
So. My communities know that I am passionate about eradicating sexual violence and fighting rape culture. So I am very often tagged into fights - and sometimes they are just discussions where people are trying to reach a reasonable consensus and get some education, but sometimes they're not. Sometimes it's people trying to justify rapey behavior, for themselves or for their friends. Sometimes it's people asserting that the victim is always to blame. Et cetera.
And every damn time someone tries to tag me in, I end up fighting with myself. Because I have the skills and the knowledge, and I have a community-based mindset. I have a history of doing things that are not healthy for me because they are For the Good of the Community. And since I do have the skills, I feel like a ginormous asshole not jumping in.
But every time this year, the thought of jumping in has produced a panic response in me. Something in me is telling me very clearly that I am not up to these fights, that they will hurt me more than they will help the community.
For a change, I am actually listening.
The way I put it to someone just now, at the end of a longer e-mail, was "I have the skills, but sometimes I do not have the spoons. Right now, I absolutely do not have the spoons."
And yeah, this is all very hard to say, even though I know that every single one of you will back me and tell me to take care of myself first. I know that that's how you feel! I wish knowing that helped!
It's a very slow process. Made slower by the fact that there is heavy demand on me as a Community Expert and the fact that I'm dredging up a lot of stuff that makes this work more difficult at present.
But I'm working on it.