I never saw myself as vulnerable, actually, I thought of myself as the opposite; someone who was strong, knew what I was doing and would never be in a situation where I had been completely taken for granted.
The problem was; I grew up in an alcoholic family with a lot of dysfunction. I didn’t grow up with healthy boundaries so I struggled as a young adult to know what healthy boundaries looked like, or how to enforce them.
After I graduated as a social worker, I got my first graduate position. After growing up the way did, I never knew what was normal (Adult children of alcoholics report constantly guessing at normality). Because I had just graduated , I didnt know what a normal social worker did, so I thought I could follow my workmates. Much to my regret, I followed them blindly.
I had grown up codependent, so codependency in my personal life was normal. For my colleagues, codependency and a lack of boundaries also appeared normal. Doing things for people that they could do for themselves was normal, working much longer hours than expected was normal, always being the maryter was normal, “accepting” unacceptable behaviour from clients, other professionals and other staff and then “adapting” to it was normal, working through lunch break was normal, putting everyone else first was normal.
Unfortunately none of this was normal. It was very dysfunctional with many burnt out staff and an incredibly toxic working culture. Unfortunately my lack of understanding regarding normal boundaries had led me to blindly follow this “normality”. With me working in an environment like this and my personal life dominated by my parent’s addiction, I found myself emotionally drained and burnout. I saw what I was doing as so normal, that I didn’t even realise I was burntout despite suffering panic attacks, fatigue, IBS, insomnia and the list goes on.
Eventually, a Doctor convinced me to go about life differently and I decided to commit myself to tightening up my boundaries. It was so hard for me to enforce boundaries in a toxic work environment so I ended up resigning. As I walked out the gate from my workplace for the last time, the hugest weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I’m lucky to say, I’ve never looked back.