I never saw myself as vulnerable. 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 is; 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. 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 was also 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 “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 a toxic working culture, but my lack of understanding of 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.
Looking back, burnout was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I was in such a bad physical and mental state that I was forced to learn about boundaries. I’m glad to say I now recognise my previous job as being abnormal and unhealthy.