I'm Not Angry, I Just Have Boundaries (Part 1)
Last updated: May 2023
Inevitably, there are going to be bad days with HS. And as much as I may hate that sometimes, it comes with the territory of having a chronic illness.
During painful flare ups, I usually just want to be left alone. And even though I know I’m not angry with anyone or trying to be rude, it can come off that way. Truth is, it's always been easier to deal with pain when I'm alone in peace and can focus solely on healing my body.
I had a hard time explaining what HS was to those close to me at first and still struggle from time to time. Admittedly, it’s hard for me to not feel like a burden at times. So just like I’m sure a lot of us have done in the past, I downplayed my pain and HS symptoms. For me (and for other people pleasers, I’m sure), setting boundaries can be difficult and even a little bit scary, but it can also be necessary.
Setting boundaries with friends
I consider myself to be an open book, but not every friend knows I struggle with HS. Those closest to me do and they were pretty empathetic towards me when I explained it to them. But that doesn't always mean the conversation around boundaries only needs to happen once.
Even after opening up to my friends about it, some things they would say still affected me. For example, I had one friend say to me that he got a boil one time and that he felt dirty, disgusted and unclean. I knew that he wasn’t trying to be rude and that he was just speaking from his own experience which he had every right to do. And I’m sure it was a confusing and painful experience for him. But as someone who got boils frequently, his comments stuck around in my mind for weeks after that conversation.
There was another incident in college where I was hanging out with my friends in their dorm room. We were all sitting on the floor, about to head to the dining hall, when one of my friends came up behind me and helped me up by grabbing me from under my arms and pulling me up to my feet. This wouldn’t hurt most people, but I was in the middle of a flare-up and it BURNED!
I wasn’t upset with either of my friends for any of these incidents because I understood they meant well and weren’t trying to be rude. But it’s also because of incidents like this that I learned the importance of being open with the people close to me for a couple of reasons. The first, was so that my friends understood the physical limitations I had during flare-ups. And the second reason was so that my friends didn’t have any misconceptions about what HS was in the first place.
Setting boundaries with family
This can be tricky, at least it was (and still is) for me. For the most part, families can be supportive and empathetic. But just like with friends, that doesn't always mean they understand you or your situation. In my experience, I’ve found that people have their own lives and struggles. Every family dynamic is different and that may cause different reactions when opening up to people.
I remember feeling isolated from family because HS wasn't something most of them understood (except for my mom, who also has HS). I’ve learned that, while the people in my family don't sound angry when they speak, some of them have a very strong tone. And it was easy for me to feel like I was complaining too much or just being a baby about things when talking about the pain.
This isn’t to say that people in my family made me feel this way, but my own insecurities about my HS and the state of my mental health at the time brought up this feeling often.
Check out Part 2 of this series!
When you need to vent about HS, who do you turn to first?
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