The Safety of Boundaries

In November 2014 I became very ill with the onset of my stress-induced auto-immune thyroid disease. The technical terminology is chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis with transient thyrotoxicosis. Quite a mouthful and not that fun to experience. There is no question that the illness was brought on by extreme stress, in my work environment and the strain of caring for small children.


A large part of the stress in the work environment was caused by my father. He started the company I was running and he failed to invest in the business. When I took it over the business was operating suitably for the 1980s with many manual procedures and a system that was over 20 years old. I tried my best to bring the business and the software into this century but it took its toll on me. The work I was doing was completely the opposite of the work I like doing and the vulnerability to fraud and a toxic environment were just too much.

I often feel that my father handed me an infant and expected it to break world record sprints. He failed to save for retirement, despite much input from myself and his auditor. And at age 70 he realised that he wanted more money. So he pressed me and pushed me to stay in the business in order to make him wealthy. He took no interest in the fact that I hadn’t had an increase for five years or that my health was completely collapsing. His greed trumped my well-being.

In the midst of his scheming and subversive undermining, I drew a line in the sand. I said ‘Don’t call me again’. And he didn’t. Not an hour later, nor a week, nor a year.

I’m a parent too. The well-being of my children is primary to me. And I will never be a financial burden on them. I will never put money over their health. And I would have called back the next day and offered to meet to talk things through. But when I was resolved to exit the business, I was no longer useful to him. When the money dried up, the loved dried up. And that says a lot about his character and the kind of parent he is.

In the time he has been out of my life, I have realised how much he contributed to my stress. The alcoholism, the violence and mania. I just can’t have that in my life at a time when I’m vulnerable. I’m busy recovering, and only in him staying out of my life is that truly possible.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that he had a heart attack last week. I don’t hate him. I still care but I just can’t have him in my life. And that boundary I created and defended is a healthy one that enables me to heal. It also protects me from harm.


But now I’m confused. Am I supposed to call him? Is this going to open that door to all the mayhem again? But he’s still family and it’s probably the right thing to do. But is it? In thinking about it deeply for a week, I am truly resolved that I don’t want to open that door again. I’m not a mean or hard-hearted person. I just want to protect myself. My top strength is harmony so it is a driving force within me to keep the peace and to make everyone happy, even to my own detriment. But I just can’t do that anymore because I’m only just starting to get better.

And I was upset that my half-brothers didn’t call me to inform me. In truth I guess that’s what I’ve asked for and I can probably accept that. I just keep wondering how I’ll find out when he dies and how that will feel. But I need to accept that my decisions have consequences and it’s something I can live with.

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I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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