I've been talking about setting and strengthening boundaries because a lack of or weak boundaries often put us in situations that lead to depression. Having healthy boundaries simply means feeling free to say "No," and knowing when it is appropriate to do so.
Imagine that a friend or a family member approaches you and asks to borrow money. Do you automatically feel compelled to do so, or do you consider the situation?
Does this person really need the money or just want it? If he or she claims need, is it because of something that happened that was beyond control, or did the person cause the problem? Does this person frequently cause such problems?
Does this person often ask you for money? If so, is it paid back in a timely manner? Is this a one-way relationship? Are you frequently "helping this person out" or doing other favors but getting little in return?
Will fulfilling this request inconvenience you or make you feel uncomfortable or resentful? Does this feel like a demand? What do you think will happen if you say, "No?"
I have a friend whose mother once called her and said, "I'm coming to visit you and the family early in June. I'm staying until early September. Send me the money for my plane tickets."
My friend came to me in tears. "My husband and I just bought a trailer. We were planning to take the boys camping a lot this summer. Now we'll have to cancel our plans. Mom hates camping!"
I suggested she tell her mother they'd already made plans for much of the summer. Perhaps Mom's visit could be limited to a shorter period so that the family could still do quite a bit of camping. "I can't do that! She'll be angry!" my friend replied. It was clear that she felt obliged to keep her mother happy at all costs. Not surprisingly, my friend began having anxiety and panic attacks and had to go into therapy to deal with her relationship with her mother.
Things to remember:
You are not responsible for anyone else's feelings if you are not harming anyone. Some people feel they are entitled to everything they want. FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS! Unless the person tends to violence, the world will not end when you say, "No!" If the person does tend to violence, you need to get professional help.
Barring situations where someone is suffering, you always have the right to say, "No!" Your emotional health depends on it.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.