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Home » Enforcing Boundaries | Spectrumly Speaking ep. 150 – DIFFERENT BRAINS

Enforcing Boundaries | Spectrumly Speaking ep. 150 – DIFFERENT BRAINS

Enforcing Boundaries | Spectrumly Speaking ep. 150 - DIFFERENT BRAINS

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IN THIS EPISODE:

In this episode, hosts Haley Moss and Dr. Lori Butts discuss the importance of boundaries and ways to enforce them.


Spectrumly Speaking is the podcast dedicated to women on the autism spectrum, produced by Different Brains®. Every other week, join our hosts Haley Moss (an autism self-advocate, attorney, artist, and author) and Dr. Lori Butts (a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, and licensed attorney) as they discuss topics and news stories, share personal stories, and interview some of the most fascinating voices from the autism community.

For more about Haley, check out her website: haleymoss.net And look for her on Twitter: twitter.com/haleymossart For more about Dr. Butts, check out her website: cfiexperts.com

Have a question or story for us? E-mail us at SpectrumlySpeaking@gmail.com

CLICK HERE FOR PREVIOUS EPISODES


EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION:   Note: the following transcription was automatically generated. Some imperfections may exist.

 

HALEY MOSS (HM):  

Hello, and welcome to Spectrumly Speaking. I’m Haley Moss, an author, artist, attorney, and I’m also autistic. I feel very lucky to share the Spectrumly stage every single time that you join us with a fantastic co host, who will now go ahead and introduce herself. 

DR LORI BUTTS (LB):  

Hi, I’m Dr. Lori Butts. I’m a psychologist and an attorney. And I am so honored to be here with you, Haley.

HM:  

Thank you. Because I feel like this is just something we’ve been doing for so long. And like, I’m sorry, why are we honored? 

LB:  

I’m honored every time I get to talk to you. I’m honored.

HM:  

I feel like it’s just you know, we were so before the show, you and I were discussing how we’re each other’s ride or die. Like about that, that I absolutely love. It keeps it real around here, honestly. Because so often we had this tone of seriousness. And I think that I enjoyed that enough to be like, Yeah, that makes me so happy. And I hope that the listeners feel like we get to just have a conversation or they get to just listen in with us. Rather than, you know, the formality of it all of honor and privilege, like, you know, it’s just two people that enjoy talking to each other about autism stuff, and what else was going on in the world, some psychology topics and having a focus on marginalized voices when we do have guests like it’s great.

LB:  

Yeah, it’s really, it’s great. And it’s interesting, because without the podcast, you and I would probably go months and months and months without talking to each other. And that’s that would be a travesty. I love spending time talking to you, Haley, I learned something every single time and I always smile, you always make me laugh, he has such a positive perspective. So…

HM:  

Thank you. So something that did not come up here on the show, but that you just reminded me of that. Otherwise, we would go months and months without talking is I have been trying in some of my friendships, especially to be more ambitious. And when I say I want to be more ambitious with my friendships, that I want to put more reminders to reach out to people that I do go months and months, kind of I think that’s also me being neurodivergent with the object permanence of people, that sometimes I just forget they exist, but I can jump in like nothing’s ever happened. And it’s like, no, I promise, I still love you. I just forgot about. So I’m trying to be a little bit more ambitious with the friendships and relationships that I have, including other relatives and things and sometimes it’s going better than others. 

LB:  

What do you mean by ambitious? What is the ambitious? Like? What do you mean? 

HM:  

I’m actually going to make sure to make that same effort to make that kind of, you know, how we channel all of our ambition and motivation into all this other stuff that’s kind of advancing ourselves. What if we put that energy towards advancing our relationships and our friendships? Like, that’s what I mean, I want to do that. I want to do more of that.

LB:  

Yeah, it’s about balance right. 

HM:  

And that is why I told a friend who I hadn’t caught up with him several years is actually, the last time that we spoke that I want to make a more conscious effort to make it not be another couple of years, right until the next time that we talk. And we both agreed on that. And we have pretty much been annoying the living daylights out of each other ever since which we talk almost every day, because we both were like, Yeah, we were really close, then life happened. And let’s commit to being better friends. And I think it’s such a cool thing. So that is kind of a tangent that’s in my brain right now. And not really the conversation I think we were planning on having.

LB:  

Yeah, but it’s an important one. And I think it ebbs and flows throughout your life. I mean, we know that I’m a lot older than you and, and, and time starts to go really fast. And, and, and so I mean, you mentioned the object permanence thing. And there’s a lot of I have a lot of friends in my life that I’ve known for, basically, my whole life, and they’re always there. But then when I kind of think about it, and I’m like, well, it may not may be like a year or two where we don’t talk but we we pick up right where we left off. And, and that’s such a nice feeling to have. But there is something to be said also about making the effort and between the times and checking in on people. And it’s again, you know, we’re talking about boundaries today. But that’s also you know, balanced boundaries, they kind of go hand in hand.

HM:  

Absolutely. And I think that boundaries thing is actually really important when we talk about friendships. Because so often I know for me, I’m always scared that I’m bothering people. 

LB:  

My mother’s like that too. It drives me crazy.

HM:  

I’m not good at asking for support from my friends. So quick story actually. So a lot of my friends tend to lean on me when things are going wrong, and want someone to talk to and advice All right. So I have this one friend who will call me when things go wrong, she breaks up with her boyfriend, she’s looking for work, all sorts of stuff is going on in her life. And that’s all fine and dandy, like, I’m more than happy to support you, I love you, you’re my friend, all this. Anyway, I was traveling for work. And I accidentally like sliced part of my finger with a when I was taking the cap off of a razor. I know, I know, sometimes you get lucky than others. And like, you know, I know how to take care of a cut. I know, for those of you who are squeamish, it was kinda, you know, losing bleeding, all that stuff. But you know what I mean? Anyway, I couldn’t get it to stop right away. And I didn’t want to scare my parents, because you know, that’s what happens. And when you’re out of state, you’re like, huh, I don’t know, if I can go to an urgent care, I’m just going to call my friend who has leaned on me 1000 times over. And because she lives in the state that was traveling in, and I was like, Hey, I hope you’re not busy. But I need some help. Because I just accidentally sliced my finger trying to get the cap off, as I needed to like shave my legs. And she was stayed on the phone with me for like an hour and a half guiding me through how to get it, put some extra pressure on it, wrap it up, don’t be afraid to go downstairs and ask the desk if they have bandages, right, all this stuff. And I found that so helpful. And then I apologized to her again, like I’m so sorry, you know, I like never asked you for anything. And you spent your evening trying to like, coax me through. And she was like, oh, it’s totally fine. You’ve been there for so many other things that I had this immense guilt about it. And ah, not that was not necessarily violating this boundary that I was afraid to violate, because I’m usually the one who is the strong friend. But it is more hesitant to ask for help.

LB:  

Right.

HM:  

I kind of got me thinking.

LB:  

I think it’s an important thing to think about. Because there are this there is like this personality set of people who really don’t feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help. But as human beings, we’re social, and we need help. And we all need help in certain different ways. And, and it’s always good to like know, which is the friend to know, in the certain, you know, who has the expertise on the on the razor blade cutting the finger, you know, who has, who has expertise and knowing how to, you know, salvage of a horrible dinner that you’re making or something like that, right? Are the people to call on when you need them? 

HM:  

And if you are that person, how do you know when to say when like, if I if you want me to help you solve a horrible dinner, obviously, I’m not the person to call for that. My, my kitchen skills are not great, but that’s not the point. But say that I am usually the person and then there’s not like one time that I am super busy, I’m overwhelmed. And the answer is just straight up. No. And you’re someone who feels guilty about saying no, I don’t want emotional bandwidth, and I’m going to support you anyway. And then I’m just going to be you know, feeling kind of drained that boundaries. I know, when we talk about this something that I’ve learned about boundaries over the years is they don’t exist. For other people, they exist for you. Right? So other people learn and know how to best treat you. Right? So how do I set that boundary without seeming like a jerk of, you know, I would love to help you with salvaging this dinner, even though we know like, my brain will not let me or it will be pouring from an empty cup essentially. Like, how do I do that?

LB:  

I think you do it really well, with just honesty, right? Like nobody, like, you don’t have to make an it’s not an excuse. It’s just honesty. Like, I just like, This is not my wheelhouse. And, you know, I’m not I’m probably not the best person for this. I’m sure there’s somebody else. Honestly, you know, I think I think is especially also as women we’re so socialized to be, you know, to always be there and to never say no. And to Yeah, so we’re, you know, we’re, you know, we don’t want to be rude. And, and so being assertive is being you know, aggressive or polite or not ladylike or something like that. But, but just saying like, I’ve reached my limits, or I have, I’m sorry, I’ve got too much on my on my plate today. I can’t focus on this issue. I’m not the best person right now. For you. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you and I don’t want to help you when something else goes wrong or you know, XYZ just honesty, right? 

HM:  

Yeah. Sometimes we talk about that honesty, because sometimes it’s a lot more radical and honest. Like you’re saying and other times it’s just you have to call out when somebody is very clearly overstepping. Right. So I was at a conference or an event about a year ago actually the says the best boundaries example that I give very regularly. And I had a parent come up to me at the end of my talk. And this parent was very concerned about her child’s future, which is understandable, autistic kid, right? She politely decides to ask me having never met me before in my life, or her life, what medications I’m taking. And I understand that she’s concerned about the health care of a kid. And I automatically feel extremely violated because this is not something I would ever ask someone I don’t have a relationship with. Right? Like, right. Like, it’s definitely by most societal standards and inappropriate question to ask, right. And I pushed back saying, I understand that you’re concerned. And that might be something that could be of assistance to you, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about this. And my medical history is between me and my healthcare team. As what I said to her, wow, I don’t think it went over as well as I had hoped. And I told the event organizer, because she kept this parent kept actually trying to push me a little bit more, like, put me on that like that. No, didn’t mean no, because it would help her kid, the organizer? And she’s like, Well, I’ll tell them you’re on like, you know, birth control or something. Because, like, I know, the event organizer was trying to be slightly like, mitigating here. Right? Because, you know, that would make reasonable sense. Like, you know, you’re a woman of reproductive age, and perhaps you do not do want to have a kid no one really knows not relevant. But you know, and I just sat there and like, into the organizer when she had me, let us know, because even if that is what I am, or am not taking that is not a stranger’s business. Yeah. That would only be between me and anybody that I have, or having a relationship with. Which is why when we talk about boundaries, I’m so surprised, especially for people with disabilities, that the boundaries that we set somehow are viewed as less valid. Like, all of a sudden, the stranger felt entitled to my medical history. And when I told somebody else I felt uncomfortable with that, she wanted me to give other medical. Right, and whether or not it was true, was irrelevant.

And I just felt so defeated, like, what’s the point? If I’m setting boundaries, and I can’t even have them honored? Or I’m automatically told to question my own boundaries, right? Like, it really left a sour taste in my mouth, and it’s something I am forced to reflect on quite often. Yeah. Because you’re so often told that your opinions and we talked about so I know is here at Spectrumly. Especially, we talk an awful lot about self advocacy, we’re very joyfilled show, we try to empower our listeners, we try to make sure that our guests really have the platform to spread the message that they want to spread to the extent that they feel comfortable doing so because we as you know, some of our guests are very reserved, and give very short and Curt answers, and other guests will just go on for what feels like forever, sometimes, and share as much detail as right, humanly possible. And you and I just kind of, you know, sit back and let them info dump accordingly. Because we are not here to curtail anybody’s message unless, of course, it is actually harmful. Right. So it’s a very interesting thing that happened. And that’s why I think even the way we approach the show is not really about boundaries so much is letting people express themselves when so often, as autistic people especially we’re told that the boundaries that we have somehow are not okay. Right. Because they somehow infringe on neurotypical people’s entitlement. 

LB:  

Right. 

HM:  

In addition to everything that you mentioned earlier about being socialized as women.

LB:  

Right, right. There’s layers upon layers upon layers of this, and I’m still kind of stunned about your interaction with, like, the resolution of the interaction was like, just as strange as the initial request. It’s like, wow.

HM:  

I thought that saying no was right. Like, thing. There are public facing advocates and folks who will tell you all about the meds they take. Right. Right. You know, like, just because I prefer to keep my health care decisions between me and whoever is overseeing my care. Right. Very reasonable thing. Like if I spoke to any stranger, or even if I was on a first date with somebody, or even if it were something that I kind of knew I wouldn’t be asking them like, oh, what cocktail do you take at night?

LB:  

Right, right. 

HM:  

I know that information about a lot of my close friends. And I know that information about my family members, I know that about my family members in case of an emergency, right? Like, I know that about my close friends because they’ve all joked about it, or they’ve told me Oh, I just started something new and the side effects They’re kind of weird. So I apologize if I’m not myself. Right. But that’s very different than someone you’ve never spoken to before. Right? Who feels entitled to that information? Right? Right. Which is why I think context when we talk about boundaries is also very important. Very, very, and others people I feel scared to set boundaries with, like, I have friends and folks who will call me. So something about me that most people know is I really don’t like unprompted phone calls. They make me nervous, they make me think I’m in trouble or something bad happened. Especially because I have, you know, received unprompted phone calls in the middle of the night or all sorts of things, something that did happen.

LB:  

Mm hmm.

HM:  

I remember being asleep. My second year of law school, took a nap in the middle of the day. And that’s when my mom called me to tell me that my grandmother passed. Like, I wasn’t, it’s not that I wasn’t expecting it, because I knew like, you know, things were gonna happen quickly, right? But, and my parents call me unprompted all the time, which means I usually know that’s not an emergency because it’s my parents. Right? Right. Sometimes there’s things like that, that when it’s on property, like Oh, my God. And when I got unprompted, calls from people I worked with and stuff, I thought I was in trouble. Right? So I have a friend, though, that her only method of communication with me is unprompted phone calls. And I of course, the only way I know how to set that boundary is I don’t answer. Or I call when I have the mental energy to potentially figure out that she wants to talk about something that’s completely kind of, you know, light and airy and really not like something super serious. But I mentally have to call her when I am braced for it to be something super serious. She’s never called me for anything super serious, because I have that kind of relationship with unprompted phone calls. And I don’t have it in me to say, Hey, can you let me know that you’re going to call me or we like schedule this? Like, I know, that’s kind of less sexy in friendships, but at least let me know like what’s going on? Or that you want to say hi, near you want to catch up before I automatically think something bad happened? And I’m scared to have that conversation. And, you know, which is also a whole other part of boundaries is sometimes setting them is scary. And instead of setting them up, just withdraw, hence, I just don’t answer the phone, or I don’t call her back. I consider that the same as setting a boundary even though I know it’s not.

LB:  

Right. It’s like it’s it’s a what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s it’s an avoidant boundary or something. I’m not saying… 

HM:  

I think that’s exactly what I do is avoidant boundaries. I just withdraw. And I don’t think that’s as healthy as it could be. 

LB:  

Yeah, maybe you can, maybe there’s a way for you to just tell all your friends. Like, if you want to speak to me, if you could shoot me a text saying, you know, give me a call some whenever you’re available or something like that, then then you can return the call at your you know, when you’ve got the space for it or something. Yeah. Or you could you could set your, when somebody calls you, you could set like one of those messages that says, you know, let me know where you’re calling about, I’ll give you a call back when I you know, when I take a breath or when I can do something about it. Yeah, I know, I’m not I’m not here to fix this issue. But it’s

HM:  

I know, that’s the other reason I love these conversations, like, you know that every time we do these guestlist episodes, they often feel like just a really good therapy session. So I’m, I’m just excited. 

LB:  

Yeah, me too.

HM:  

I feel like such a geek.

LB:  

Well, and, you know, obviously, boundaries need to be set in like work environments, and, you know, and all those, all those other kinds of areas. But, but the ones that are kind of the seem to be the most difficult are the personal ones, right? You don’t want to hurt our friends feeling or, but we take on obligations. You know, both of I think both of us take on a lot of obligations that sometimes we can’t do everything at once. And we want to do everything. And so we have to really be mindful of, you know, deadlines and overextending ourselves to take on too much. And being able to set a boundary say, you know, I just don’t have the bandwidth to spend the time that this project or this whatever needs and how to and just just know that that’s okay. That That’s part of you taking care of you. And not feeling frazzled and overextended and less than across the board. 

HM:  

Yeah. I think that’s a great way to look at it.

LB:  

Yeah, yeah. Because you’re always feeling like you’re just supporting other people you’re not living up to, you know, who you are as a person, as a career woman or as a friend or as whatever, this over that label is right.

HM:  

Yeah, and I think it’s a good thing, not to just look at it, as you know, we’re just bad people when we don’t always get it right. I think it’s so easy to do that, you know, like, you’re so easily gonna say it’s difficult or things aren’t going great.

LB:  

Right. Right. I’m a failure. I’m not a good friend. I’m not, you know, whatever. Whatever negative word you put in there, right. And it’s a setup you set up yourself by having like, these unrealistic expectations of things you can accomplish. Like, again, going back to making friends a priority and making work right. Like, there’s so many things in our lives that are priorities, and, and not being able to keep with all with all of them is makes you feel bad about yourself. Yeah. It’s not easy. No, no, no. Yeah. So again, it’s finding that balance about what, you know what’s realistic, and what makes sense for you at that time. And it’s obviously always changing, right?

HM:  

Yeah. And I think realizing that boundaries can change too, as we grow, right? is crucial. Like this is, you know, not a one size fits all. And when you said at once, it’s not all, it’s not that simple, either. 

LB:  

Right. Right. And you have every right to change it. The next time people will be like, Wait, you said this? Yeah. Well, I’m saying this now. I feel differently now. And feeling comfortable with with doing that is absolutely is important.

HM:  

Mm hmm. I think that’s a great thing to think about. It’s also just being kind to yourself when we do this. So I’m glad that we’ve had this little chat about you know, now, because it’s scary. Yeah. And, and you’re not always gonna get it right. 

LB:  

Right. And honestly, right, like, Don’t make excuses. It’s just honesty. It’s just and, and when people respect them, you feel good about yourself, when they don’t respect them. That’s not your problem. It’s somebody else’s problems. Not your own. But absolutely easy to say, it’s still…

HM:  

Easy to say, takes a little bit of time to get there.

LB:  

Right. Right. 

HM:  

And I think that’s a good note to wrap up onto is that it does take time, it’s not always easy. And boundaries can be messy and dynamic. Other people’s disregard for them isn’t always a new problem. I think it’s something else to keep in mind. Right? Right. That you did your point to say, this is how I want to be treated. And this is what I feel comfortable with. Yep. And I think that’s a great place to think about this and be kind to yourself in the process, of course. Yeah. Which, if you want to learn more, I’m sure we can have many more discussions together or we can if you have a suggestion for a fantastic guest, who can help have a discussion about boundaries with us, please let us know. Be sure to check out differentbrains.org and check out their Twitter and Instagram at @DiffBrains. And don’t forget to look for them on Facebook. If you’re looking for me, I can be found at Haleymoss.com. Or you can say hello to me on Facebook, Twitter, now known as x, Instagram or Tiktok. You can search for my name and you will probably find me.

LB:  

And I can be found at CFIexperts.com Please be sure to subscribe and rate us on Apple podcasts or your podcast app of choice. And don’t hesitate to send questions to Spectrumlyspeaking@gmail.com. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Spectrumly Speaking is the podcast dedicated to women on the autism spectrum, produced by Different Brains®. Every other week, join our hosts Haley Moss (an autism self-advocate, attorney, artist, and author) and Dr. Lori Butts (a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist, and licensed attorney) as they discuss topics and news stories, share personal stories, and interview some of the most fascinating voices from the autism community.

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