People talk about them all the time.
Toxic friends. Toxic parents. Toxic lovers. Toxic family members.
The term is as popular as The Orange Is The New Black is as a TV series.
Everyone’s always mentioning about how they need to remove someone toxic from their life.
Yet, like so many other things, so many other words, the term is applied too liberally and used too frequently.
Like Orange Is The New Black, it’s become a fad, without anyone really understanding of the consequences of the word, its liberal application, or what it really means when you remove someone toxic from your life.
Just to make sure it’s clear: I am not trying to guilt anyone who wants to end a relationship with someone for any reason (because a relationship doesn’t have to be toxic to make it worth ending).
Sometimes relationships often die a natural death. I’ve had plenty of relationships that have gone that way – through no fault of anyone for the most part, and whilst I can’t speak for others, I harbour no ill-thoughts towards any of those past friends.
In fact, I look upon those past friendships fondly.
Most of them ended due to distance and different life paths.
I’ve had a few friendships actually end by the cause of someone.
For example, a friendship I had during uni actually ended after a fight. I was a year older than my friend, and I was telling her about my night out.
I’d just turned eighteen, and as my birthday is at the very end of November, my first real going out event happened to be for New Years.
I’d kissed a few guys and girls (no, that’s not a typo) because the idea of having my first New Year’s kiss was exhilarating.
I was excited to be out and I wanted to get my money’s worth.
For the first real time in my life, as well, I was starting to receive attention from men.
Whilst the attention certainly wasn’t going to my head (there wasn’t enough attention to override twelve years of being told I was incredibly unattractive, and a few men showing interest didn’t exactly make me arrogant in any way), I was terribly excited that any guy, really, thought I was attractive.
It was a nice novelty.
Perhaps I talked too much about my night. Perhaps my excitement was too strong. Perhaps my shock made me seem arrogant, despite that not being my intent.
Perhaps she was just jealous, and handled the situation badly.
Regardless of the reason, of the motive, we fought.
She told me she no longer wanted to be my friend because I was too pretty and she couldn’t compete.
(Which I now find incredibly ironic as she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen.)
A week later she issued an ‘apology’ (which was more of an explanation as to why I shouldn’t be upset – what she’d said was technically a compliment, at least in her mind).
I told her it wasn’t enough and I didn’t forgive her.
While we’ve talked since then, we’ve never mentioned the fight, and we’re not friends anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike her. I follow her on Facebook, and I genuinely wish her the best in life. I just can’t imagine we’d ever really be friends again as a result.
I bring up this “friendship break-up” because it happened years ago. It has no effect on my life, and I’m not sure it has anyone on hers, either, which is why I’m bringing it up.
I genuinely believe it to be meaningless.
I genuinely believe neither of us harbour any hard feelings.
I genuinely believe our friendship ended in as a result of both of us – neither of us is completely blameless.
However, for various reasons, the friendship ended. It was clear, quickly, to both of us that our friendship was over.
Whilst I was upset by the ending, at least I knew there was an ending.
Which often doesn’t happen when people are cut out due to being ‘toxic’.
And this is where the problem of so-called toxic relationships lies.
With the exception of my friendships dying a natural death – and the two unfortunate instances I mentioned in Some Girls Are and The Friendship Breakup – I’ve always known of some reason as to why a friendship has ended (fortunately not very often, and never cruelly like those girls behaved).
People are often cut out for being depressed.
Depression is seen as toxic.
Can you imagine how horrific and cruel that is? I get that someone suffering from a mental illness can be challenging, but not only are you going to leave them for something they can’t control, but you’re also going to label them toxic?
Do you realise how deadly that can be?
How selfish that is?
Do you realise that that very act makes you the toxic person?
What about someone who suffers from a severe disability or illness?
One of my friends has cancer and people have abandoned her because her chemo treatments have not caused her to lose all her hair.
Some people are literally that shit.
And you can tell yourself anything you want, but that person is toxic.
Not the one with cancer, with literal toxins running through her blood.
The one who left her because of pathetic reasons.
You are the toxic person.
You know why?
Because anyone that abandons someone they supposedly love who is in need and is suffering a problem that is out of their control is toxic.
If you’re a “sunny day” friend or relative, the type of person who abandons someone the moment things get difficult, you are the toxic person.
When you cut someone out for no real reason, you are the problem.
A decent human being talks to the people they care about.
I have a friend with cancer.
If she needs bone marrow, and we’re a match, she can have mine.
I have a friend who is suffering from depression.
I’m there for him because he’s my friend. It helps that I understand depression as well, but that’s not the point. It’s not why I’m there.
I have a friend whose mother verbally and physically abused her.
No questions asked, I’m there for her. We can have the same or similar conversations over and over, and I don’t mind.
She’s my friend. I care for her.
I have a friend who, like me, suffers from severe anxiety.
He knows he can talk to me any time. And, when he needs to, he does.
Not once have I ever felt like any of these problems are a burden.
Because they’re not.
(Not that this makes me a saint – because they are the exact same: they are there for me, no matter what.)
Not once would I not ever be there for them, because I love and care for them.
They aren’t toxic.
They are real, imperfect people, who, like real and imperfect people, have problems.
And that’s okay.
I’ve had phases in my life where everything has been perfect.
And I’ve had phases where I’ve had unimaginable bad luck.
Some of the ‘drama’ or problems I’ve faced have been my own fault.
Making stupid decisions and the like.
Because I’m not perfect – no one is.
Sometimes we make stupid mistakes.
Mostly, though, any problems in my life have been caused through events I could not control or even foresee, and would not ask for.
So perhaps before you decide that “ghosting out that toxic person” is the right decision, think of why.
Are they genuinely, for real, toxic?
Are they actually taking a mental and physical toll on you, constantly and consistently? And on purpose?
Have you tried talking to them? Resolving any problems? Raising awareness to the fact that there are actually problems?
Or are you the toxic, sunny-day person who lets everyone else down when things aren’t all about you and don’t go your way?
Originally published on The Melodramatic Confessions of Carla Louise.
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