#ToxicPeople: You Owe It To Yourself To Walk Away…Even From Friends and Family

woman-walking-away-alone

I would like to believe that I don’t have enemies, but certainly I do. I know of some of them, but others, not so much. At least not yet.

I learned a long time ago that there is at least one good thing about enemies and that is that you know exactly where you stand with them. There is not much mystery. They don’t like you and they make that abundantly clear. They don’t even pretend to like or care about you. Everything you need to know about them is put on the table. They don’t hide much.

Some may feel that that’s not necessarily a good thing, but once you’ve lived for a while, you realize just how freeing that feels to be able to identify people like that. Though you may not like them, either, there is a respect there that will always exist. You don’t have to look over your shoulder (sometimes) and wonder what’s coming next. You pretty much have a good idea and it’s not often surprising when it happens.

However, it’s not our enemies that we have to worry about. It’s those who disguise themselves as our friends and family.

Whatever the case, they can all be placed in the “toxic” category.

Even though both your enemies and friends/family can be considered as toxic, again, this isn’t as much of a concern with your enemies. You pretty much know what to expect from them. If you’re a sports fan, think of it like this. When you take the field/court against another team, you know that’s the team you’re trying to beat. There’s not much of a shock when they do everything they can to attempt to beat you as well.

However, it’s when those on your own team try to beat you…that’s when you’re caught by surprise. That’s a much stronger toxic feeling. You’ve been brought up to believe this is NOT supposed to happen.

Yet, here you are.

Toxic is not just when someone makes you feel bad. My wife and I will reach our 17th anniversary in two weeks. We’ve made each other feel bad many times. But neither of us is “toxic” toward the other.

It’s when that person just constantly brings you down to a level that could almost ruin your entire day. The thought of them just makes you unhappy. You do whatever you can to avoid them. You feel like you have to deal with them even when you very clearly have the option not to. You very seldom feel good after interacting with them.

Of course, your enemies can make you feel this way. But you already know that going in. However, you don’t always expect it from your friends and family.

There’s this belief that we have an obligation to certain friends and our family. Everyone has their definition of each of these. People love to throw around the world “loyalty” and accuse anyone and everyone of not displaying it. But as for that obligation, just the title of “friend” or “family” is enough to make people believe you owe something to them.

But remember this…YOU DON’T.

There is absolutely nothing that says we have an obligation to friends or even family. Obviously if you have a spouse and/or children, that’s not what I’m referring to. It’s those who don’t necessarily rely on you for support of some kind. It’s that childhood friend or that family member who may live some place different from you.

Sometimes, it may be hard to detect when people become toxic. Yes, there’s what I said above, but it’s not that difficult to feel somewhat obligated to your friends and family. With friends, especially if you’ve known them for a good while…it can be very easy to get sucked in.

Let me give an example. Last year, I ended a relationship with a very toxic childhood friend of mine. We’ve known each other for close to 25 years. There were the ups and downs, but nothing too serious. At least until a few years ago.

I am looking to become a professional screenwriter. This caused my former friend to get very jealous and she made this very evident.

Without putting everything out there, she’s suffering from a medical condition. It was a major setback, but something she can definitely recover from and eventually live a somewhat normal life. This was devastating to hear, but we’ve had conversations on the phone on many occasions and sometimes for two hours at a time. The more we talked, the more confident I felt that she would be fine. It really bothered me that she said people would tell her that she may as well just “give it up” because this condition was something that would just “ruin her life.” I spent a lot of that time trying to encourage her as best as I could and let her know that her life is not even close to being “over.” I even gave her a list of notable people who once suffered the same condition or still are, and are living completely normal lives now. So I made sure she understood that it wasn’t impossible to get there.

Most of the time, I felt pretty good getting off the phone with her. However, before I began this journey toward becoming a professional screenwriter, I wrote books.

Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to ever talk about them.

I self-published these three books, so I didn’t really even consider that as “successful.” The successful part was merely the fact that I finished them, since many talk about writing books, but never actually finish them. But I have yet to have a book published through a traditional publisher.

Among MANY signs, a big one in the beginning was when a friend of hers (I believe she was drunk at the time) commented to me on a mutual page that we all followed to say that I am being “high and mighty” and that I thought of myself as “Mr. Successful” because of my books.

This confused me, because I had never mentioned to the friend, nor ever on that page that I had written any books. The only person who knew was my childhood friend. On top of that, my former friend would constantly compliment me and praise me whenever I would talk about writing on my Facebook page. Yeah, she laid it on a little thick at times to where it started to sound forced. But if I am to believe that she really did feel those ways, how would this friend who I never mentioned my books to even think to bring that up? The topic was a football team we all are fans of. So when they disagreed with something I said, this came out of nowhere.

To summarize, the only way this other friend would know enough to feel that I was being “high and mighty” was if my former friend expressed it to her in that manner. It wasn’t as if I spoke to this other friend all the time and she drew that conclusion herself. Again, I NEVER mentioned it to her, nor on this page that we all followed. So to have that kind of strong opinion led me to believe it was largely the opinion my former childhood friend, despite what she would tell me.

Again, MANY other signs were there. But because we had been friends for so long, I forced myself to overlook them. Maybe it was just me, I thought..MANY times.

The last straw came last year when my former childhood friend’s spouse decided to contact me through Facebook messenger to berate me for not checking up on my former friend when she was in the hospital. I was blown away, because I had no idea she was even in there. Her spouse let me know after she was already out.

I asked her spouse (after asking how my former friend was doing) how in the world I was supposed to know she was in the hospital when neither of them ever personally contacted me. They both have my cell phone number. Her spouse responded to say that it was posted on Facebook.

Yes…seriously. It was posted on Facebook and this woman is fussing at me because I didn’t look at it. Sorry for having a busy life and not sitting on Facebook all day and night.

I let her know this, but also that if she could contact me at THAT point to tell me my former friend was out of the hospital, why couldn’t she had done that in the beginning. At that point, she gave me a “lesson” on how to set Facebook up so that the “important” statuses show up at the top of my timeline.

I couldn’t believe I was seriously having this conversation. Rather than just CALLING ME or even texting to tell me, no…I was supposed to set my Facebook up in such a way that ONLY my former childhood friend’s statuses (when she goes to the hospital) would show up first. As if none of my other friends have important events going on in THEIR lives. To say the least, this was extremely laughable.

At this point, my patience was gone. I told her that I don’t have time to sit on Facebook all day as they did. That’s when she proceeded to practically call me everything but a child of God…which led me to very quickly realize that she had been waiting to say all those things and just needed what she felt was a good enough excuse. She brought up things that had NOTHING to do with our conversation and of course, my screenwriting came up.

I let my former childhood friend know about all this (not that I was stupid and figured she didn’t already know) and her response told me very clearly that this was all her doing. That was when I said I was done. I had enough.

Needless to say, she had her spouse and a few other friends attack me some more, painting my former childhood friend as the victim. But again, these other people said things and had certain reactions that they could not possibly have without my former friend’s input. Once more, it wasn’t as if I talked to them all the time for them to draw their own conclusions. And if my former friend said, about me, the same nice things to them as she told me, with them not knowing for themselves, why would they turn those nice statements into the berating that came out of their mouths if my former friend had little to do with it?

But for a long time, my former friend was very toxic. I had all the patience in the world because of her condition, but I largely felt somewhat obligated because we had been friends for so long. And oh, of course…I got the classic response that once I “became big” as a screenwriter (which doesn’t often happen), that I “better not forget where I came from” and “those who knew me when I wasn’t anybody.” Please.

This is the kind of thing toxic people do and I’m sure there are MANY other examples out there. It’s pathetic that people would behave this way, but it also saddens me that those who are treated in similar ways feel that they have no choice but to remain there. The guilt trips, the insults…it never stops. It didn’t with my former childhood friend.

By the way, there is a professional actress I would absolutely LOVE to meet one day. A friend of my former friend decided that she was attempt to contact this actress and encourage her to never work with me. Not that I’m overly concerned this actress would actually entertain this, but as the expression goes, “Well that escalated quickly.” It reached that point way too quickly  for it not to have been premeditated.

As for you…PLEASE don’t feel like you owe anyone anything. Toxic people are called toxic for a reason. They are NOT good for you. Again, it’s not just a few instances of being made to feel a little bad. It gets down deep. You’re always just dreading dealing with them. Toxic people will always attempt to make you feel guilty or as though you owe them something, just as my former friend did. But you don’t. It’s that simple.

You owe it to yourself to cut those people loose. It’s okay to walk away from that. In my case, yes, it hurt me that our friendship ended, but I feel a lot more free now than I did before all this happened. Among my last texts to her was “I love you, but I just can’t do this anymore.” And this was BEFORE she had her friend attempt to contact this actress.

Toxic people can drag you down in a such a way that is just draining and exhausting, and you deserve much better than that. Don’t always expect that only your enemies can be toxic.

Especially when you’re in a situation like I am in that I’m attempting to do something that could turn out to be VERY big. I’m looking to accomplish a huge dream of mine. This will NOT make a lot of folks happy. I’m sure if my former childhood friend of nearly 25 years felt this way, then it would be nothing for someone I knew for less time to feel the same or even more.

I’m not saying to have your guard up and to never trust anyone. But be mindful of your friends and family. Because many times, these are who the toxic people come to be.

It’s just like if you have a house with a lot of nice things in it. If a burglar broke in, you know exactly what they’re there for.

But does that mean people within your family couldn’t steal from you as well?

 

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