Now, have you ever had a toxic friendship? Bit of a shocker of a question, I know. Hope you’re still relaxed.
Toxic friendships are the feeling of suffocating under the extreme duress of caring for somebody who is socially draining you. Now you may be thinking, nope! This doesn’t apply to me, I’m perfectly contented with the people who are in my life, I love my school or my job, my group of friends, my boyfriend or girlfriend. Everything couldn’t be better, and if so, that’s great!
But, ask yourself, has it always been this way? Think about how many friend groups you have had to go through from now to get to this point in your life, so many petty fights you had with this girl over this boy because she said he said this and he said she said that, or your best friend you’ve known since primary school moved away to Dublin and now you don’t see them anymore, and when you text them every few weeks or so to see how they’re doing the responses are short and uninterested. This is all part of growing up, discovering who is meant to be in your life and who is meant to simply teach you a lesson in what people you need in your life to meet your ultimate potential, no matter how painful the method.
Because life isn’t as black and white as I sometimes wish, it’s grey. If you read my first article, you might remember me saying that I have social anxiety and once suffered from a heavy bout of depression. During this, I would often lock myself in my room and play video games for days on end (which I can’t honestly say I fully regret because it was pretty fun) and a game I would sometimes play was the sims. If you’ve ever played the sims you know that when having a conversation with another sim, little pluses appear above their heads when they like you and minuses appear when they don’t. I would always panic when sims my sim was talking to lost friendship points with them, as if this was the worst thing to happen that a computer generated bunch of pixels didn’t like me!
And I often find myself feeling the exact same way with people in real life, constantly questioning myself on whether they like me and hoping that I wouldn’t mention something accidentally horrible like saying “I would love a pet cat!” and them welling up in tears and telling me “My entire family was murdered by a group of cats recently.”, so dearly wishing that those little pluses and minuses could be displayed on the tops of their heads so I can know exactly how they feel.
But if life actually was like that, would it be worth it?
You’d always know exactly what to say and exactly what to do and you’d never reach out of your comfort zone, instead always choosing the right option. You’d never learn what not to say to people, or what characteristics and values you need in any given relationship with a person or what aspects of yourself you need to work on.
You’d never be yourself, you’d just be what they wanted you to be, which means that they’re not friends with who you really are, they’re friends with who they want you to be, which isn’t actually you.
So what happens when you find someone who does like you? Accepts all your flaws, your quirks, shares the same morals and ethics. It’s great, you talk almost every day, you introduce them to your other friends and go to sleepovers at their house and maybe even keep their streaks when they’re going off to their granny’s for the weekend, perhaps the relationship develops even further and you graduate to best friends or even date each other- you couldn’t be any happier, your apprehensions on whether this person may like you melt away, and you’d trust them with almost anything.
But wait, things have started to get a little bit stressful. Your friend is jealous that you spent the weekend hanging out with someone else instead of them, even though they were busy then and you were really only in the mood to talk to that other person on that day and didn’t really think much of it. You still don’t, brushing it off by way of apology and assuring them you’ll include them next time.
But they simply won’t let go of this, and have now made a point of complaining about how little time and attention you spend with them nowadays, and how ostracised they feel by you and your friends despite how hard you try to involve them with everything. But it seems as if they just want you all to themselves, jealously clinging to you and verbally attacking you whenever you talk about or pay attention to one of your other friends for too long without including them.
But wait, now they’re trying to change you, making snide remarks at how you act and telling you you’re annoying them with the smallest of things like talking too loud or walking too fast. This makes you self conscious, and so you check yourself and try change these benign things that annoy them so, after all they’re just looking out for you and if they think these things need changing, they obviously do, they’re one of the most important people in your life, you can barely even comprehend the idea of living without them.
Subconsciously you’ve started to withdraw from your other friends, because you feel guilty when you’re around them as it makes your other friend jealous and leads to a spiral of complaining and fighting, and you can’t be selfish. This person needs you, as you need them. You can’t leave them, they mean too much. But they’re so emotional, you want to help them, you want to be there for them, maybe their insecurities are part of a greater issue, maybe they need mental help.
You’re really worried, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells every time you talk to them and even though they are still an amazing person to you, a part of you simply can’t deal with them anymore. You even feel physically sick sometimes, your concentration has worsened and they’re all you can think about now. But you can’t cut them off, they mean so much.
They mean too much.
For this dependence goes both ways, they are toxic to your mental health state and yet you constantly take them back because deep down you know the person you grew so close to is still in there and you couldn’t bear to part with them. And yet, you’re still so stressed.
And that doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means that right now, they’re probably doing you more harm than good, and as painful and unimaginable as it may seem, you may want to talk about this with them or even put your relationship on pause, for it is not selfish to need to put yourself first. This person may need help, and though obviously you still deeply care for them and hope so profoundly that they get this help, but it is not your problem to solve.
And this is not your fault, this is simply a part of growing up. You need to be happy, for you mean too much. You must surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up instead of bringing you down, and sometimes the nicest thing you can do to a person and to yourself, is to accept that you need a break, and never change yourself for someone else. Love, Skye