Being the Toxic Person Part 1
I realized two weeks or so ago that I am a toxic person.
No, scratch that.
I am that toxic person that the Facebook memes always tell you to get rid of from your life.
Here’s the thing. I’ve spent two weeks trying to write this out and each time, it’s all somber and morose and depressing. Because when one realizes that one is a horrid individual, one feels like the tone of one’s writing should reflect the seriousness of it all. And yet, each time I’d look over it and edit it, it felt so wrong and not saying what needed to be said. Not that this is terribly well-written, just more real.
Trust me though. As flippant as I might sound right now, I was feeling zero flippancy when the realization hit me. I began shaking and unable to breathe and then I just crumbled down as the tears started. Have no fear, I have spent plenty of time struggling with this realization. And in fact, I can feel my breath hitching even while trying to write with humor.
I am the toxic person people are ridding from their lives. Yes, I am.
What happened was I was in my closet, about to change into my pjs, and I pulled my phone out to see if a friend had texted yet. And as I stared at the screen showing no new texts, I felt sad and confused. See, this friend and I had had a misunderstanding a few days prior and I kept checking my phone to see if she’d finally decided to respond to my last text…of three days before.
You know how you have those epiphanies, where suddenly you can see the big picture and you wonder how on earth you never saw it before? It kind of washed over me, and suddenly I saw the big picture of this “misunderstanding.”
It wasn’t a misunderstanding at all. I saw the weeks leading up to said moment and saw my words and actions. And it hit me, and hit me hard, that I had been purposely, yet subconsciously, harming this friend. No, not physically, but this was probably worse.
I don’t want to share with you what I did because, even as I’m typing this, I feel my chest tightening up with shame. But I can tell you that over the course of several weeks, I had been creating fractures in her marriage and her world in general, where there had been none or perhaps there had been the tiniest of cracks.
I say “subconsciously” because, until that moment in my closet, I don’t think I thought anything other than she wasn’t completely happy and therefore, I had someone to keep me company. And, looking back, I don’t think I realized I was getting joy out of bringing her down…it was a muted satisfaction, I guess. All I think I knew, all these weeks, was that her misery made me feel…not alone.
But why would I do such a thing? I didn’t have to search too deep to figure this one out. I’m an angry person inside and have been for years. If you’ve read my stuff, you know that my husband is addicted to his pain and his pain meds and for years, everything in our household has been dictated by this. And yet, as each month went by, I did nothing to resolve the situation because I was in classic denial over the addiction and I made an excellent enabler (this comes from these past two weeks of suddenly having my eyes more open than ever before). And as the years floated by, the anger simply became who I am inside.
But to be honest, I thought I was passing as a slightly-unhappy-yet-still-a-decent-person person to the general public and my family and friends. You know, the kind of person who just laughs it off or rolls her eyes as she presses on through the tough times.
And I’m guessing I was able to pull that off for a while. But now I look back over the past year in particular, and see the amount of friends I have lost, through no fault of theirs.
Not that I purposely destroyed other friendships; no, that was apparently just a special moment in Jill’s descent into pure toxicity. But looking over the past year, I realize I was that toxic person that people slowly began eliminating.
Don’t “now, now, I’m sure not” me. You’ve done it too, just as I have. Friends get tired of being around a Debbie Downer and I’m pretty sure I was that and worse. It’s hard to be around a person whose laughter is tainted with constant bitterness. Or who responds with “eh not great” when asked “how are you?” Or who appears weighed down with a constant humming of anger. Or perhaps seems always on the verge of exploding. Yes, I’m sure I have been tons of fun.
Yes, I know if they were true friends, they’d still be with me today. But stop for a moment and think about why the “get rid of the toxic people in your life” meme is a legitimate thing. Supposedly, we are, or we become like, our five closest friends or family members, because when you spend enough time around someone, you begin to model them and they you. So if you follow that logic, when a friend goes bitter over a long period of time, it will rub off on you. Like it’s contagious. Think about how when you have a girls’ night and one of the girls begins bitching about the husband. Don’t the rest of you add your two cents in, out of commiseration? And maybe it’s just banter, the husband-bashing, but if it were to continue over a period of time, it becomes more and more intense and maybe you begin nitpicking on things that had never been an issue before.
Then it holds true that if you hang around an angry, bitter person too long, you will “catch the disease” that haunts them. How many of you have gone through a divorce? Now tell me how many people shrank away from you while that was happening, as if listening to you could possibly infect their marriage? I will unhappily admit that I’ve done that, not consciously, but in a “I feel bad for you, but you are depressing the hell out of me with your divorcing stories of horror.” And a lowkey feeling that if I heard too many reasons for the divorce, I might start thinking that way too.
Friends can get tired of watching someone cry over something and yet not do anything to rectify the situation. I can now raise my hand and say I’ve been on both sides of this scenario. You watch your friend make the same choices (helping him get meds, anyone?) and listen to the same tears (he went through his meds too fast again and now he’s detoxing and it’s awful…). And at some point, you get irritated that they can’t get out of this situation and you begin to distance yourself.
I logically know these things to be true. But Holy Toxic Cesspool, Batman, it still hurts to find yourself becoming more and more isolated. Which, hilariously enough, is just breeding grounds for more toxic behavior since you have no one to counter it with.
Get rid of the toxic people in your life. Or else, they will bring you down with them.
I guess I finally hit that lowest of low points in life, where I felt so desperate for anything that made me feel okay that I did the unthinkable. It seems I wanted someone to feel pain the way I’m feeling it. I was encouraging thoughts and words and actions that was keeping this friend in my world of unhappiness and had she kept texting me, who knows if I would have permanently kept her with me?
But she never did text back. Maybe she finally realized that her problems weren’t really problems so much as they were ME causing her problems.
That day, in the closet, just shook me to my core. And I realized something had to change. Something in my surroundings had to change, so I could fix the stewing anger inside me. Because this person I had become, this person who not just damaged a close friendship, but nearly destroyed this friend’s world, this person is not the person I want to be.
I can’t be the toxic person people get rid of anymore.
I made a decision after finally settling my breathing and tears down. I finally was able to do what should have been done probably years ago before the years constructed this hardened anger inside me.
I told my husband he needed to leave. And that story is Part 2.