Toxic People continued…

Continued from yesterday…

Hmmm… What had been going on with me?

My therapist was dismayed to learn that my living conditions at home hadn’t improved, but relieved to hear I at least refused to stay there, and had gone elsewhere for the winter months. She asked how I was settling into city life again, and how I’d been spending my time. I told her that I still hadn’t gotten my license back, and couldn’t walk anywhere because the weather had been so bad; so other than a few times I’d broke down and called friends for a ride, I spent most of my waking hours sitting in the basement watching tv (where I’d set up a temporary bedroom for myself by laying a cot on the floor). When she asked why, I told her it was simply easier that way. The other occupants of the house seemed to always be asleep (The one worked a long, second shift and usually slept till about noon. The other awoke in the morning, stayed up for a couple of hours, and then laid back down. Not long after the one would go to work in the afternoon, the other would lay back down again for a few hours, so I felt like I was residing in a nursing home and had to walk silently on eggshells. It was just better to stay downstairs, out of the way, and not interrupt anyone’s life. I told her when I had tried to interact more I was made to feel incredibly unwelcome.

I knew it was not completely intentional. This person has a touch of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which she fails to acknowledge, therefore it never gets treated, and she’s a virtual prisoner to it. I understand that, but being swept up in it myself and made to succumb to it to appease her, became exhausting. I was forever having to remember little details like: Unplugging things, removing the knobs from the stove, shutting off water to the washing machine, locking doors behind me, etc. I became weary of it quickly and her phobias pushed my nerves to the edge. When I would forget I would be made to feel like an idiot or thoughtless for not remembering. It was these things and the constant gossip that drove me to the basement. I was finding that her need to constantly talk about others behind their backs was starting to involve me. Several had become privy to her gossip of them, and I too was being held responsible and somewhat of a participant in it merely by association. And then there was the heartfelt talks we had, and how at first she seemed so supportive, but then began using the phrase “Well that’s just stupid!” nearly every time I had an opinion on something, cited something I thought might help me better myself, or just talked about dreams I had for my future. It was because of all these things that I knew something was wrong. But torn just the same whether to continue staying there or go home and live in unbearable conditions for another winter. I began to think the easiest way out would just be to end it, and then I would have no more worries.

Yes, my therapist recognized there was a problem in this relationship. As I confided in her she began to make me realize how unhealthy it was, and how it had been for some time. This person had become the parrot on my shoulder always speaking for me. What appeared to others to be such a close relationship was nothing more than my being a puppet and her pulling the strings. She had inserted herself into my life and business by being the one to get me to my counseling appointments, talking to a lawyer about a divorce, etc. She had begun to influence the way I felt about certain people, my marriage, and myself. Her constant criticism of others and un-forgiveness spilled over into my life and I was becoming as bitter and judgmental as she was. I felt trapped, was sinking deeper into despair, and didn’t trust my own judgment anymore. Was it her? Was it I? Was I reading more into her actions than was really there? Shouldn’t I be more grateful for her being there for me and put my other feelings aside?

Ahhh…gratitude. It is the neck that turns the head. My guilt at not wanting to appear ungrateful, unappreciative, or come across as thoughtless, allowed me to tolerate more than I should’ve for much longer than my mind could stand. When I finally realized I didn’t have to anymore, it was a moment of powerful enlightenment. It came the day my therapist looked across the desk at me and told me I was allowed to go home. It wasn’t something she preferred—given how I would have to live for the next couple months till the cold-spell was over—but if that was my only other alternative; then to save myself it was the better of the two. I did not ‘owe’ this person gratitude for something she’d offered, and certainly did not have to pay for it with my sanity.

If you’re reading this and are in such a situation…Repeat after me: “It doesn’t matter what anyone does for me (They have the choice to say ‘No!’). It doesn’t entitle them to force their opinion on me, mean I have to take their advice, give them a right to share intimate details of my life with others, or make me feel I ‘owe’ them anything.”

Breaking old habits is tough. Saying goodbye to someone you love is even tougher. Our relationship had begun to be strained. The more I began to pull away, the more I felt I was being punished for it. Talk had been getting back to me on how she was sharing details of my personal life with everyone, including complete strangers, and how she was spouting off on how much she’d been ‘doing’ for me. Doing for me? Other than rides to and from appointments, I didn’t see where she’d been ‘doing’ much of anything for me. I made sure I had my own personal items (shampoo, body wash, etc) so I wouldn’t have to use hers. Bought my own detergent so she wouldn’t be responsible. I insisted on doing the laundry and cooking for all of us to try and earn my keep (and did, when she wouldn’t try and get a hand in to take control of that). I spent 90% of my time downstairs; never entertained guests at the house, didn’t make noise, and tidied up after myself. What exactly had she been doing for me? Other than the fact that she’d let me borrow $150 dollars for my vacation earlier in the year—and was more than compensated for that, as I gave her my wedding set and other jewelry totaling $3000 as collateral on the loan—what did she hold bragging rights too? When I got wind of this the arguments started, feelings began to be hurt, and it made it that much easier to go. My therapist had already told me that it wasn’t enough to go home, but I needed to, and should, put some distance between us to take my life back. I left that house with a heavy heart, but at least I was no longer battling my conscience.

I was reminded of this and decided to write about it for two reasons. (1) I spoke with this person a couple days ago. (2) She hadn’t changed and I found myself being sucked right back into the sickness. Part of it was my fault. It was probably not the best day for me to be contacted by her given the mood I was already in, I made a comment I shouldn’t have that opened the door, and when she asked me for information I was all too happy to oblige her. I quickly regretted it. Even now I find it hard not to get ‘sucked in’ while in conversation with this person. She has a way of needling information out of me; things I would rather she not know. Once she has access to it, she winds me up, gets me breathless with emotion, and then twists everything around. I’ve learned my safest bet is to make conversations, if any, short, and direct her attention elsewhere when the subject becomes about me or someone else. This day my head was apparently on crooked or something!

I know that people probably think if a person is like that then the decision to leave them alone should be an easy one, and wonder why I haven’t cut ties completely. What if this person is immediate family? What if you believe that despite what they’ve done, they truly are ‘good and loving’ deep down? What if you think their actions are less intentional as they are compulsive, and they almost can’t help themselves? I believe for many having a toxic personality is as much a mental illness as my depression and panic disorder. The only fault they should accept is that they didn’t seek help when it was brought to their attention how destructive their behavior was becoming to themselves and others. Knowing this I’ve tried not to sever ties completely, have kept myself available, but walk a fine line in how much contact I have. This is difficult at times, but the only rational solution I can find in this predicament. I do in fact, love her, and I believe understand her in a way maybe many others never will. I pray whatever misery in her life that triggered this condition she’ll finally make peace with. I pray that the same thing isn’t going to happen to me.

My anger is consuming me. I try to let go of it, move away from it, but after just a few steps find myself stumbling back. I’m trying desperately to get past it, but can’t. The excruciating pain kidnapped me from my own life, and now anger is holding me hostage. It refuses to let me feel anything else. How do you make yourself experience pain that you know will allow you to finally make peace with something and move on, when your mind is working overtime to convince you that you’re not capable of handling it? How do you stop yourself from becoming ‘Toxic’ in it’s wake?