Thanks to the fabulous Miss Britney Spears I can no longer think of the word toxic without simultaneously thinking diamond-studded nude catsuit. Now I don’t know what rolling around in said catsuit has to do with a toxic relationship but it sure as hell caught the world’s attention.
When I think of toxic relationships I think more along the lines of Whitney and Bobby. Ri-Ri and Chris Brown. Paula Dean and sugar. Superman and Kryptonite.
When anyone is faced with a toxic relationship they learn a lot about themselves. They are forced to find strength within, to stand up for themselves and hopefully learn to walk away and lean on others. There are many different kinds of toxic relationships – frenemies, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends with benefits, evil stepparents, and the worse one of all – the relationship you have with yourself.
There are stages in life when those significant relationships in your life may change and the people who are more important to you at one point may be less important to you at other points. For instance, when you first come out of the womb you rely on your parents for everything. Your parents are your best friends in the entire world and you can’t wait to come home from school and tell them everything. As you grow up you become embarrassed by your parents, reply with a dismissive “Fine,” when asked how your day was and your friends slowly become the people you confide in the most. Then as you grow up the amount of friends you have may decrease in number but the value of your friendships increase in value. Once you move away from home, whether it’s for college or whatever reason, your relationship with your parents most likely changes once more. You go back to relying on them for all their wisdom and expertise. No matter who comes in and out of your life, you often learn in the end that its your family that always remains loyal and trustworthy, whether that family is biological or chosen.
When you are sick this process is kicked into high gear and you may need to weed out your toxic relationships at a quicker pace than most. After suffering from migraines for over 10 years now I have learned a lot about myself, my family and my friends. People continue to surprise me but one thing has always remained constant. No matter what I’m going through its so important to have a strong support system to fall back on. I would be nothing without mine. I know I can be difficult when I need to go to my dark, quiet place and whether that’s literally or figuratively speaking varies on the day. But when and if I need to cancel plans last-minute or turn all the lights off in the house, it’s important to have people around me who understand, get it and don’t make me feel guilty for it – that is truly priceless.
Now don’t get me wrong, not everything’s all rainbows in butterflies between my family, friends and I 24/7. It’s taken me a long time to train my support system into the lovely bunch they are today and it’s still a work in progress but here are some key tips to weeding out the bad eggs and spotting the good ones.
Toxic friends and family are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. When you are sick the last thing you need is a friend who is a bad influence, who doesn’t understand or who is going to pile on the guilt. We have enough guilt already that we put on ourselves. The last thing we need is our friends making it worse. I would love more than anything to go out and run a marathon with you. Unfortunately I can’t do any intense physical workout without my head feeling like there’s a fire inside it. I’ll be waiting at the end with a bottle of water for you though. Please don’t give me those puppy dog eyes. You want to go out and get wasted? Woo hoo. I used to love taking shots! And margaritas? My fave! But count me out. I’d rather not wake up with a 10-ton brick on top of my head thank you very much.
And no, I don’t expect you to understand how I feel. And I wouldn’t want you to either. The best thing you could do is take an interest, become educated on the subject and be understanding and empathetic. If I have to cancel plans, don’t make me feel worse than I already do. You think I want to miss out on all the “normal” things Yuppies my age should be out doing? Just go! Continue on with your plans and hopefully we can do something next time.
And please, don’t assume you have the answer to my illness or know the cause. I know you’re trying to be helpful but if it’s been 10 years don’t you think I’ve tried and researched just about everything with a lot of different doctors? After seeing neurologists, allergists, ophthalmologists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists; getting MRIs, CT scans; trying endless combinations of pills, nasal sprays, injections; doing yoga, Pilates . . . If I haven’t found a cure by now then I doubt you are going to come along and all of a sudden figure it all out. It’s just not that simple.
Now the toxic relationship I have with myself isn’t so easy to fix. I can’t just stop being friends with myself, get mad at me and phase me out for a while until we stop speaking altogether. No, the relationship I have with myself is a little more complicated than that. I need to face myself because whether I like it or not I’m stuck with me. FOREVER. dun dun dun. Queue the dramatic horror film music. This means I really need to learn to get over my own guilty conscience. Whether my friends and family understand or not, I have a tendency to feel extremely guilty for the plans cancelled and the good days ruined by my condition. However forgiving or understanding my family and friends may be, I can’t help but feel guilty and paranoid that I’ve let those around me down.
There’s also a feeling of anger and resentment that I need to let go of. My condition has hindered my abilities greatly. I’ve had to face facts that there are certain things I’m not able to do. Rather than let the anger or jealousy get the best of me I need to learn to appreciate the things I can do and live in the moment, the now.
When you’re sick it’s especially important to rid yourself of toxic relationships and only surround yourself with either people who understand what you’re going through or are able to be flexible. Think frequent rain checks. You need friends who are willing to love you through good moods, mediocre moods, appreciate happy moods and learn when to just leave you alone.
So thank you to all of my family and friends who have stuck by me through it all. In a way my condition has really been a blessing in disguise and has allowed me to find out who’s really there for me and for that I am truly grateful. You know who you are. This one’s for you.