I sighed audibly as I put down my phone and thought, “Here we go again.”
I tried to move on with my day, but I found myself with thoughts circling around in my head, thoughts that are accompanied by some pretty complicated feelings. Sadness, guilt, irritation, panic and anger to name a few.
For a while now, I have been part of a relationship that has slowly become unhealthy for me. It started with some one-off situations and I was compelled to do what friends should do for one another. I rose to the occasion. I supported. I helped. I made excuses. I avoided. Before I realized what was happening, the calls for help were coming rapid fire and it was more than I had the mental and physical capacity to handle.
Toxic relationships are not black and white. I love this person and I want this person to be happy and healthy. I want to be a good friend. However, I have reached my capacity. I simply can’t anymore. I can’t prioritize her health over my own. I can’t prioritize her children and family over my own. I can’t continually put my right to be healthy and happy behind hers simply because her needs are louder than mine.
It has become very clear to me that just because I understand the WHY behind the way she is, I don’t need to be okay with what it does to my own well being.
So this is where is gets tricky. I realize I can not be the answer for this person. I realize that I can be a friend without being the scaffolding that holds up the house… although I am still figuring out what that looks like exactly. I also know that I am allowed to protect myself, which in this case means distance and boundaries. But, the guilt… oh the guilt.
When I picked up my phone the other day, I immediately spiraled back into this darker place where I have been hiding for a while when it comes to this particular relationship. I felt resentment and then guilt for that resentment because I can’t shake the feeling that it means I am an awful friend and an awful person. I felt hurt because I have lost a friend who once actually knew and cared about my life. I felt tired because this song and dance is one that has been part of my daily life for years now. I then asked myself all of the hard questions I regularly default to in challenging myself in my decision to maintain a protective distance from this relationship.
And in the end, I put my phone away. Which I know is the right decision.
Toxic relationships come in many forms. Addiction, abuse, mental illness, even insecurities and egocentrism can cause toxic relationships. I don’t know why it’s so hard for many of us to feel empowered to prioritize and cherish ourselves in this world, but it is. I don’t have all the answers and the jury is still out on whether or not I will be able to maintain any semblance of a relationship with this person in the future. But, I know this…
It’s okay to say no.
It’s okay to set boundaries.
It’s okay to protect yourself.
And it’s definitely okay to choose you. Your health, your happiness, your family.