It's Okay to Walk Away
We've all seen those inspirational quotes on social media telling us it's okay to walk away from toxic people. But reading a pretty meme on the internet, and incorporating it into our actual lives, are two totally separate entities.
Most of us have experienced toxicity in our lives in some form or another, may it be from an ex, co-workers, etc. But what happens when that toxic person, or people, is/are family? It sure makes it a lot harder to walk away. Worse, it makes it feel not okay to walk away.
I'm here to tell you that I'm a victim of toxicity from family members we'll call Barbie and Ken. The stress Barbie and Ken caused not only affected me, but poisoned my husband and children as well. I had allowed Barbie and Ken to turn me into a stressed-out monster who was a raving b*tch to be around. The strain caused me to give my husband the silent treatment, folding into myself as a protection against Barbie's and Ken's causal cruelty. I would snap at my daughters because their cheerful presence invaded my constant state of misery. This wasn't fair to my family, and it wasn't fair to me. That toxicity was destroying all the good in my world, and I felt powerless to take back my happiness.
See, that's the problem when toxic people are family members. We allow ourselves to feel guilty for wanting to cut ties and walk away. But make no mistake, toxic people are usually master manipulators, **gaslighting** those around them. It's their weapon, and they wield it with deadly precision.
Am I exaggerating the situation? Am I the one who is wrong? Am I the problem?
Stop second guessing yourself. No, you are not exaggerating the situation. No, you are not the one who is wrong. No, you are not the problem.
The very nature of you questioning yourself should tell you something about your character. Toxic people are usually self-righteous, self-important, and never second-guess their behavior because they don't care who is hurt by their behavior. And if you fight back against that toxic behavior, that's when the real gaslighting happens. Toxic people take the position of victim, placing all blame on the person, or people, they hurt. I've seen this happen to friends who were in the same situation as me because that's the nature of toxic people.
Toxic people, while gaining sympathy for themselves, have a talent for making the actual victims of their poisonous behavior look like giant pieces of sh*t.
My breaking point came in July 2015. Barbie and Ken did something so grievous, it left Frankie and I scrambling to pick up the pieces. We would have forgiven them and moved past that situation if they had taken responsibility for their actions and had showed even a hint of remorse. That didn't happen. Instead, they doubled down on the blame-game and gaslighted the hell out of us.
After months of very limited communication with Barbie and Ken, I let them back in to my life against my better judgement. It didn't last long. Their behavior hadn't changed. They were still unrepentant and still gaslighting us. I hadn't expected them to change, but I had foolishly believed I could adjust my reaction to their behavior. I was dangerously wrong. Immediately, I was back to being constantly stressed. My hair began to fall out in clumps. I gained 10 pounds (I stress eat like I have four a**holes). I was in a chronic rotten mood. I started getting panic attacks every day, all day. And one afternoon when the strain really caught up with me, I fainted right in the middle of my living room.
That's not a healthy way to live.
I had been locked in that toxic relationship for what felt like forever, stuck in a volatile cycle of fighting and drama. There were times over the years when I'd temporarily walk away. Give myself a detox period, so to speak. That inevitable phone call would come, of course, and I'd allow myself to be sucked back into that awful cycle of toxicity and become some angry stranger who had no place in We Us Four. I said terrible things to Barbie and Ken that I later came to regret. I behaved like an animal and it left me ashamed of myself. Finally, I had to be a wrench in the gears to stop the vicious wheel of toxicity from turning and find the strength to say, out loud and with finality, "I'm done. You need to leave me alone. Please, oh god, please just leave me alone".
So, I sit here from a place of experience to tell anyone caught in a web of toxicity that it's okay to walk away. I've been where you are. I know what you're going through. And it sucks. But don't let yourself be gaslighted. You don't deserve to be hurt. You owe it to yourself, and the people who love you - who truly love you - to be happy and cut that toxicity out of your life.
Life is too damn short. If someone doesn't love you enough not to hurt you, you need to love yourself enough to walk away.
**Gaslighting: To manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.**