Here is the 3rd and final installment of this piece that I wrote on toxic friendships. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment and I will try my best to at least say a "hello"! Same as before; I have added the note from the first piece of this blog about a term that may be used in this section.
During my toxic friendships I was already going through depression and one thing that I wasn’t even aware that I had; severe anxiety. With depression it was easy to work out that that is what I had as I had memories of being happy (no matter how long ago that was) but I had no memories of not feeling so wound up and anxious at the slightest thing so therefore it was normal for me to feel that way. I now know at 25 that it’s not normal to constantly feel this way but for all my life I just thought it was something that everyone felt and couldn’t understand why other people weren’t as fazed by things as I was. In the last couple of years I’ve also discovered that I am an introvert which means that I like keeping to myself. I like being alone and will often be found in my room or somewhere by myself where I can write, read and listen to music in a safe environment where no one will bother me. I need time to recharge when I (do occasionally) put myself in social situations and I stay away from people who seem angry in case it is my fault. I’m not sure, however, if this is how I’ve always been or if a mix of anxiety, depression, toxic friendships and bullying has made me so. Maybe I’ve always been this way (I mentioned above that I’ve always had anxiety – especially social anxiety) and the aforementioned reasons have made me worse.
I’ve mentioned the emotion con-artist before so let’s focus on her, shall we? A lot of her toxicity was revolved around making me feel guilty or like I was a bad friend yet she had no qualms with being a hypocrite to this notion. Let’s say I wanted to go out but she didn’t feel like it. I’d stay in because she would make me feel guilty for wanting to do something or she wouldn’t want to go because she had something “better” planned. If I didn’t want to go out, and quite frankly most of the time couldn’t because I would end up having a breakdown (but only once she had left mind you), because I was too anxious, depressed or even physically ill she would make me feel guilty for not wanting to make her happy. I was, and still am, too nice of a person to not put others first and because she was my only friend at the time I felt like I had to please her all of the time to get her to want to hang out of me. I guess it’s kind of like trying to get in with the popular crowd in school except it was out of sheer loneliness and not to be a social climber or to feel like I fit in. She would say things to other people that she would sometimes force me to hang out with to make them dislike me (one went as far as to send me virus on my computer because she was pissed off that said friend because she dared to prefer to hang out with me instead of her. She was more my friend out of convenience a lot of the time. My home provided a safe place for her and my parents let us drink (it’s legal here for minors to drink at home when accompanied by an adult) and make as much noise as we wanted (within reason – loud music cut off time was 10pm) purely because I had gone so long without having a friend that even they were trying to keep her happy so that she wouldn’t leave me friendless.
When I grew out of the volunteer post we both did she would guilt me into going so that she wouldn’t be left without a friend even though it was making me miserable. I didn’t enjoy it anymore and I didn’t know if it was 1 of 3 things; a) the pressure to go every week from her, b) I felt like I was being left out of leading a lot of activities or c) the depression. I needed time to work out whether I had purely just grown out of it and had felt like I had “done my time” or if it was to do with certain people that I was interacting with. However; if she didn’t want to go then I’d have to stay behind with her because she would decide at the last minute not to go even though she had made the 20 minute drive (or one of her family members had) to get to my house. She invited herself over a lot and whilst I was glad for the company because as an introvert I needed time to myself, I was getting irritated from not having my own space anymore. My safe place kept getting invaded and I felt like I always had to keep on top of things (OCD alert) so that she had no reason to tell other people that my room was messy. I was so consumed by keeping things neat and tidy in order to please her that when she was over I was getting even more frustrated when things were out of place or if she took up an entire counter top for her makeup, got foundation marks on my walls or if she dared to get into bed without taking her makeup off because I didn’t want it staining my covers. I was trying so hard to be perfect to keep my only friend that I was too exhausted and mentally drained to put up with her.
If we made plans to meet somewhere (town, for example, as it was the mid-point between our homes as we lived in different villages) I would arrive at our arranged meeting point only to be told that she wasn’t going to be there because she “couldn’t be bothered” (this was code for “I’ve made other plans” – Facebook is great for some light detective work as was Bebo back in the day). This is was all despite her reassuring me not even five minutes before that she was on her way and already on the bus.
If we were to be having a girls’ day for just the two of us (and she actually turned up) I would find us being ambushed by her boyfriend who she had conveniently forgotten to mention was meeting up with us and therefore making me the third-wheel no matter how much he tried to make me feel included when she didn’t. It was extremely awkward and honestly made me feel like even more of an outsider and even more depressed. There had been no point in me being there at all except to chaperone her from one place to another so she wouldn’t have to do it herself. I didn’t begrudge her having a boyfriend and there wasn’t anything to be jealous of; I was just mad because I got pushed aside for someone “better” all the time (she did this with inviting her friends as well and not telling me) and I always felt like I was never good enough for her unless she needed something. A lot of the time it felt like she was rubbing it in my face that she had friends when she was the reason why I didn’t have any bar her. It’s like she enjoyed having that much control over my life and looking back that’s probably because she didn’t have much control over her own. Still; there is no excuse for that kind of psychological torture.
I was constantly stood up, owed money to (as were my parents so she would go places with me/us) and made to feel bad for being ill.
If she needed me I was there. When she got ill I stayed with her until she got better (this could be days or weeks) so that she wouldn’t be alone and so she had someone with her if she needed to go to hospital or to the emergency clinic. I should mention that anything medical makes me feel physically ill to the point where I pass out just at the thought of going to the doctor’s for a regular check-up.
She practically lived at my house – I couldn’t move for all her things and she even had her own wardrobe space, drawers and toothbrush. I constantly lived in her shadow. If I joined a group she would too. It’s nice in theory to have someone you know with you in a new situation but I didn’t have anything that was solely my own and if I wanted to join something she did, she would say no to the idea. I couldn’t speak up about it either as I would get the “why don’t you want to hang out with me” guilt trip. If I didn’t reply to her texts or instant messages within seconds of them being sent I was questioned about why I “wasn’t speaking” to her when it was just a case of me simply being out of the room or the message hadn’t come through to my phone.
She could be quite possessive and hated sharing me with any friends I made without her to the point where I lost out of hanging out with new people because she made me feel bad for wanting to go five minutes without her. She would always try to “one-up” me even though I was never competing and I always felt other people only wanted to be my friend to get to her. She hated me making new friends without her to the point where she was my only friend as I couldn’t stand being made to choose between her and a group of people who only wanted to be around me when there was no one else to solve their life’s worries. It was easier to have a consistent disappointing friend who always let me down than those who were inconsistent and constantly faked needing my help just to keep me around for when they were desperate. Having someone who was consistently a let-down was easier as I knew where I stood with her. In all it just made me incredibly lonely.
I didn’t realise how much she contributed to my depression and social anxiety or how toxic she was until we fell out 10 years into our friendship. Yep; it lasted that long and I let it because as I mentioned before she was an emotional con artist which led to some sick, twisted Stockholm Syndrome type problem that I still suffer from nearly 3 years later. I won’t go into the whys of how we fell out. Not just because that issue is far too private to share and only relates solely to us but because I’m actually afraid that she will find this blog – even if it is anonymous) and make my life hell again for sharing experiences that I know a lot of people will relate to; being stood up, left out and even abandoned.
I did see sense eventually and blocked her on everything; my phone, social media and email addresses. She no longer has control over who I see, what I do and where I go, and I honestly very rarely even think about her anymore. Sometimes things will remind me of the good times we did have and I will want to text her about it but then I remember how toxic she was and the feeling goes away. If anything I miss the memories and being close to someone; not her. I only speak about her in counselling (and at some point in the future in therapy) and in the exception of writing this blog as she’s a major part of why I don’t trust anyone anymore and why I feel the way that I do when I get depressed or anxious. Some memories featuring her are great – maybe 5-10 % of them but the ones that stick out are the ones listed above that contribute to me having panic attacks in crowded places and having no confidence to do anything - even going out on my own. I don’t miss her and I don’t miss the person that I was with her.
What I don’t want you taking away from this is the notion that it was because I was “weak” that I allowed myself to be an easy target. I was already extremely mentally ill before them anxiety-wise and they made my issues with depression (due to bullying – name-calling, physically having things thrown at me, rumours, being told to kill myself) a whole lot worse because they made me feel like it was deserved when did not stick up for me and were constant let-downs themselves. These people should never have taken advantage of me in the first place in order to feel better and whilst it may not be fair to say it is solely their fault, it is also not entirely mine and I have spent far too long believing that it was – that it was me doing always doing something wrong.
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