black and white photo of a woman wearing a sweater and a hat while walking in the forest
Shannon Marie •
Cutting Out Toxic People From My Life After Becoming Chronically Ill
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I can count my friends on one hand, and I spend a fair amount of time alone. I prefer it this way. I’m often fatigued or otherwise symptomatic of Hashimoto’s with joint pain, brain fog, mood swings or back pain. So a day or two completely alone in a week is OK with me. I have one-person hobbies and pets, so I can keep myself entertained without exertion. But to be honest, I probably sleep half the day away.
This is a pretty dramatic change for me. I used to be really social. I had more friends than I could keep up with or be a good friend to. I was out doing something almost every night of the week. Everything was a social activity, even working out.
When I started getting sick, these “friends” started dropping like flies. I could deal with the ones I wasn’t particularly close to. But when the ones I considered close started treating me differently, I was genuinely sad. I wondered what I had done wrong. Then after I was (finally) diagnosed, I had to change my diet and so many thought that the way I eat now was a phase or a temporary diet. They didn’t realize that food is both my medicine and my poison. Same with alcohol. I completely cut out alcohol and I get treated with such surprise. “Why don’t you drink?” or “I don’t know how you do life without a drink here and there!” I’ve been left out of parties because they “didn’t want to be judged” and some of my former friends immediately stopped socializing with me. They seem to think Facebook is a real friendship.
So these people are all gone. I cut them out. I have precious little energy and I’m not spending it on people who don’t respect me. I’m not spending my time on a one-sided friendship. If I call you a friend, it means I am committed to supporting you and I also feel like you support me. It’s an important and special bond. My little tight-knit group has come through for each other in such loving ways, in really trying times. My life is enriched for these people.
How did I cut out the toxic people? It depends on the depth of the relationship. Once I made the decision that I was healthier without trying to nurse these relationships, the ones I wasn’t that close with anyway, I just stopped reaching out first. Since my life had changed, they stopped reaching out too. But the close relationships that really took a lot out of me, with no reciprocation, I needed to properly handle. I didn’t exactly have a break-up talk with them. But I did tell them they hurt my feelings, and I told them how and why. Two got indignant and said that I changed and they didn’t feel like they knew me anymore. Fair enough, I did change, but only physically. My soul, my sense of humor, my values, none of that changed. I didn’t feel like it was worth arguing about, so I told them they could call anytime they wanted to catch up and left it at that. Another one asked me in a text if I was mad at her, and I told her the truth: that I felt like she was high-maintenance and one-sided. She replied a week later with a simple “hi” and I just didn’t reply. I haven’t heard from her since. We’d been friends for years.
I think of these people from time to time, but I don’t really miss them in such a way I want to reconnect. I feel better for it because I’m not pushing myself to nurture relationships that made me feel like an inconvenience or disrespected. I don’t feel bad because of how they treated me. What I’m going through with my health is legitimate and it requires permanent changes. If my friends can’t change with me, then maybe we were never intended to be friends long-term. And that’s OK. We had a great time for a little while and I harbor no grudges. But our time has passed.
Set your priorities. Set your boundaries. Know your worth, and don’t tolerate less. You are important and valuable and special. Be with people who make your life better. Be loved. You are worth it.
Getty Image by Daviles