Updated: Mar 21, 2020
Four broken friendships, in a span of two years. It has got to be some sort of a record I thought as I went on a self-hate thought train all on my own. Here I was, lying awake at night just replaying how horrible I must be as a friend to have been unable to sustain friendships with some of my closest friends.
It took me a while to see clearly the truth behind ending my friendships and how I had managed to surround myself with people who weren’t the best for me. I didn’t realise it at the time but from a self-assured, happy person I’d turned into a self-doubting, nervous individual who found herself angry, even crying after most outings with her friends. I didn’t even notice how my mind was filled with negative insecure thoughts most of the time, worrying about not offending my close friends, feeling uncomfortable sharing something I disliked about their behaviour to being left out of the friendship altogether. On one hand, I yearned to be a part of my friends’ lives but on the other, I felt humiliated in how they failed to notice my needs and concerns. These were all the signs of a toxic friendship that I had missed. It was like I wanted to be liked by people who couldn’t care less about my well-being.
Soon enough, these friendships started taking a toll on me. I found myself isolated in my house most days, I stopped interacting with anyone from college, began running straight home from classes. I even lost motivation to go to college at one point. I became so afraid of being judged and all my mind would tell me is how nobody likes me. On the days I skipped college to stay in the safe confines of my house, I used to spend time on Instagram and Facebook checking out posts of my peers hanging out, and even in that moment, I hated myself for wanting to belong.
So here I am, barely going to college, barely turning in my assignments, spending most of my time scrolling through my friends’ social media and crying myself to sleep when my mom decided she needed to intervene and took me to a therapist. Yes, my mom took me to the therapist. At first, the whole experience was terrifying and full of anxiety but slowly I eased into it and felt a weight coming off my shoulders as I began sharing.
My therapist helped be understand about toxic relationships and how one of the foundations of a healthy relationship is mutual respect. In fact, during therapy I discovered how quality of my relationships be it with friends, family or romantic ones can make or break both my physical and my mental health. It was a shocking finding for me and more so because I never paid much attention to how I’m feeling in the friendship. I was so caught up with how my friends are feeling that I lost sight of myself. And of course, it helped that all these findings were available as research for me to see for myself. Toxic friendships had negatively impacted so many people’s lives, I wasn’t the only so called ‘weak’ one who couldn’t handle not getting approval from others. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t being ‘desperate’ or ‘people pleaser’ for wanting to belong instead, belongingness is a socio-biological need wired in us. Belonging into social groups is one of the strongest predictors of my well-being but my therapist helped me realise how it was important that my feeling of belongingness impacted me positively.
And so, the self-hate fog filled with such negativity about myself began lifting slowly, making way for more reasoned thoughts. It has been 3 months since I’ve been in therapy and I’m still working on learning to draw healthy boundaries in my friendships. I still feel lonely having lost the friends I shared my life with but now I know, it is not because I wasn’t a good enough.
"In therapy one of the most difficult things to deal with was that my friends had treated me poorly and it was time to accept it."
I now realise how I owe it to myself to surround myself with people who value me. And I’m hoping this time when I set out to make friends, I’m able to choose those who add value to my life and I, to theirs. To anyone who has lost toxic friendships, relationships, or even families know that there is at least one person out there who understands and hopes that putting out her story helps you get through yours.
Note: The article consists of personal experiences shared by a mental health seeker wishing to be anonymous. Readers can find the link to research quoted by clicking on the highlighted sentences.
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