Years ago I was disillusioned with a group of friends who I had known since university days. It was probably around 2008 that I realized I had reached my limit.
An old friend of mine asked if she could attend a yoga class with me and I agreed. Everything went well but on our walk back to my apartment we engaged in a barrage of endless bitching about our mutual friends. I was just as guilty, it wasn’t that I was an angel.
There was a moment in our kvetching that I questioned how much longer I could put up with this. My friendships had become toxic; I was saying things about people that were awful. Truth is I didn’t even believe what I was saying, but this was a routine we were in, a cycle that neither of us had the strength to break.
To be frank, I think I was more self-aware than she was. She didn’t seem to have any real issues about what our friendship had become, or perhaps what it always was.
There were still moments where we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company but I had grown tired of talking behind all of my friends’ backs. It was clear that they were doing the same thing about me when I wasn’t present.
What I understood was that we were sort of embarking on a game of character assassination. We really didn’t have a problem with what we were doing until we were the target. And I guess that’s when I had enough.
I would hear, from others, what so-and-so was saying about me, and I would think about how unfair it was that they had manipulated my life story. But of course, then I had to stop and face the hard truth: I wasn’t innocent. I was doing the exact same thing.
Eventually I started to slowly pull away. That allowed me a lot of personal time to reflect on who I was, and who I wanted to be. I even went to Argentina to clear my head.
I made a hard decision to move on with my life. I say it was hard because it’s not easy to part ways with individuals whom I had shared so much history with.
But as I said earlier we were simply toxic to one another. I remember about two years ago I tweeted something so innocuous about growing apart from my friends. Thinking nothing of it, I went on with my life.
Apparently this angered my so-called friends, which in retrospect I can now appreciate. But rather then calling me, or confronting me, or clarifying with me what it was that I had meant, they did what they always did: They got together, bad mouthed me to each other and made assumptions about my character.
Eventually I confirmed how much resentment they had towards me and what I had always felt about our friendships. I didn’t deserve this drama, and I didn’t want it in my life anymore. So… I left.
In the year after I’ve realized that a lot of the ill feelings I had about them were based on what someone else had told me, not some lived experience. But that was how we operated: It was always behind our backs, gossip was more important than actually confronting the issue head on. Conflict was never dealt with in a healthy way, resolution never the goal.
I have guilt that I felt so awful about some of them, when in reality my feelings were influenced by gossip.
Gossip isn’t necessarily terrible. It’s natural to be curious about people’s lives. But when gossip is used to manipulate others to think of someone in a negative fashion — well then that’s not good.
If they believed that I was such a horrible person, why on earth were they friends with me? Why wouldn’t they just let me go like I was clearly trying to do?
Toxic friendships are like an addiction though.
Sometimes I’m sad that I didn’t nip it all in the bud early on, definitely, I have some regrets. However, if I had, it would have been fodder for further gossip. I look at my life a year on and I can’t imagine ever going back to those friendships, and the negativity that we tolerated.
I’m so much happier that I’ve chosen friends who I can trust. Who love and value me. Who are not trying to stir up drama. I shed friends, yes. And it was the best thing I ever did.
Now I’m no longer paranoid. I used to leave dinners with some of these old friends depressed. It was just an endless assault of negativity, and talking shit about supposed loved ones. That depression would last for days and days.
I guess I could say how I value the friends who are still in my life, but that’s so cheesy. I don’t do cheesy. Okay I do, but not now.
There’s a great article titled Knowing It’s Time to Let Go of Toxic People that I wish I had read back in 2008. It beautifully articulates how I was feeling.
Eventually with one particular friend it got vindictive and ugly. People kept saying to me, “just be the better person.” Why? People who can’t take responsibility or accountability for their actions aren’t going to care if I’m being the better person. They want to manipulate my emotions to make themselves appear better. That’s all they care about. Themselves.
But it’s what my friend Alex told me that affected me most. She said that when you’re around crazy people you do crazy things. And that was true. It was the best pseudo advice I had received. To clarify, they’re not crazy, it’s that our friendships were.
And with that… I put away my own personal brand of insanity — and I continued living.