THIRTEEN: Toxic Relationships

What do you call a toxic work environment? A staff infection

*finger guns*

Alright boys and ghouls, your mental health messiah has returned. Back by absolutely no demand whatsoever. It’s time for another analogy

You, my friend, are a mighty mansion, a manor fit for a king. And beneath that great structure, sits an equally mighty foundation. Your support network. In this particular analogy, they are quite literally holding you up. In real life, not as much (but the ones that literally hold you upright at 2am after a night out, thems are keepers).DISCLAIMER: I have zero experience in all things carpentry and building, apologies to any experts who are offended by my flawless analogy.

Every now and then, it’s good to check in on what’s going on beneath the surface, to take a look at all of that wood (I heard you chuckle, don’t worry so did I) supporting you, you great monument. Are all of the beams still there? Are they all still attached? Are they still holding you up?It’s important that we regularly check in with ourselves and ask, do the people around us hold us up? Does their involvement in our lives benefit us? Are they a positive influence on our lives, do they support what I do?

The fact of the matter is, sometimes structures develop weaknesses. Sometimes the wood splinters, sometimes it rots. Sometimes it detaches, no longer serves its purpose, but goes unnoticed because all the other beams around are doing their part to hold you up. The tough reality of friendships, relationships and social circles is that occasionally, over time, they can do the same.

Consider the people you’ve confided in, those you have sought advice from, have they been supportive? Consider your interactions with them, do they confide in you, but go missing when you need them? Consider the things you want to achieve in your life, do they encourage you? Do they help you reach those goals in any capacity that they’re able to? Or are they critical? Are they negative? Or do they say or do things that don’t seem malicious, but leave you feeling deflated?

Now I’m not saying that constructive criticism isn’t an extremely useful tool for our progression and growth, so let me just say there is a difference between constructive criticism and flat out being a dick. Your healthy beams will help you face the harsh reality that you won’t realistically travel to the moon by the end of the year if you have no experience in the field, but they will encourage you to pursue that endeavour over a longer time span if you so dream it. The rotting wood will tell you that it’s a ridiculous dream to have, and offer you very little more than that.

In saying that, toxicity can come in so many forms; from passive-aggressive comments directed at our insecurities, to controlling behaviours. But it’s not always a malicious and deliberate action, which is why it is so important that we recognise it. Sometimes nobody is at fault, sometimes a person unintentionally becomes a source of toxicity, sometimes we get caught up in what’s going on in our lives and our minds that maybe we unknowingly become a source of distress for our friends.

I was in a loving relationship for a long time, one that I thought would be it for me. I was happy, I cared for her to no end and she cared for me. But there came a time when it stopped becoming healthy. I don’t blame her, nor do I blame myself, unfortunately there were many overlying issues within our personal lives and our life as a couple that were far beyond our realm of expertise. And while that was emotionally crushing, it was the most necessary of evil that we would go our separate ways. And while it would have been so easy to slip back into that lifestyle and into that environment because of how much we loved each other, it was crucial that we didn’t.

For those who are currently experiencing any form of toxic relationship, whether it be with a spouse, a childhood friend, or even a family member, let me offer you this, from someone who has been there before. Things are hard now, there is absolutely no denying that. While I can’t promise they won’t get a little harder in the near future, I can assure you that, no matter how long it may take, it does get easier. And when you get to the other side of it, you’ll discover a whole new side of yourself, one that is independent, and thriving as a result of those experiences, one that is equipped with the lessons from those experiences.

If, on some small chance, she reads this here today, I want her to know that I hope she is doing really well. I hope she is happy, she is healthy and she is safe. Why do I want you to hear this too? Because nobody wins the blame game. Pointing the finger at someone else for their short-comings, failing to acknowledge our own, might get you a hot minute of satisfaction. But it’s short lived, because by the time we cool ourselves down and reflect, we feel like shit. My advice? Point fingers when you are in your own mental space, point them whilst confiding in your close friends and family, get it all out of your system. Once it’s all gone, let it go, because the only one it will affect once the dust is settled is you.

Let me stress the most important point of all. If you are to take nothing else from my ramblings today, please remember this; if you are currently tied up in a relationship, romantic or platonic, that has ceased to be healthy, you do not require anyone’s permission to remove yourself from it. You do NOT owe anyone anything. If the wood is rotten, remove it. We don’t leave an appendix in the body once its burst, nor should we keep social connections that cause us pain.

Well, my friend, grab an axe. Go and chop some dead wood.

When writing the story of your life, don’t let someone else hold the pen

Aubrey Graham

Mental Health

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