“Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally kill you. Stress shortens your lifespan. Even a broken heart can kill you. There is an undeniable mind-body connection. Your arguments and hateful talk can land you in the emergency room or in the morgue. You were not meant to live in a fever of anxiety; screaming yourself hoarse in a frenzy of dreadful, panicked fight-or-flight that leaves you exhausted and numb with grief.” Bryant McGill
I recently wrote a post (I’ll link it here) about cutting someone out of my life and it seemed to garner a lot of attention on my Instagram page. Turns out, pretty much everyone has experienced either cutting someone out of their own lives or having someone in their lives they should be cutting out but haven’t. Because toxic people tend to come up at times if you’re ever around, meet, engage with, form relationships with, or interact with, well …people.
Now here’s the thing: like I mentioned in my Instagram post, toxic people cause undue stress to the mental space of even the most healthy, sound-minded, well-adjusted people. BUT (and that’s a big, bold, italic ‘but’ because that’s as close to raising my voice as I can get through text and I feel strongly about this) as someone recovering from a slew of eating disorders, anxiety, and a particularly ugly episode of bipolar depression, I’ve learned/am learning that toxic people have absolutely no business being in the life of someone in recovery. And when I say no business, I mean no fucking business. Whatsoever. Period.
Do I think we’re made of glass and will shatter at the smallest exposure to someone’s toxicity? That we can’t handle them? We’re too fragile? We’ll break? No.
However, do I know first-hand how much hard. exhaustive, all-consuming work it takes to row the boat through the storm and that the last thing we need is someone making more waves? Yes.
I know we in recovery can’t afford the abuse of a toxic person even tripping us up slightly when we already spend each and every day walking alongside our own abusive, negative thoughts, ready to knock us down at the first sign of a trigger.
I know we with mental health disorders have a low threshold of how much toxicity we can withstand before our symptoms will begin showing up – and they will – because that is what symptoms do under stress.
I know our symptoms may manifest in small ways at first (for example, I’ll binge eat or find myself angry at the winter jackets inside JC Penney for “no reason”) but if the toxicity stays in our lives those small manifestations will eventually lead to full blown episodes.
I also know keeping our central nervous system undisturbed and our mind calm embodies some of the most important work we can do for ourselves in recovery, and that walking the already anxiety-inducing tightrope of a mental health disorder is a lot calmer when you don’t have someone threatening to cut the rope at the other end.
For these reasons and more, protecting yourself from toxic people has to become a priority in recovery – and, as far as I’m concerned, from then on forward. I say this because if there’s one thing I’ve had to truly work to wrap my head around since my bipolar diagnosis in 2017, it’s that it. is. never. going. away. I can manage it, I can treat it, and I can recover from episodes, but it is never going away. Like, ever. Which means I won’t, like, ever have the luxury of procrastinating when it comes to ending a toxic relationship or I’ll be risking allowing said toxicity to trigger me into a spiral.
So we, the brave, battle-worn, indestructible yet sensitive, vulnerable warriors of mental health that we are, we learn to take protecting ourselves just a little bit more seriously. We learn to take the consequences of toxic people a little more profoundly. Learn to take who we allow into our worlds a bit more carefully. And we learn to take our recovery fiercely, even if that means we must cut some toxic people out along the way.
Because your well-being? It’s well worth it. I promise.