I Was A Toxic Friend.
Despite this post having a pretty negative title, this is actually going to be about self forgiveness and growth. The experiences I post here are my own and I am not intending to universalise. I will be discussing being toxic and having narcissist tendencies whilst being mentally ill. I realise this is a very loaded topic as there’s already a stigma surrounding mental illness with portrayals of us being evil/manipulative/abusive etc. However, this post isn’t written by an ignorant NT just doing it to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about mentally ill people. I’m using this as part of my recovery.
I was a toxic friend.
During my most mentally unhealthy times, I used my mental illness to justify being a selfish and manipulative friend. I was going through a terrible time at home with unsupportive parents and I was having bad luck with counsellors. So I turned to my friends to be the ones to save me. I made it their responsibility to look after me and to always be there to listen. When they couldn’t be there, I wouldn’t listen to their reasons. I lashed out at them and accused them of not caring about me at all. I was a narcissist and I felt like they owed me their time and attention. I didn’t bother to pay attention to what was going on with their lives at all. Instead, it was all about me and my drama. Everything I was going through, whether related to my mental health or my tragic attempts at heterosexual dating, I made sure it was the only real topic to discuss when I was with them. And when they would talk to each other about their problems without involving me, I would be once again, angry and upset at them for leaving me out of their lives. I would complain no one ever makes me their first choice, never realising that I was making myself my first choice in my friendships so they were reaching out elsewhere to find the support I was failing to give them.
Years into my recovery, I still was a toxic friend. I still manipulated my friends into making sure I was their priority because if they didn’t show up for me, they would be the reason for a potential relapse. I was still not listening to them. I was still not there for them, unless I could somehow link it back to what I was going through. In retrospect, all my old friends were going through so much. I can still hear the little things they would say which would reflect how bad things were for them, but because they weren’t me, I wasn’t there for them. And as we grew apart, they became villains in my head and in the stories I tell. The narrative now became “they were the friends who weren’t there for me”. Now, “they were toxic friends who were bad for my recovery”. When the reality is simply that I hadn’t grown up, despite being better. I still expected more from them than they could give and I was still always the victim.
Now, I’m ready to own up to all the different ways I messed up with them, and everyone else who has been in my life. I have used being mentally ill to justify being a selfish asshole and this has been hindering my recovery. I’m writing this post today because I want to grow and to forgive myself for who I’ve been. I am opening up so I can see the ways that I still try to use my mental illness to run away from any real consequences for when I fuck up. I’m forgiving myself and my old friends too because despite this post, I know it wasn’t all on me. I did have valid reasons for feeling like the friendships became toxic.
But I’m refusing to hold on to any resentments over past relationships because they do nothing to help me. Instead, I’m truly letting go of what I believed to be justified bitterness. I am done with telling a story of how I was wronged before and now I’m cautious about new relationships. I am also understanding of people needing their space from me. They have their own issues and sometimes being around me may not be what’s best for them and that’s okay. I won’t use my mental health to attempt to trap people into staying with me.
I am allowing growth which involves valuing the people in my life for who they are and not for what they can do for me. I know now that peoples’ time is truly precious and it is an honour, not a right, if they choose to spend some of it with me. I am no longer who I was before and therefore, my relationships now are not doomed to be how they were. I can and I do have healthy and loving relationships now and I will work on maintaining them for me and also for everyone involved.
Thank you for reading,