It’s hard to cut toxic people from your life, even if the person is a gaslighter or other abuser. There’s always the temptation to give the person one more chance, believe his or her protestations of love or change, or to feel it is up to you to change the situation or the other person.
But sometimes it’s necessary to end the relationship.
A toxic person is like a psychic vampire who sucks all the confidence and energy and spirit from your life. He or she exhausts you emotionally and adds nothing to your life but annoyance, pain, and trouble.
Once or twice I’ve even been that toxic person when I was in the grips of the depressive phase of my bipolar disorder. Several people cut me out of their lives, and I can’t say that they were wrong to do so. I gave nothing, only took. I was the psychic vampire. And I deeply regret that, even though my hurtful actions were manifestations of my disorder. It lasted so long, with no apparent signs of letting up, that it simply wasn’t worth it for them to continue to associate with me.
Once or twice I’ve been on the other side of the equation, though. I can think of two times in particular. One was when I got out of the relationship with the person who turned out to be gaslighting me. I learned something from the experience (though I still maintain that the lesson wasn’t worth the price I paid).
What I discovered is that it is better to make the break definitive. If you’re going to cut a toxic person out of your life, do it cleanly. Don’t leave that door open for continued contact. In my case, I felt I owed the person some money and sent him a little every month. An acquaintance called me on this and pointed out that even if I did owe money (which he doubted), it was better just to send a single, final payment and end it there.
So that’s what I did. I scraped together some money, wrote a check, and released myself from the ties that still bound me.
It’s somehow different when the toxic person is a family member, though. I won’t write much about the actual situation, because I want to leave the person their privacy. But it was a toxic relationship that sucked time and energy from me and also from another person that I loved. It was concern for this other person that led me eventually to make the break, though I was growing weary of dealing with the person’s dramas, helplessness, vindictiveness, and general mean-spirited relations with me and others in the family.
I haven’t looked back. Some people have judged me harshly for taking that step because the person was, after all, family. Many people believe that family is more important than anything. But I chose my own mental health and refused to keep forgiving the damage done to both me and others. It took a lot of years until I was able to make the break, but I am never tempted to go back on my decision.
It’s easy to say that one should cut toxic people from one’s life, but it’s often a very hard thing to do. You can end up questioning yourself and your own motives. You can be shamed by others outside of the situation. You may regret your decision and wish you could mend the relationship.
My experience has taught me that sometimes that just isn’t possible. If the person is unwilling to or incapable of seeing the harm he or she has done, it’s likely a mistake to let the person have another chance to inflict more damage.
I plan on reaching out one more time to a person that I have harmed. But if they don’t respond, I’ll understand. I own that I was toxic and it was perfectly understandable that they cut me loose. I’ll always have regret and shame for the way I was, and I won’t try to insert myself back into their lives. I just want it to end on a less bad note, if that makes any sense.
But I note that the toxic people whom I have cut from my life show no such inclination. I have to believe that they still believe they did nothing wrong and that they have not become less toxic. I still must protect myself and my mental health by not letting them back into my life.
And if that includes family, so be it.