NOTE: I am disabling comments on this post for a whole lot of reasons, but you can still like and share at will.
*see the bottom of this post for a disclaimer
We all have someone in our life who, even from a distance, is fully capable of sucking the life out of us. It’s more than a matter of keeping distance or holding your relationship at arm’s length. Rather, it’s your shoulders creep to your ears at their mere mention. You can’t deal with this relationship for whatever reason. It’s triggering, it’s hurtful, and you need to cut all the ties that bind you.
For me, it’s someone who, at my core, I love, but I simply can’t deal with them or get beyond their past behaviors. The trust is forever gone, and I refuse to give them the opportunity to do even more damage to me or to my relationships with others. (Note: I am using gender-neutral they here not because this person is nonbinary but because I’m keeping their identity unknown.) I will not be accused of dragging someone through dirt I’ve already slogged through, of doing harm in the name of my own healing. I will not trigger them or provoke conflict. It’s a waste of my limited energy and, sometimes, giving someone credit for their damage (this is especially true for someone w/ Borderline Personality Disorder) fuels them to continue their ways. It empowers them and gives them the attention they seek.
Those who know me will easily realize who I am talking about.
Anyway, this person has been out of my life for over five years, and the time has been peaceful even though my health has deteriorated in the interim. I’ve written about them through my characters, processed, and found positive ways to write them out of my life. But now this person is suddenly coming back into my life via peripheral means. Holiday cards to other family members but not to myself and my spouse. A call and relationship (though at a distance) w/ a close family member. No, this isn’t me being paranoid. I know this person well enough to be aware of what they’re doing. No card is a way of sending a message (they could have easily sent one through other family members, but I’m rather glad I didn’t get one). The relationship is a way of trying to get back into the family’s graces. (This person has chosen the youngest of us to directly contact, someone of college age who doesn’t remember a whole lot of what happened, who didn’t see the worst of it.) This is a calculated move.
Okay, a bit of context here. If you don’t know what Borderline Personality Disorder is, here’s a link from NIH.gov. Pair this with extreme attention-seeking behavior, the murder of a beloved family pet, physical abuse, and corrosive manipulative behavior. Yeah, it’s a lethal stress cocktail for someone already dealing with health issues (talking about myself here and my physical wellbeing). They, this person, blame their repeated teen year hospitalizations and residential treatments on me. In their eyes, I was a bad person for seeking treatment for them, for not keeping it all at home. Whatever. I did everything I could to keep my family together, to not damage relationships, to keep them alive when they were suicidal, to not fracture every other relationship in my life in favor of one that was toxic.
I am not responsible for their viewpoint or for changing it.
I sound downright resigned, don’t I? Yes, I am. This person is not welcome in my life. I’m not going there. Others can do whatever they wish, but not me. My spouse and I have agreed on this. They will not step foot in our home, and we will not attend any family events where this person is in attendance.
The toxic energy vampire is hereby banished from our lives.
Okay, so what can you do, as an author, to remove such people from your life? Well, that depends on:
- your belief system
- your ability to tolerate stress
- your personal strength (your willingness and ability to engage in constant chaos, stress, and crazy-making behaviors)
Here’s my breakdown:
- Belief system: I’m a witch (take that as you will), and my personal motto is to do what you need to keep yourself safe (Yes, this means I am not the harms none type when pushed). I wish that person well. I wish them health and happiness, but I will not let them back into my life. In fact, I’m setting wards around our home this week and cutting our ties via a spell/ritual. I am not one for formality. I don’t cast circles and whatnot. In fact, I’m the type to bang pots and pans and tell the negative energy to get the f*** out of my home. This, however, will take something more significant. I need to quite literally cut the ties. I need the symbology. There will be candles, careful phrasing, rope, a piece of this person (a belonging) I’ve been holding on to, and fire involved. I will be placing a great deal of energy into this, and it will probably exhaust me, but I will come out the other side stronger. Whatever your faith or path, seek solace and guidance there. If you have no faith or path, explore ways that will bring you safe, healthy closure.
- Tolerating stress: I have neurological issues brought on by my autoimmune illnesses and these problems are exacerbated by stress, meaning I cannot give this person the power to make me ill. That sort of control would please them whether they would admit to it or not.
- Personal strength: I’ve been through some sh** in my life, okay? And I have a PTSD diagnosis to prove it. That said, this person is the photo recreation, the direct product of another person I’ve cut from my life, of the primary cause of my PTSD, but our ties are deeper so I haven’t done final cutting until now. I try very hard to take care of myself and consider this process part of that self-care. That, in and of itself, is empowering and strengthening.
Whatever your faith or inner voice says you need to do, do so, and don’t feel guilty about it as long as it’s legal. (I’m saying the guilt part for myself too, and I’m repeating it ad nauseam)
And here are a few writerly things you can do to help yourself cut a toxic person from your life.
- Write them as a character then remove them from your story, delete their storyline and all references. Hit save and back it up too. Now the person no longer exists.
- Write them as a character then write them out, literally. This is my personal favorite. Find an acceptable ending for the character and write it, but I don’t suggest killing their representative character because you may feel guilty about it later. The person I’m about to cut ties with still exists as a character in my upcoming novel release, but I’ve written their ending inside the story. I didn’t know at the time they’d be trying to edge back into my life, but I’ve already created their exit in a writerly way so I’m finding peace in that.
- Write your thoughts concerning your past relationship, spew your pain onto the page, and either delete the words (make certain to close the file so you can’t undo your deletion and do not save them) or do something symbolic like printing them out and shredding or burning the paper (or use it in your bird cage or cat’s litter box if that suits you). Do not send your thoughts to the person because that will engage them, which you simply do not want.
Whatever you do to remove a toxic person from your life, make the experience meaningful and healing. Use your writer tools. Do what works for you as long as it’s legal.
You’ll come out the other side better for it.
*Nothing I say in this post or anywhere for that matter, should be taken as a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice.