Walking Away From a Toxic Friend, Even When it Hurts.
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
If you know me, you know I give myself to anyone who needs me—friends, who are close to me and those who are not. I tend to give myself to those who aren’t as close more often because people feel like they’ll receive less judgment from someone they don’t know as well, and as long as I'm well and able (even when I'm not always well), I will.
I do this between my family time, work, and nonprofit work. I probably privately and unprofessionally mentor 1-2 strangers a month.
Sometimes less, but sometimes more. Honestly, many people I don't know well reach out to me "just to chat" when they're down, usually after seeing my blogs and Facebook posts knowing that I provide a "safe space." An example of an issue multiple people have come to me with is difficulties after losing a job.
In this situation, I've found out where they've lived, probed for ideas of things they liked to do, and sent links to job postings in their areas. Maybe they are just struggling with everyday "stuff" and needed a new perspective of life in general. All this, I consider mentoring. It could be just a two-time chat or something I discuss over the course of a few months, and as long as I can do this, I will.
Of course, as I mentioned, I do offer the same love and advice to my closest friends too. Regardless of who I'm speaking or chatting with, I always try to be kind, careful with my words, and remind people to seek professional advice if they need it because I know that I cannot replace a professional anything!
BUT… also at the same time, I believe that in true friendship/mentorship being kind and careful in your choice of words does not mean sugar coating everything you say to be nice; you must be HONEST and OBJECTIVE and offer sound advice whether the friend or acquaintance likes what you have to say or not. True friends look out for each other, and when they care about you and you care about them, difficult topics can be brought up sometimes. And if someone is coming to you and in need of your advice often or not, you need to be there in support and be honest with the advice you provide.
You cannot always agree with your friend to appease him/her or avoid conflict if you want to have an honest relationship.
.....and this goes for ANY relationship.
It makes me feel wonderful to help people; however, I can, but I know I cannot replace a professional. I'm always happy to lend a shoulder, ear, or a chatbox when it's needed, and I'm happy to do so. But sometimes people begin to take from me, take advantage. Maybe it's on purpose, and maybe it's not. Sometimes it becomes so draining that it impairs my own health, and despite this, I still want to help, but I just can't. Sadly, this weekend I took the last bit that I could take from a friend and had to agree to let her go for the sake of my own health. We've all been there, especially if you are in the "business" of opening up to allow people to come to you for help. You have to be.
Unfortunately, I could not ultimately help her as I would have liked to, but I know that I was helpful many times over 2 + years, and for that, I am at peace.
This being said, I will help you; however, I know how to kindly, honestly, objectively, unprofessionally do so. But once I am no longer of service to you, and this becomes too draining for me or puts my own health at risk, or worse - you become toxic or start mistreating me if you don’t like my advice to you, I will have to let you go.
Regardless of what the underlying reason may have been like, I've said many times before; I am not a professional. Sadly sometimes, when it comes to a certain point when "my all that I can do for someone, "...as good as it may be, and....as much as it may do...is not good enough, I must step aside for all parties to remain healthy and safe.
Remember, I am not a professional. I am just a caring person who will genuinely care about you when you come to me with your problems, and as much as I don't like to, I HAVE to draw a line somewhere.
And if this is happening to you too, you also need to draw a line.
"Take care of yourself to take care of others,
or there will be no you."
- Traci Wilkerson Steckel
Do you know when to walk away? I always wait too long, but maybe you can "do as I say, not as I do." Below I have a few things that I like to say and tell my friends to say when they need help "letting go."
I suffer from chronic migraines, stress-induced colitis, and a heart condition, and when a certain person may call, or a FB message starts to come in and either my head starts throbbing, or my stomach starts sinking immediately, I know it’s a bad sign and time to start drawing that line.
Is your health also on the line or affected negatively by a toxic friend/relationship/mentorship? Of course, each friendship and circumstance is different, so take my advice as an outline and use it how you need it.
My philosophy is that we are all adults and that we should all treat each other with respect and honesty. Please only use these words if you sincerely mean them or variations of them. Do not take my words and use them if you don't mean them.
It is best to let your friend know that you appreciate your relationship to that point, but you feel like you've reached this point where you cannot help them as a friend any longer, or you cannot continue and feel healthy by going forward on this journey together.
I wish him/her the best for the rest of their journey.
Let him/her know (if it is not a dangerous relationship, and if you are 100% safe and want to) that you would consider reconnecting when things are better aligned in the future. Still, you need to work on yourself right now- or that you think he/she needs to work on their self-right now without you if that is the truth.
Tell him/her that you have no ill feelings and do not feel like this is what you intended for your relationship to be, and you prefer not to move forward.
Do not send open-ended questions via text; try to talk to your friend. If your friend is ugly and hateful and sends you ugly messages (believe me, I got some VERY nasty texts this weekend), remember that your friend is just hurt and upset and maybe experiencing some major underlying health issues that you cannot control. Do not make things worse by sending replies. Once you have had your final talk or sent your final text (which should be very simple, polite, and lack any hint of sarcasm whatsoever), that should be all.
No more correspondence until you have overcome this "mourning" period, as this will make things worse.
I'm sure you can think of many more, but these are just a few simple things that I like to say: kind, polite, and to the point.
If my story from this weekend sounds anything like something you've experienced or experienced, I hope you are well and moving forward nicely.
Best of luck to you all.