The dictionary defines “toxic” as “harmful or deadly.” Other synonyms include poisonous, lethal, and virulent. Yikes.
There will come a time in your recovery, where you have to take a cold, hard, look at your past, and ask the question, “Do I have toxic relationships in my life?”
Spoiler alert: This is not a fun activity. I mean we’re talking….
But jokes aside, this is a task where you have to really sit down and ask yourself, “Are these relationships good for me?” Did they contribute to the development of your eating disorder? Are they unhealthy or triggering? Do you find that you compare yourself with her, or find it to be competitive in nature? Does he treat you with respect? Does he or she make you feel valued as a person? Do they build you up and make you realize your self worth? Do you feel loved? Do you leave feeling inadequate or not good enough? Do they build you up or tear you down? Would they support you in your recovery? Can you be vulnerable with them?
I know that seems like quite the list, but if you see any red flags from that inventory, you’re dealing with a toxic relationship. In other words, you’re dealing with a harmful relationship. A deadly relationship. A poisonous, lethal and virulent relationship.
One thing my mother always taught me, (and to be honest, I always rolled my eyes at), was the notion of “shaking the dust off.” It apparently came from the Bible, but the saying goes, “If they don’t accept you in one town, shake the dust off your sandals and move on to the next town.” This comes from Matthew 10:14, when the disciples were traveling from town to town…in sandals… spreading the word about Jesus.
I never really quite understood that saying until I was in recovery, and taking my “relationship inventory.” You see, I did have a toxic relationship in my life. I wouldn’t say that this relationship caused my eating disorder, or made me become anorexic. Not at all. However, the relationship did contribute to my feelings of inadequacy, which ED then twisted and heightened into feelings of worthlessness. It was a highly competitive relationship. It was controlling. It was comparative. It was toxic.
How did I know? Because every time I would leave, I would feel badly about myself. I wouldn’t feel good enough. I wouldn’t feel loved.
And even though she was one of my good friends on the surface, many of her actions communicated otherwise.
And this was hard to swallow. Really hard to swallow. But that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was shaking the dust off. … Taylor Swift even wrote a song about just that.
I mentioned it previously, but the most important aspect of my recovery is that I’ve removed myself from the triggering environment of my hometown. I’ve completely uprooted my life and started fresh. That may sound depressing, but in actuality, the freedom it has brought is unimaginable.
I had to “shake the dust off,” and leave behind an environment and relationships that weren’t good for me, and embrace a new life filled with new friends, goals, and dreams that encourage and support my recovery. I’ve kept in contact with the relationships back home that are positive and healthy, but I’ve let go of the toxic relationships that made me feel inadequate.
The dust has been shaken off, friends. I’m now living abundantly in New York City with friends that do love and care for me. I’ve separated myself from that environment back home where, I still to this day, walk around with a shadow of my anorexia following me wherever I go. I can’t go for five minutes without being brutally reminded of my dark past — my neighborhood, the grocery store, the park, my school, the gym, the kitchen, my bedroom — I just can’t escape the darkness. And what’s worse is that people still see me as the “formerly sick girl.” I just had to start fresh. I had to establish a new environment and new relationships.
But I have to say this: it is so important to be able to share your history with someone in your new environment. A confidant. Someone you can share your vulnerabilities with. Someone that deserves that sacred part of your heart. A best friend. A mentor. A church friend. Dare I say it….a therapist? But having someone who knows your story, who is someone you can talk to, is important. Because even though you’re starting new doesn’t mean that your past isn’t part of your makeup. Your past: the suffering you’ve endured during your eating disorder, has shaped you into the strong, resilient survivor you are today. And your past is not something to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary. You’ve fought the battle and won. You’ve had to overcome something that could have taken your life. One in ten women with an eating disorder die. Let that sink in. You’ve chosen life. You’ve chosen love. And that is something to be proud of.
But that freedom, that power, that reclaiming of your life cannot happen if you’ve got a toxic relationship dragging you down. Recovery is hard enough as it is with only supportive people around you. It is impossible with toxicity in the equation. It’s like jumping into the ocean with a bowling ball tied around your ankle. You just won’t survive.
You’ve got to shake it off.
I’ll leave you with this: They say that if you change nothing, nothing will change. They are right on the money. If you go back to a relationship where you don’t feel good enough, you don’t feel loved, you feel inadequate, you feel competition for this or that, ED will come right back into your mind and wreak havoc.
Letting go of relationships is hard, especially ones with history and ones that may, on the surface, appear to be significant relationships. However, from this point in your life on, you need to accept that the number one thing in your life (aside from Jesus) will be protecting your recovery at all costs. You need to guard it and protect it no matter what, and if that means saying goodbye to a “friend” who just doesn’t want the best for you, then so be it. Shake the dust off. Your life is too precious not to have people behind you that love you and are cheering for your recovery.