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.
22 responses to “Relationship #RealTalk: Toxic Relationships”
You have given me something new to think about in this entry and I absolutely LOVE when that happens!!!! A few years ago, I had to leave behind an environment and relationships that were toxic…. It was hard for people to understand, if they ever found understanding (–probably not–) but for my survival it had to be done. One of my “take-aways” from this entry is, however, the need for me to find someone in my new environment to share my story with. I had never thought about the importance of this until now. It is important though. ughhhh…LOL….Vulnerability….yikes…a reoccurring theme. (I’ll do it though.) Thanks!
Thanks so much. First of all, good for you for leaving an environment hat was toxic. That’s a huge win! But you’re so right : finding someone to share your history with — being vulnerable — is so scary but so affirming and important. And it communicates to that person that you value their relationship enough to share your history with them. It makes the relationship grow so much. Thanks for your comments:) blessings
This is really great. For you to share is really inspiring. You are an excellent writer. You make it very easy to read, and keep reading. I love your pictures! Very funny!
Hey Heather, wow thank you so much for such kind and encouraging words! It means a lot:) and I’m glad you like the pictures! Even though they’re a little bit of a labor of love, I really enjoy making them. I post them every day on Instagram too 🙂 (@beauty.beyond.bones) ☺️ anywho, thanks for taking the time to read this morning! Have a wonderful day!
Your comment about uprooting from your past life might sound depressing but isn’t resonated with an experience I had in 2003. I had double-heart bypass surgery. Although it was hard to get through, I actually have fond memories of that time. I went from going “Mach 2 with my hair on fire” to sitting or lying down with nothing to do but breathe. It was…liberating. Too bad it took major surgery, but it worked.
Hi Jeffrey, thank you so much for sharing this. Wow that does sound like quite a life altering event! Funny how things like that can be just as liberating. Thanks for sharing his beautiful reflection. ☺️
How can two walk together unless they be in agreement? Amos 3:3. I think it’s important to let go of relationships that pull you down. Jesus even rebuked Peter when Peter allowed himself to be a mouthpiece for Satan. I can’t say that I’m enjoying reading this. I couldn’t enjoy reading about your suffering. But I am riveted and I rejoice as I read about each victory. #rejectaverage #kaizen
Hi friend. Thank you so much for your words of kindness and encouragement. It really means a lot. You bring up a great point about Peter. Thank you again for taking the time to read my story. Hugs and love xox
“protecting your recovery at all costs. You need to guard it and protect it…shaking off the dust ”
Wonderful post! I have read a few of your posts now and they are very encouraging and informative and uplifting. Thank you so much!
Oh thank you so much for taking the time to read some of my posts! That really means a lot:) hope you’re having a great weekend! Hugs and love xox
Very honest article, thanks for sharing. True, a toxic relationship with friends or a partner can seep into every aspect of your life and ruin even good times. Need to move on and cut it off- sometimes literally like my move to Edinburgh!
Thanks so much LJ. I appreciate that. Cut it off! Amen! Hugs and love xox
I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now, but finally found time to go back to the beginning to read your whole story. I have been a counselor at youth camps, and often times young girls, sometimes as young as 12 or 13, come forward to me with their struggles with eating disorders. Being someone who has struggled a lot with anxiety, I understand a little, but still find myself at a loss for what to say to them that would hurt and not help. Reading your blog has given me so much to apply in those situations that is not only spiritual with a Christian basis, but authentic and real. This post has particularly stuck out to me, because I bumped into a very toxic friend a while back while I was at my hometown. I found myself feeling very self conscious, but at the same time missing their friendship. After leaving the conversation I was talking to my husband about missing her, and he told me, “You shouldn’t. They didn’t even ask you how you were doing; they only tried to bring you down.” This message about toxic relationships is so important for Christians; we think we can help someone or fix them, but we only hurt ourselves. Thank you for being so honest in your posts. Even though I don’t suffer from an eating disorder, a lot of your coping and recovery advice is applicable to general self-image and anxiety as well. I hope more people come back and read these earlier posts, because there’s just so much to learn from you, and I feel like your blog could provided someone with the life-saving hope they need.
Oh gosh thank you so much for reading my story. I am seriously so touched that you would take the time to do that. Wow, what an important job you’re doing. I’ll definitely keep you and your situation in my prayers. Hugs and love xox
So true! I love that bible quote in Matthew 10:14. I lost 4 of whom I thought were my best friends, all in one go. I realized that God was pruning aspects of my life,I would not have grown to the person I am today, if I hadn’t let those friends go., because in truth, they were holding me back. I now have friends who support and celebrate who I am. Love your post Caralyn. God bless you my friend because I love who you’ve become <3
Oh my gosh I’m so sorry for your loss. That is so tragic. Yeah, I can’t imagine how challenging that must have been. Thank you for your kind words. I am truly touched. Very grateful for you. Hugs and love xox
Sometimes leaving a toxic person behind can be a family member as well. This is extremely difficult in a society that suggests holidays and families are to appear like a Hallmark card. Still, you must save yourself at all costs. This is your life and you are the only one who can live it or save it — no matter the disorder, whether eating, relationships, drugs, etc., etc. The other saying is, “It works when you work it. And you ARE worth it.” Stay well.
Thanks for this thoughtful reflection. Yeah that’s a sad truth. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love xox
yes yes yes…….leaving behind people who dont want to do the work…..hard to brush of the guilt of responsibility to others…i call them toxic talkers .i have a saying…healing takes time and space, some people never take the time so you give them space…good to be reminded … I say to myself …how am i feeling after talking to someone shabby or joyful…..yes its hard work ….but it is the only work that matters
Thank you so much for sharing your heart on this! Amen to that – the only work that matters! Hugs and love xox
thank you …yes the only work that matters…sent with love