Backstory: Last February, I cut off my best friend of four and a half years. Rather than ghosting them, I decided to send them a message explaining why I could no longer keep them around for the sake of my mental and physical health.
This person believed that I dropped them "out of the blue," but in reality, I had been building up the courage to end my friendship with them for years.
We met shortly before our Junior year of high school. There was no awkwardness, not even at the beginning. We greeted each other with a giant hug without even knowing each other's names yet.
We were instant friends. We both had the "where have you been all my life" mentality upon meeting each other.
However, during the course of our friendship, their abusive tendencies would make occasional appearances, only to take full effect towards the end of our friendship.
I was physically abused. I was punched, slapped and even bitten. This would happen when I would simply say something funny, which was categorized as "stupid" by them. They didn't like my goofy side or my overall happiness.
I was mentally, emotionally and verbally abused as well. Neglect started to rear its ugly head shortly after starting college.
I was made to believe I was incompetent. I was told that I'm a bad person for not going to church and that they couldn't have people in their life who didn't live according to their standards.
I was told to trade a part of my identity (take a guess) for a seat in their church.
I was even told that because of my identity, I never should have been born.
Now you're probably thinking, "If they were that horrible to you, why didn't you leave sooner?"
Looking back, I wish I'd never been part of that friendship in the first place. However, not every part of that friendship was bad. In fact, for a period of time, they were the best friend I'd ever had.
Emotional abuse is a slow process that can have the victim blindsided for a long time.
A friend recently explained an accurate metaphor for emotional abuse: If you touch the stove and it's cold, you can tell that it's safe to touch. However, if you touch the stove and it's hot, you immediately pull away. You can tell that it's dangerous and that you need to avoid it. Emotional abuse would be like putting your hand on the stove and keeping it there while it slowly heats up. It gradually gets worse and worse, but this takes place so slowly that it's not even noticeable.
It's only when you finally take your hand off the stove and see that you're burned that you realize how much damage was done.
It's only when I left them that I realized how badly I was burned.
I didn't want to admit I had a toxic friend. As someone who is very people-oriented, I view my relationships with others as extremely important.
For me to admit I was part of an unhealthy friendship made me feel like a failure, even though I was the victim.
Most importantly, choosing to remove a harmful person from my life came with a price. I was getting rid of the good along with the bad.
I wasn't just cutting off a bully. I was cutting off a sleepover buddy, a choir and theatre buddy, a park day buddy, a brunch date, an Astronomy class friend, a member of the best friend group there ever was, a great conversationalist, a great listener, a best friend, and most importantly a sister.
I held on to the hope that things would get better if I put enough effort into saving our friendship. When I realized that I was the only one that cared, I decided that enough was enough.
It wasn't until months after I ended our friendship that I realized how bad it truly was. I didn't want to admit it to myself, but doing so allowed me to realize my worth.
If you know someone who's in a toxic friendship/relationship that they are still in, keep in mind that there's probably history behind that relationship. It's not as easy as it seems.
Encourage them, support them and help them make the right decision. A strong support system when making difficult decisions makes all the difference.