One thing that it is impossible to be prepared for is a toxic person in your life. Whilst my father often pointed out to me when growing up that ‘some people are just arseholes’, it did little to actually make me realise that some people can go beyond merely being an arsehole, and straight into what I would deem ‘batshit crazy’ territory.
I think we all meet someone who could be deemed toxic at least once. Usually, we can easily walk away, or limit contact with such a person so that they can have the minimum affect on us. Unfortunately, we sometimes end up in a situation where walking away is incredibly difficult.
I once had a housemate who I would deem to be toxic. She was my first housemate after flying the nest, and I didn’t deal with the situation then as I would now. I can only blame my own lack of spine, coupled with living in an area over 100 miles away from my family and friends where I knew no one. My usual support system was too far away to help. Plus, people who knew me assumed that I was ‘hard’ enough to not take being treated poorly.
It’s easy to stand up for yourself when you know you can leave the situation easily, and have a network of family and friends to support you through the fallout.
Anyways, I’m not going to go in to if my housemate had some kind of mental disorder – I’m no psychologist or psychotherapist to judge. What I do know is that over the period of 6 months, she almost had me running back to my home town with my tail between my legs.
She would blow hot and cold to extremes. She threatened to trash my stuff when I was going away for a weekend. Putting the toilet roll on the wrong way around resulted in one of the biggest telling offs I have ever received in my life. When going on a night out with her, she pretty much chose my outfit, as anything showing that I had a bigger bust than she did was a big NO. To my shame, I went along with it, as I was in a new town and thus in people pleasing mode. It was easier than being verbally trashed to the point of tears, even when I was getting more and more depressed over the situation. The night she came downstairs, naked, and asked me to take pictures of her to put on the internet had me on auto pilot. Because really, who expects someone to *do* that?!? I didn’t say anything, just took the pictures, handed back the camera, and then tried to figure out what the hell just happened. I could go on with some of the sheer nastiness or craziness that she inflicted on me, but well – we all have encounters with flat out strange people, and I feel I have given enough context here without dredging up further unpleasantness.
If I encountered this now, I would react very differently. For starters, I would get the hell out of that situation. There was no reasoning with this person. More to the point, she had a network of friends who on the surface, at least, seemed to think she was just lovely. It left me very confused at the time. Was I just misreading her unfairly? Was *I* the one with the problem? These days, I view it differently. Whether she was actually toxic in general was a moot point. She was toxic to me, and what other people thought of her really had no bearing on the negative effect it was having on my own psyche.
I’m better at dealing with toxic people now. I know to run the hell away, or to minimise contact. I’m better at saying ‘no’, even when I don’t have the fall back safety net of good people around me. I’ve also learnt that more often than not, I have good people behind me even when I don’t know it. But it’s always going to be up to me to take control of my own situation. One of the saddest things about adulting I have learnt is that I cannot expect other people to fix my problems without doing something about it myself first.