This story was written by one of our Talon reporters, but is being shared anonymously. We hope this discussion of one student’s experiences can raise awareness and lower the social stigma for other students dealing with mental health issues.

Despite feelings I have had and signs that have been present for at least a year and a half, I don’t believe that many people would notice that I’ve been in toxic relationships. This has actually happened to me quite a few times now, and I’ve finally decided to stop letting myself get sucked into these sorts of friendships, and make an effort to pull this sort of negativity out of my life.

A good relationship is one that makes you feel secure, happy, cared-for, respected, and where you are totally free to be yourself without feeling discouraged. Toxic relationships are the ones that make you feel drained, depleted, and sometimes even distraught.

At the beginning of my sophomore year at Timber Creek, I had this best friend. We were so alike and got along perfectly. After some time we started dating. This relationship started out great and lasted for a good period of time until one day that spark was lost by the both of us, and we split up. Despite us agreeing to stay friends, things just didn’t seem the same as they were before between us when we were best friends, and it now appears that things will never be the same again. He began to slowly make my friends not always want to be around me, although I was too naive in the beginning to see this. This escalated to the point that they often do things without me, and act as if nothing is wrong when I’m around them, even though I  now see that there are many things wrong in these friendships.

My closest friends treating me this way led me to come to an important decision. I decided that enough is enough, and I wouldn’t allow my best friends to make me feel unwanted and like I didn’t matter to them any longer. I have decided that I will communicate my feelings to them, and if things don’t change I will cut these relationships out of my life completely.

Getting out of one of these unhealthy relationships can be difficult, but it’s beyond worth it. In order to do this you can follow simple steps that will guide you in a healthy direction:

  1. Identify you’re in a toxic relationship. A fairly simple way to identify if you are in one of these relationships is through asking yourself some simple questions. Does this friend control what you do? Does this friend criticize you constantly? Does this friend prevent you from focusing on school or work? Does this person work to turn others against you? Does this person make you feel unwanted or isolated from those you love? If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s quite possible you are in a toxic relationship.
  2. Keep a record. Make note of the ways they have let you down or pulled you away from your vision; of all the times that you have felt less than joyful around this person. This will increase your awareness of how much someone is taking from you.
  3. Identify the rewards of being in the relationship. There are payoffs for being in a toxic relationship. If there wasn’t a reward, we wouldn’t do it. Do they make you feel powerful, or important? Is it about not being alone?
  4. Give up the excuses. Realize that you’re in a story that you’re making up and you get to change the ending. You can stop justifying their behavior.
  5. Have the conversation. Create a distraction-free environment. Face to face is ideal, but Skype or Facetime will work as long as you both stay clear of distractions. Get to the point quickly. Focus the conversation on how you’re feeling vs. what they’re doing wrong. Be firm and clear on what you need from them to transform the relationship or that the relationship is over.
  6. Mourn the loss of the relationship. If ending the relationship is the result of the conversation, make time to let it go. Remove the person from every aspect of your life. Feel whatever feelings come up. Release guilt and resentment. Mourn in whatever way feels right for you.
  7. Fill the emptiness with positive feelings and activities. Recognize that now is a time to rekindle other relationships and do things that are good for you. Exercise, hobbies, developing talents – anything that makes you feel good.

Escaping these toxic relationships is so simple, once you make the decision to leave it. Once you free yourself of the negativity, you will feel as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you can begin to live a healthier, happier, more productive life.

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