Walking Away From a Toxic Friendship Because of Your Illness

We have all read the articles: “What Happens When You Have a Chronic Illness and You’re Alone” and “When You Lose Friends Due to Illness.” The majority of articles talk about when friends or family walk away from tough situations, but what happens when you have to walk away?

I have one of those friends. One who is always in emotional turmoil. One who is very needy and assumes no one will ever feel his pain. He recently went through a bad breakup and his family is not really there for him. I helped him through many things before I was diagnosed with lupus, and when I was diagnosed, he seemed pretty sincere with asking how I was, but it always seemed to go back to his current issue. His issues were always far worse in comparison than anything I was going through in his eyes.


It started to worsen when he would message me that he really needed me because he was in a bad place. No regards to me being in a huge flare (which he was aware of) and dealing with depression and anxiety too. That’s when it was clear that he was not only the center of his universe, which is fine, but also wanted to be the center of mine. No exceptions. I started realizing after talking to him over time that my problems were obsolete compared to his world. That’s not good.

I realized it was time for me to walk away. Not that I don’t care about him; I have helped him so many times in the past. The situation has turned rapidly into a take/take relationship over time and in my condition, I don’t have much to give. I have a family and other friends who have normal relationships and are loving and sincere. I have my health that is front and center too, which, no matter how good or poor, should be most important.

I finally responded. “I am sorry you are feeling all of this pain. I wish I could be the friend you need right now, I really do. But I am not well enough, mentally or physically, to be that person you need. I wish I could be that shoulder you need and I hope you understand. I really need to take care of me at this time. Sorry.”

He immediately blocked me. That was a sign we were never truly friends. We were not helping each other. He was using me for himself and never cared for me or my illness.

So yes, it is hard when you lose friends. Yes, some will leave you when you are sick. There are good ones who will stay and be genuine, but you may have to weed through the toxic ones. They may have ulterior motives and be taking advantage of you and your illness. They make you sicker, flare, cause more mental health issues, and it’s not worth your well-being to hold on to that friend. I would much rather be alone than be used by someone who doesn’t care about me or my pain.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via tixti.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Lupus

woman giving a thumbs up from her hospital bed

It's OK to Not Feel OK After Being Diagnosed With Chronic Illness

Three months… Three months of high fevers, itchy rashes, high heart rates, low blood pressure. Three months of not knowing why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. I was starting to consider finding Dr. House – surely a fictional character who is known for finding out what is wrong with the most complex cases can diagnose [...]
The writer of the article, standing in her classroom.

What It's Like to Be a Chronically Ill Teacher

I’m a teacher. I’m also chronically ill. It’s sometimes hard to reconcile the two, but I’ve been making it work. I’m one of a larger, silent group, often afraid to share our struggles for fear of what the public will think about us once they know “the truth.” You see, teachers are held to a [...]
The writer of the article taking a selfie in front of a city landscape.

7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself When I First Became Ill

Dear Mandie, Here is a letter that I wish I could have written to you in 2012. By then you had been ill for one year and a doctor had just told you, “Mrs. Holgate, that until you accept your life is over there is very little we can do for you.” I know since [...]
illustration of woman with red hair in a green shirt

How Lupus Altered Who I Thought I Would Be at 25

Currently, I am 25 years old, going to be 26 in just a few months. Unfortunately, since I can remember, I have never felt completely “normal,” but I can say 16 was probably the best I ever felt. Looking back now almost 10 years ago, I had a vision of what now might look like. I had this image [...]