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Letting Go of Toxic Family Members When You're Chronically Ill

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In some families, there are parents and even siblings who continue to hurt family members mentally, emotionally, physically and verbally. These types of people never take responsibility for their actions, they gaslight others to make them question their sanity and even give the silent treatment as a means of emotional abuse as a way to hold power and control in the relationship.

There is plenty of information out there that show these unhealthy bonds can create stress on the body making those they’re targeting vulnerable to chronic physical illnesses including gastrointestinal conditions and autoimmune diseases, just to name a few.

I made the decision based upon my health issues (Crohn’s disease, stroke survivor, migraines) over eight years ago to go no contact with my family. I should’ve seen the signs they were toxic when I was in my teens but I wanted to be the “big sister” and form a lifelong relationship with my sister, plus seek approval from my parents by succeeding in my studies and career. Sadly, they never encouraged me even when I wasn’t well. After my ostomy surgery, my sister started to call me a drug addict because I was on Crohn’s medications and she wasn’t supportive while I was recovering. Then as I got older, it just seemed like whatever I said or did would set one of my family members off. I couldn’t even make my own decisions without being put down or criticized so I lived my life walking on eggshells until I got married.  Then I was able to be my own person and learn new endeavors with my husband’s encouragement, plus his family treated me with the love, dignity and respect I never received from my own.

As time passed, my sister started causing more trouble for me and when I tried to defend myself, my parents accused me of being guilty because I was so defensive. These issues had me in tears half the time and there was no way I could please any of them. I thought things would’ve gotten better after I had my stroke but it was all an act for friends and relatives. Once I was fully recovered, they went back to their old ways and it got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.

I finally had the courage to stand up for myself and went no contact because at my last neurologist’s appointment my blood pressure was extremely high and the RNNP could tell that I was emotionally distraught. I explained what I was dealing with and she advised me to avoid them because their toxic behavior affected my blood pressure and could have caused a second stroke. I took her advice and moved on.

We shouldn’t let a sense of family keep us in a situation where it may cause undue stress to our bodies and overall well-being. If they refuse to acknowledge that their actions are hurtful, then it’s OK to walk away, never look back and focus our attention on ourselves.

Getty Image by tapui

Originally published: May 18, 2018
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