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How My Depression Makes It Hard to Say Goodbye to Toxic Friendships

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I sit here and wonder if I should say hello, months after I finally made the decision to say goodbye. I hold myself back because I know that one simple word will open the door allowing you back into my life. I pause and contemplate if I want that. Part of me does, most of me doesn’t. And that little voice, the mourning child, seems so much louder than the rational adult who knows the goodbye was necessary.

I have never in my life had an easy time making friends. And when I do, I have an even harder time keeping them. This is sometimes my fault, and sometimes theirs. And with this lack of friends comes the logic of hanging on to whoever I can find. It bred in me this sense of unwavering acceptance in others and how they treated me.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I largely attribute my history with depression to loneliness and stagnation. It culminated at a time of transition where I was separated from my childhood friends, ultimately losing them, and found myself alone and unable to make other friends to replace them. I believe this further fed my willingness to accept friends of any kind.

For the purpose of anonymity, I don’t want to go into any great detail about anything that happened. I simply wish to discuss my feelings, and how I finally had something like an epiphany and realized I can choose my relationships. I can choose my friendships. And being alone really is better than wasting time on someone who doesn’t respect you.

We’ve likely all been there at some point. We’ve all had relationships where we’re the only ones making any effort, the only ones reaching out. I tried so desperately to keep these friendships alive, only to be constantly shunned in favor of things or other people deemed more important. Nothing I ever wanted to do or talk about ever mattered. I was only ever of use to them when they needed someone to complain to, someone to dump their negativity upon. My advice wouldn’t be listened to, but I’d give it again and again as the same circumstances repeated themselves. I felt drained. I stopped reaching out, I never even thought to. Their name would pop up on my phone, and I’d be filled with instant dread and would let it ring. I felt awful. I felt done.

It took me such a long time to address those feelings. I asked myself why I was clinging onto this dying friendship. I could see it had grown toxic, giving me nothing but negative energy and discontent. I realized it was partly because I had known this person for the majority of my life. The thought of severing that connection was harsh — like cutting off the final piece of my childhood.

But I was miserable. I had reached a point in my life where I finally had some new friends, friends who actually cared about me and genuinely enjoyed my company, friends who would seek me out as much as I did them, friends who respected me and listened to my feelings.

But this aura of negativity continued to drain me, and I knew I had to end it. I couldn’t do it anymore. We were too different now. I want to be friends with people I actually want to be friends with. I don’t want to be friends with people for the sake of it (and vice versa). I hope that makes sense; it’s a real difference and the latter is something I felt profoundly in a lot of my past friendships.

And life is too short! I am in a much healthier mindset now and while these kinds of decisions are difficult, they are for the better. I encourage you to assess your own friendships and relationships. Consider if you are simply clinging on to your past, or do they truly bring positivity into your life?

Follow this journey on Writing on the Mind

Unsplash photo by Edu Grande

Originally published: October 14, 2019
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