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My ‘Toxicity’ Was a Cry for Help When I Was at My Lowest

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Quite often, when people die by suicide, a dozen or so people come out of the woodwork claiming, “if they had only said something.” Or, “if they had just talked to me.” If they looked back, they would probably see that person withdrawing from life, always saying no to invites or not being actively involved when they were part of something. Perhaps they never had anything positive to say or always drank too much and embarrassed themselves. These are now toxic behaviors, and to protect your vibe, you are encouraged to cut these people out of your life without taking a moment to think perhaps there is something going on behind the curtain.

I see people now, almost bragging about removing toxic people from their lives and having no regrets, and it always leaves me cold because my toxicity was my cry for help.

For the majority of my life, I had lived in such a quiet, socially acceptable way, I had never really done anything that would stick in a person’s mind, good or bad. I was very much a “fits-in-and-doesn’t-stand-out” human being and had convinced myself I was happy to be so in all areas of my life.

Nothing I did would ever disturb anyone’s peace or their vibes.

When this changed, I was 32. I was working as an assistant in a law firm, an active part of “” meeting, dating, forming relationships and social enough to pass for an outgoing, well-rounded person.

For the next 18 months, I took part in a whirlwind of pain, confusion, desperation and need that burned my entire life to the ground. And by the end of it, every single person in my life who was not a member of my family had abandoned me.

These days, many people would describe leaving someone in this situation as “protecting their peace.” But is protecting your peace effectively destroying someone else’s? Many of my actions and behaviors during this period would be described as “toxic” and people often feel justified in removing such people and such things from their life. But then, in the same breath (or Insta post) they encourage people to speak out about their mental health issues.

During this time, I did not have the ability to speak out about what was happening to me. It seemed to have come to pass overnight and I didn’t understand anything. I was floundering and desperate and I didn’t have a clue of what to do to help myself. Every action I took moved me further away from the shore and I was fast becoming exhausted. I did not have control and it felt as though I could do nothing but careen down the hill to the precipice waiting at the bottom.

My toxicity was my cry for help.

I did not want to be the unstable, volatile, rudderless person I had become, but I didn’t have the ability to find a way to even begin to help myself and my coping mechanisms were as destructive as my illness.

Two boyfriends had dumped me, both blocked me, one had me arrested for harassment as I called over 70 times in one day (all these calls were unanswered). Friends, colleagues and acquaintances blocked my number, my email address, removed me from their social media. My bosses at the time accidentally copied me into an email discussing how to get rid of me and made fun of me and my situation.

One bad night when I ended up temporarily sectioned for possibly the fourth time, I sent a picture of my bandaged and stitched wrists to a co-worker who I had considered a good friend. Her response was to tell my boss, who phoned my parents asking them to tell me not to contact her again.

I understand my behavior would have been distressing to others. However, a few months ago, I had been sitting in the office with these people, laughing, working, drinking tea. I called my ex-boyfriend 70 times that day because the day before we had talked about moving in together. And now I was attempting suicide, drinking at 6 a.m., being sectioned by the police and generally imploding. And none of this seemed to hit anyone as what it was, a cry for help from a desperately ill woman.

In abandoning me, my former friends, lovers and colleagues were able to prevent themselves from having to deal with a potentially difficult situation. For me, they destroyed any small chance I had of coming out of my crisis with anything intact and at least a shred of dignity. But I know if I had died by suicide, my funeral would have been well-attended, with many people claiming, “if only they had known how bad things had become.”

Luckily for me, I made it through this time, despite my best efforts and have now received a diagnosis which has led to me understanding myself in a way I never thought possible. I don’t think I will ever be able to say breaking down was the best thing to ever happen to me, but I can certainly see now something wasn’t right for a long time and in ignoring this, I led to my own downfall. I am stronger, wiser and more open now than I have ever been.

There are too many souls out there who are not as lucky as I am and as I see the rise of the toxic label, I fear there will be too many more. As compassion dies in our society, I think more people will find themselves on the edge and alone and this is a terrifying place to be.

There is a reason they say during the worst times of your life, you learn who your friends are. I was unfortunate enough to find out unless the sun was shining, I had none. Please don’t let your friends find out the same.

Getty image by Jorm Sangsorn

Originally published: June 10, 2021
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