I think I started to believe a myth of sorts. A myth that says there are strong people and there are weak people, and that every person is one or the other. Of course, I thought I fell into the realm of the weak.
I think it’s something I always believed to some extent, but the belief was brought to the forefront recently when I temporarily re-entered a toxic situation.
It had been quite awhile since I had been in this environment. Years actually. And I really wasn’t expecting it to bother me that much. A lot had changed since I was the person who was last in that relationship. I no longer was the person who was unsure of herself. I was no longer afraid to claim my space and leave my mark. Through years of introspection and way too much writing, I finally felt at peace with who I am. I struggle, of course, but I felt somewhat solid, somewhat steady, somewhat sure of myself.
And then I entered that environment, and all was lost in the blink of an eye.
Almost instantly I found myself getting sucked into darkness. I felt all the hard work I did trying to find forgiveness in my heart just fade away as old angers and resentments and hurts re-emerged. I found myself locked inside of myself, afraid to stake my claim, afraid to be who I was, afraid to exist.
And more than anything else, I found myself angry at myself.
Why am I still able to lose myself so quickly?
Why aren’t I stronger?
Why do the mind games still affect me?
Why do opinions that shouldn’t matter… well, matter?
Why aren’t I stronger?
For days afterwards (and weeks if I’m being honest,) I felt so lost to myself and so disappointed in myself. Why did I fall back? Why wasn’t I as strong as I thought I was.
A counselor once told me that it is scary to label a person or a relationship as toxic. I felt such a wave of relief after hearing that because for me it is actually terrifying. For me, a person who often struggles with finding my place in this world, to declare someone else as toxic is making a judgment that I don’t feel sufficient to make, and it also requires me to believe enough in myself to say that my dignity is worth protecting from toxic individuals.
That’s a hard proposition to make, and it’s a hard one to stand by.
But maybe it’s okay if it’s hard.
I never used to understand why people would stay in toxic situations. Until I was in one. Then I realized how hard it is to get away.
But I’m lucky. I come from a happy family, and my husband and I have created a happy family. We have distanced ourselves from any toxicity. We have said that our girls and our sanity are worth our effort and worth the sacrifice.
It’s not easy to banish toxic or abusive people from your life. It requires a lot of strength and a lot of confidence in your own worth.
But making that step can be so liberating.
I wish oftentimes that it was a decision that only needed to be made once, but I’m human and we humans tend to get caught up in complicated knots and webs.
So I guess perhaps it’s about time that I allow myself the grace to fall and allot myself the grace to stand back up again.
Strength isn’t all or nothing. We fall on a continuum. If we fall down the ladder, we can climb our way back up.
And toxic relationships may always hold some appeal. I just need to remember that I’m worth standing up for.
We all are.