The word toxic can evoke quite a lot. For one, it is the title of one of Britney Spears’ best songs, and even though I will probably never manage it, reenacting the music video mid-flight is one of my lifelong dreams. Who doesn’t love airline-chic with a dash of early 2000s futurism? But away from pop culture, toxic is a term that carries a lot of weight when talking about relationships.
Human beings are supposed to be social animals. I use “supposed” loosely because when I am having a bad day, very little about me is social. But whom we hang out with matters, as it can affect our mental health and self-worth. Relationships can be nurturing and helpful when we are not at our best. When we are feeling great, strong social bonds can be reenergizing.
Yet things get extremely interesting when we look at relationships within the scope of a chronic illness.
Endometriosis can make or break relationships.
In a funny plot twist, having endometriosis has helped me to uncover which relationships are unhealthy for me.
For instance, I have many experiences of having the existence of my illness completely denied. Because I look healthy to the naked eye, people may demand things of me that test me physically and emotionally. Because I fear being dropped, I say “yes” to things I can’t or shouldn’t be doing, even when bleeding for the 16th day in a row, when my legs feel weak, or when I’m in severe pain.
My mistake is that due to my fear of losing friends, I refuse to speak up. It is only when I am exhausted from behaving like some sort of superwoman that I finally find my voice. Sadly, that tends to mark the beginning of the end of a relationship.
Failing to see the warning signs, sadly, is not exclusive to a single relationship.
Because loneliness affects many of us with a chronic disease, we sometimes open ourselves up to toxic people. I’ve quietly suffered when others stopped talking to me because my symptoms got in the way of outings, or they simply didn’t know how to deal with me being unwell. When someone shuns me because of my illness, I don’t see the light straight away. I blame myself, grow frustrated with my inability to be “normal,” and don’t get mad at them.
This is why I refer to my existence as ‘the school of life.’
While it’s taken me a while, I’ve learned to recognize toxic relationships. Now, as soon as I spot the patterns I’ve previously suffered through, I walk away or keep my distance. If someone shows no interest in my health when I explain that I am not OK, or takes offense with my dietary needs or physical limitations, they are not welcomed into my inner circle.
Life is too short to endure people who are incapable of empathy. It’s been a slow lesson to learn, and it has meant cutting down on a number of relationships. But the truth is that I’d rather enjoy my own company than face unhealthy ones.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.