For this post, I’m going to have to take you back abound three years. I was in the middle of my final year of university, I had moved back home in my third year because I just couldn’t cope with everything. I was taking more time to heal and utilize the support I had, and I was struggling to go into university. I had associated the building, the city and the people with stress and mental health problems. Away from the city, I felt safe, but when I would get anywhere close, I’d start to panic.
My closest friend at university was Sarah*, we met in our first class and were really close friends up until this point. I spent a lot of time around her student house, we’d have sleepovers, go on too many nights out and shopping trips together. It seemed like the perfect friendship. We replied to each other instantly and were practically in each other’s company 24/7. I should've read all of the warning signs:
● Spending too much time together
● Pressure to reply instantly so to not upset the other
● Not having other close friends
● Snidey remarks about my boyfriend
● Hurtful comments about my past twisted into a joke
● Feeling like I had to do the right thing all of the time to stay in her good books
Writing down some of these toxic traits feels very strange. Even after a few years I’m wanting to defend her and not write potentially horrible things. But this was my truth in our friendship. It all adds up to the bigger picture; our friendship could be deadly toxic at times and we needed a serious prescription to end our pain. I had feedback from my support network that they picked up on unhealthy aspects, and that also bothered me. Whilst her actions and words were loud and clear, I enabled this behaviour. It was partly my fault. I didn’t call her out when I was upset, I didn’t let her know my feelings earlier on.
I ended up dragging this one-sided friendship along for a few months. There was still a part of me that wanted to cling on to the good times and the good memories. I would make valid excuses; I had moved back home and had been struggling with my mental health. I needed space. Sarah would ask to meet up a lot, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I had no more energy left to give. Eventually she had had enough and in a message she wanted to know what was going on. I really didn’t want to do it over messages, but I couldn’t lead her on or upset her anymore.
What have I learnt since then?
· Communication: it’s so important, but sometimes people will do or say things you don’t like and you can’t change that. Sometimes it’s who they are.
· Accountability: Firstly, be sure that all of the red flags and signs haven’t just been in your own head, ask for outside support and give them just pure facts on the situation.
· Let it out: Write down all of these thoughts, feelings and the times that you’ve felt drained, or not good within that friendship
· Speak up/have the conversation: In person conversations are hard, but it rules out any miscommunication or if spell check changes some of your words last minute without you knowing, can make it more difficult than it has to be. Pick a fairly public location so if either of you has to leave you can, a park would be suitable.
So, having the conversation. Here are some things you might want to consider for the conversation.
1. Don’t let them know beforehand that it’s going to be this conversation, it will be hard feeling like you’re being fake but they might go on the attack online and completely take it the wrong way.
2. When you meet up, exchange your normal pleasantries and check in with each other. As that part of the conversation dwindles down, approach the topic head on.
3. Begin with “I’d just like to talk to you about some things that I haven’t been happy with”, remember that even if this person has upset you, they are human too and can be easily upset.
4. Then gradually mention some things that you have found troubling, either ask if you could be uninterrupted, or let them reply to each point. They might not even be aware of what they have been doing, but also sometimes a leopard can’t change its spots.
5. Hopefully the conversation hasn’t gotten out of control, and you both can talk maturely about the situation. If you’ve decided you’re happy to be friends, but maybe not be as close as you were; let them know this at the beginning. If you are wanting to cut ties with this person (which will be hard), apologize to them but explain that you have to do it for you.
They will understand one day.