This blog post originates from a Twitter rant I posted earlier on today.
The best thing I ever for myself did was take control of my life back in late 2016. I finally lost my weight (I put on 40 pounds during a rather dark period of my life), cleaned up my eating, escaped law school (even after having the blessed opportunity of interning in a Los Angeles law firm, I still had to admit that the legal profession wasn’t for me), worked a creative internship in NYC last fall (I actually started two others internships, but had to quit for personal reasons), started my MMA training, focused on my writing, got a big ol’ tattoo, took the GRE, applied for M.A./M.F.A. programs, and more.
Above: Photos taken for NYC internships at Purses for Nurses and Bello Belts.
I also abandoned another toxic relationship (I’ve had two, officially), tons of toxic friends, a few toxic places, most of my toxic habits, and my toxic way of regarding myself (I used to have really low self-esteem and plenty of self-hatred to match). And yes, I know that my generation uses the word “toxic” too liberally… it drives me insane. But, I truly do believe it applies here. Every aspect of my life back then was venomous, and it was up to me to suck the poison out.
I wasted my entire college experience, with the exception of a few summer months, with consecutive partners who managed to abuse me (not using the word “abuse” liberally either, I promise) in almost every single way between the two of them. If you Googled a list of mental/emotional abuse tactics, I could point to anything on that list and tell you several stories about my own experiences with it. I could also dip into the lists of physical abuse and sexual assault. I’m still getting used to the fact that these last two things occurred in my relationship(s) (this piece isn’t supposed to be an attack, so I won’t attribute these acts to either person specifically). I’ll just say that it’s amazing how many messed up things we accept as “normal” and deem to be “no big deal”. We ignore that squirming feeling in our gut, tell ourselves we’re overreacting, and put on a big smile… Just like we, as women, have been trained to do.
The fact of the matter is that I dated two men who made me suffer for their insecurities, kept me down, and completely messed with my head so that I wouldn’t see them for what or who they really were. They knew I might recognize that I could do better than them and leave. Better yet, they knew I was vulnerable from mental illness, low self-esteem, and sexual assault trauma when they did this — they both saw the opportunity to trap a girl, and they both ran with it.
I waited a long time after dumping the second guy before entering into another relationship with someone but, even after eighteen-or-so months of healing and growing, I managed to end up with the same kind of person. I ended that relationship within a few weeks and reverted to being single indefinitely.
Maybe someday, I’ll attract better people and choose better partners for myself, but today is clearly not that day. I strongly suspect that I have more self-betterment work I need to do on myself first.
I also discovered that my “best friend” of six years had done nothing but lie to me, lie about me, manipulate me, hold me back, and tear me down. She was always suffocating, obsessive, and over-dramatic. She didn’t have a personality or interests of her own, and she copied mine and her other friends’; her backstory was suspicious, and many of the things she said contradicted each other or didn’t add up.
Sometimes, I wish I could slap teenage me for looking past every sketchy thing about her. The truth is that I’d lost all of my friends back then (apparently she’d been the puppet master here, but it turns out those friends weren’t good friends to begin with anyways… I guess that’s one thing I can thank her for), and she knew how to make me feel like a million bucks. However, she also convinced me to scream at an innocent person [who she’d convinced me had physically and sexually assaulted her] time and again, someone who already had severe mental health issues (which were pretty aggravated by my ex-bff functioning as her abusive girlfriend/ex-girlfriend). Anytime the flames of our feud fizzled out, my ex-bff would come in and tell me that that poor girl was stalking or harassing her, and then message me off fake accounts she made under that same girl’s name. I was young and naive back then and so, thanks to my stupidity, it worked. Additionally, this ex-bff of mine had a true talent for playing the defenseless, beaten-down victim and, unfortunately, I’m the type of person who always feels the very stupid need to come to everyone’s rescue (I’ve been working hard at changing this aspect of my personality for years now).
That innocent girl my ex-bff targeted could’ve snapped at any moment — I thank God everyday that she didn’t.
My other “best friend” had a passive-aggressive attitude towards me. Some days she loved the hell out of me and was the best friend I’d ever had, and other days, she degraded my other friends and took her insecurities out on me [with the intent of ruining my day]. She hated herself and her life and, no matter how hard I, her family, and her other friends tried to help her make improvements and appreciate herself, she refused to take that initiative for herself. I did everything I could to consider her feelings, but one night, she took it too far and ruined something extremely special for me. I mean, you know it’s bad when your own mother says that you shouldn’t stay in a friendship that actually makes you ill.
I had other friends at the time, too… one reminded me far too much of the first ex-bff I mentioned, and when I had to let her go, her fiancee did the loyal thing by letting her friendship with me go as well. I miss her greatly, but I understand why she had to do what she did.
My oldest friend, who I knew for 14 years, turned out not to be my friend at all. He was just using me [and, eventually, my family], and only playing the role of a dependent, caring friend so that I wouldn’t notice. Eventually, I did. When I told him our friendship was over, he played dumb and tried to make it seem like it was a mutual decision we’d made together.
Meanwhile, I tried to cut off a more casual friend of mine, who I wasn’t terribly close to but who I texted a lot, because I found him entirely grating as a person. I tried my best to like him and tolerate him, but I knew I was going to grind my teeth into dust if I didn’t let him go. In turn, he messaged me every few weeks trying to delude me into believing that the distance between us was a result of his “anxiety” and “depression”, and guilt me into being his friend again. He was “a nice guy”, after all. Needless to say, I ignored him.
Another friend of mine, who I foolishly thought was the real deal, saw no point in being my friend anymore after I admitted that I wasn’t sexually attracted to him. I tried my best to be, but I just couldn’t do it. Still, sexual attraction shouldn’t be a prerequisite for friendship, and I’m extremely tired of all of the men in my life who’ve acted like it is.
Most of my other ex-friends, who I haven’t mentioned here, followed similar behavioral trends.
Is there something wrong with me? Am I the toxic person here? Is that why things keep turning out like this?
I honestly don’t know. It seems like the only logical conclusion, doesn’t it? There was a brief time, when I was younger, when I was an incredibly toxic person. Eventually, the damage I’d done caught up with me and I couldn’t believe how horrible I’d been. I did my best to make amends with the people I’d hurt and, moving forward, I’ve done my best to evaluate my thoughts, consider the consequences of my actions, and accept responsibility when I need to. I’m under psychiatric care now, and that’s really helped me to stay steady and grounded.
Nowadays, I do my best not to hurt the people who are good to me; I try my best to treat my loved ones well. Maybe I’m too honest sometimes, but that’s always either from a place of love or because I need to stand up for myself. I still make mistakes — sometimes, I make really, really big ones. But I suck up my pride and apologize sincerely when I need to. I always cheer on my friends and do my best to help them when they need it; I abandoned that whole “tearing down other women” thing a long time ago. I even changed my perspective on “jealousy” and, in turn, don’t experience it much anymore — when I do, I go through a reasoning process in my head so that I can handle it in a healthy manner.
I do my best to be my best. In turn, my handful of remaining friends are pretty amazing people. I’m beyond blessed to have them in my life. Even though I hardly get to see them, I’m so grateful to know them and have their love and support. My family, family friends, and MMA coach have also been absolutely God-sent in this life of mine.
I’ve always heard people in books, in movies, and in real life say that all relationships take work, and that you shouldn’t just take off when the going gets rough. They make the person who leaves difficult relationships and friendships the bad guy for “giving up” hope and “abandoning” someone who “loves” them. That’s a mentality that gets far too many of us stuck in unhealthy, and even abusive, dynamics with people who don’t really care about our well-being in the first place. You’re not “giving up”; you’re “leaving”. You’re “quitting” something that robs you of your happiness, something that drains you and doesn’t give enough back. Many times, when you try to leave those people who use and abuse you [whether they do so intentionally or unintentionally], they’ll try to pull that “I can’t believe you’re just giving up on us after everything I’ve done for you” line [or something similar]. That’s a manipulation in itself. If they really want to fight for you, they can do it without burdening you with guilt. And better yet, no matter how much they do to try and earn you back, you’re allowed to say no.
You’re always allowed to say no.
I wish someone had drilled that into my head a long, long time ago.
There are people in your life who may love you unconditionally, have your best interests at heart, and give you selfless priority in their lives — love them wholly, and do whatever you can for them without ruining yourself in the process. They deserve that kind of love too.
Still, the only person you truly owe anything to in this life is yourself. They say that you come into this world alone, and you leave it the same way.
They’re not wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself by approaching the world with skepticism. Theories of realism dictate that each man is out for himself — since I’ve found this to be almost entirely true, I live my life as a realist (idealism never worked out for me, but I’m not going to knock it).
Even as a realist, I’m still working at this “self-love” thing every day, but I’ve stopped accepting less for myself and from myself. I go out into the world and remember to take care of all that I am. I do my best to love myself more and more with each passing day. I try to put myself first more often instead of feeling obliged to take bullets for everyone else.
I do the best I can for myself.
I’m not here to be possessed by others. I’m not here to act as people’s emotional punching bag. I’m not here to be used, nor am I here to be a sexual object.
I’m not here to serve as anyone’s entertainment or experiment, and I’m sure as hell not here for anyone to overpower and destroy me just so that they can attempt to gain some sad semblance of self-worth.
I’m not here to be consumed and spat back up.
I’m here to live.
And, at long last, that’s exactly what I’m doing: I’m finally living.