The most damaging toxin of all?

All my life, I have been riddled with addiction, even when I was knee high. Not knowing what I’m referring to, this may confuse and shock you. Childhood alcoholism? Drugs? Smoking? No. Despite never falling prey to any of those vices (apart from alcohol, admittedly – although nowhere near the extent that I’m addicted), I have always been victim to one particularly horrible vice: toxic friendships.

Throughout primary school, I would befriend people who turned out to be self-absorbed and would manipulate me into feeling sorry for them, and even behaving like them at times. I remember once we got a new girl in our class (who turned out to be a really good friend), and one particular friend took an instant dislike to her for no reason. I remember endless playtimes she would taunt and tease this girl, making it out to be friendly, jocular play so I would be drawn in, only to turn it into full-blown bullying to my horror. I stopped laughing with her. I remember feeling close to tears as we had to go to the headteacher’s office because the issue had been raised, knowing my friend would only turn against me if I spoke against her. I wanted so badly to defend the new girl as she was a much nicer person, but I was terrified of the consequences if I admitted to being on her side.

Things blew over and to this day the three of us are good friends. Bygones are bygones.

But since starting university, I’ve found a new toxic friend. I can’t help but feel like I’ve let myself down slightly. Before, when I had these toxic friends, we remained friends because we has history together, but now, there is really no excuse. I could’ve easily not let myself be drawn into another toxic friendship. But the truth is, I’m naive about these things. I believe everyone has good intentions until proven otherwise.

I met this friend – X, shall I call her? – within weeks of first year starting, as we are on the same course. She was outgoing and chatty, so I welcomed her attention. It felt like I was making friends without me having to provide the bulk of the conversation, which I find really awkward, being an introvert. Slowly I began to realise X was very opinionated, and I found her brash mannerisms quite intimidating. She began to show disdain for others’ feelings, shirking expectations and always doing things on her own terms. But still, we were friends, weren’t we? I just had to accept she was a very overbearing person.

X hurt me for the first time a month into university, when she auditioned for a solo which she knew I badly wanted. She blatantly said she “couldn’t be bothered” doing the concert, then at the last minute decided she would audition anyway simply because she knew the piece already. This, may I add, was after listening to me practise and criticising me to a point where I felt like there really wasn’t any point going for the solo at all. In retrospect, perhaps she was deliberately undermining me. Either way, she got the solo and did not waste any opportunity to tell me about it: “can you believe I got it? I didn’t even want it! Oh well!”

The past few weeks around her have been hellish. She was performing in a concert recently, which she was desperately trying to sell tickets for. I already had plans to got to another concert that evening so I politely declined. Since then, it has constantly been “you could’ve come, it didn’t start til 9. Your concert would’ve been finished by then.” When I explained that in actual fact, it didn’t finish by 9, and regardless of that, I went to spend time in the pub with my real friends afterwards, she immediately responded very snippily with, “well, at least you’re having a good life!”

It made me so angry – yes, I’m getting on well at the moment: I’ve finally settled into a real circle of friends whose backs I always have, I’m keeping on top of coursework and I’ve found an amazing man I can see myself being in a relationship with in the near future. But just because things are in my favour at the moment, doesn’t mean I’ve got a “good life”! And conversely, what makes her life so bad? She is constantly stressed, yes, but that is because she overcommits herself to things (I get this really strong feeling she’s trying to prove herself in some ways). I don’t think that quite compares to suffering clinical depression, for some reason.

If I could go back in time and choose my friends more carefully I would, but that’s never going to happen. I’m not confident enough ever end a friendship with someone, especially in X’s case where I see her every day. I suppose the most important thing to do in situations like these is to surround ourselves with friends we trust and love (platonically, of course), and whose support we can rely on: the green tea friends which rid the mind of toxins caused by our crack cocaine friends.



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