When I was at school, I had a pretty big friendship group. In my teens, in standard teenage girl fashion, my best friend pretty much depended on what my hormones were doing, but in my last few years especially, I had a big pool to choose from.
Things weren't rosy though, but at that point, I was very good at compartmentalising. I could be sprawled out on the field at school during dinnertime, dancing to Queen- my friends and I all had majorly different music taste, but we could all agree on what a tune Don't Stop Me Now is- and laughing until my sides hurt. But then I could go home and be cutting those same sides to ribbons and feeling nothing. I could be skiving school to go shopping, or I could be nipping out of class to claw my insides out of my throat.
As I got more ill, maybe when I was about 16, my friendships began to fall apart. There were a lot of reasons for this. I couldn't function in ordinary settings, or in ordinary ways. I wasn't fun. I was needy and selfish. I left school at that age and went off to college, where the 150 people in my school year became, I don't know, about ten times that. But other groups of friends lasted. But a lot of my friendship group did last. Just without me.
I had started to become toxic.
I made new friends at college, but they were mostly temporary. There's only really one of my friends from college who has always been there for me. That sounds a bit bitter, but I don't mean it to be. I honestly just was that toxic.
A similar sort of thing happened when I went to uni. I started out with a big group of friends and now, I'd say I have a couple of genuine friends from that point, a few acquaintances whose tweets I'll like, and probably a whole lot of people who realised I was toxic and couldn't handle it.
Which is ok. It's more than ok. A key component of self care is letting go of that which weighs you down, and toxic people will definitely do that to you. We will drain you, we will exasperate you, we will expect a lot of you. And you don't have to take it. Maybe you shouldn't take it. But you remember that that toxic person is still a person. Don't be cruel.
Recently, it seems like 'personality disordered' has become a handy synonym for 'toxicity'. There's more stigma around personality disorders than there is over any other mental illness. The 'crazy' women in films are always borderline (let's not forget the character in Ugly Betty who tried to kill Betty because she thought Betty was into her boyfriend... all because she had BPD and that's what BPD women do), 'crazy' men are always sociopaths. Even in mental health communities, service users who are seen as difficult are almost always diagnosed with personality disorders. When people talk about toxic people, they often describe people exhibiting PD traits. They diagnose them as narcissists or as histrionic, without the knowledge necessary of PDs or the person they're talking about. And that needs to stop.
If you need to walk away, walk away. But be compassionate. Remember that oftentimes toxic people have developed that way for a reason. Remember that when you write someone off as having a personality disorder- be that borderline, narcissism, sociopathy etc- you are adding to a catalogue of reasons that went into their personality. Remember that walking away might be necessary, but that you need to do it fairly and openly. Remember that it's fine not to like the way a person behaves, but that people are more than their darkest days.