For most of my life, I have been a people pleaser who wanted everyone to like me. I allowed toxic people to remain a part of my life because I did not want to hurt their feelings. No matter how much stress or anxiety they caused me or the guilt trips they placed on me, I put my smile on my face and pushed forward seeking their love and approval. Because they were “family”, I continued accepting their phone calls, dropping everything when another crisis occurred, and forcing my husband and children to be a part of their lives. The more I gave, the more they took.
About six years ago, I had an epiphany. I realized that it was okay to let go and stop seeking their approval. It was okay to no longer subject myself to the stress they brought into my life. My decision was not an easy one, but when I made up my mind to cut ties, a weight lifted from me. I could finally breathe.
I no longer answered phone calls, returned messages, or visited. Essentially, I removed them from my life completely. Over the next three years, I questioned my decision. Although I did not miss them, I felt guilty because you are supposed to be there for family. Was I a horrible person for choosing my emotional well-being over them?
When I was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, I did not announce it to the world because I did not want my life defined by it. Besides my sister, I did not tell my family. They had not ever been there for me before, so I figured nothing would be different this time. Yet, I still agonized over my decision.
Somehow my older brother discovered I had ALS, and he sent me a message through Facebook. Against my better judgement, I opened the message. His words ripped through me. He said that he heard about my ALS and was glad I had it. I was a horrible person who deserved everything I got. My initial reaction was to believe his words. Sadness filled me, but then I became angry thinking how could anyone be so cruel. No one deserved what was coming my way. Gradually, my emotions turned to pity when I began to understand that my brother was not in a good place. His hateful words were about his own struggles, not me.
This single message allowed me to find peace with my decision. As much as I wished them well, I no longer felt guilt from excluding my family from my life. Unfriending toxic people, especially when they are family, is extremely difficult. However, once you decide to put yourself first, your burden will be lifted. Give yourself permission to be okay without them. You are worth it.