Updated: Nov 3
Most of us know what it's like to have been in a toxic relationship, even if it isn't romantic, the chances are each of you has been part of some kind of dynamic that slid slowly into the all too common realms of the internecine. Friends that put you down in constant jibs they call 'banter', family members that cross boundaries and ask too much of you, partners that let their insecurities metastasize into controlling behavior. Me and Harry, for example, we definitely got comfortable in an unhealthy situation. (I want to emphasize here that toxic isn't the same as malicious or abusive. It isn't always the case that one person is the perpetrator and the other the victim. In fact, most of the time, the fault of the toxicity isn't on anyone at all. It can grow from pain or good intentions and roll so quickly out of control it is impossible to catch. That's what happened with me and H, we never wanted to hurt each other, but we really, really did).
It can take a long time to recognize when you're in it, sometimes it doesn't hit you until months or years later, sometimes you do recognize it but the pull is too strong ("I'm addicted to you" - been there Britney!) But eventually, if you're lucky enough to have gotten out of it, the dust settles and you see it for what it is. Then our skin hardens so quickly (or at least mine did) and you learn to err on the side of caution. Red flags were once like Where's Wallys, now they're as clear as that first line of consonants at the opticians. Quite rightly we march forward into all our future relationships with a 0 tolerance policy for any old bugger in a red and white striped jumper and hat because it just isn't worth the risk of loosing yourself.
This horrible lesson that we all go through is an important one on the journey of self love. Afterwards you can start advising yourself against the people who your friends always knew were no good for you. They wanted better for you, now it's time to want better for yourself, too.
So, that being said, you might be surprised to learn that right now, I am knee deep in the most toxic of relationships. The other party does not care about my needs, does not listen or change for me, belittles me, makes life impossibly difficult for me and acts like the slightest accommodations are ridiculous expectations. They have been arrogant, ableist, and they have made me feel so small. I hope your alarm bells are ringing. Given that hefty monologue above, you can understand that my intuitions were screaming at me to cut this toxic dynamic out of my life...
But the difference is, that this relationship isn't between me and another individual, but an institution. The difference is that accepting a toxic relationship with somebody that you love, rather than accepting no relationship with somebody you love, is an attractive prospect, but one that cannot be fruitful. Staying in that dynamic won't fix the hurt, but perpetuate it. But I don't love this institution (I am quite indifferent to it) so I know that the reason I am staying is not because it's attractive... it's because my efforts can be fruitful. I can change the wrongs of an institution. As horrible, and as hurtful as it is to live through, if we can be steadfast and demand our rights when we are bullied and intimidated, if we won't move for discrimination or antiquated values, then we really can force those institutions to change.
I don't want to go into the details now, but what I will tell you is that this wasn't a small problem. Financially, politically, socially and personally, what this institution expected me to put up with was gross... in all senses of the word. Now, it is still imperative to look after your own well-being, and if battling through this relationship ever threatens to be detrimental to my sense of self, then with a heavy heart I will have to bow out. But for now, I am so prepared to face a bit of toxic so that one day people like me won't have to.
I guess if my blog was an album this one would be the boss-bitch-power-ballad. I'm reminding myself to keep on fighting. Little FND warriors, disabled warriors, neurodivergent warriors, long-term health condition warriors or just people with slightly different abilities and needs - when big, powerful institutions say they will not risk expending the extra energy to bend even slightly to accommodate your fundamental right to access, safeguarding and survival, be kind enough to your heart to remind yourself that you really aren't the problem.
So yeah, I'm in a really hurtful relationship with someone that doesn't value, listen to or support me, but like fuck am I breaking up with them. You can move around me. I am not budging an inch.
Have an incredible week, readers, and remember... don't let the bastards win.