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Some thoughts about "toxic" people

(475 Posts)
flippinada Sun 10-Mar-13 14:51:03

I've read and contributed to a couple of threads where people are having to deal with what I would describe as toxic friends and family and the distress that it cause. I've had issues in the past with people this myself and it's really got me thinking.

Once thing that struck me from these threads, plus my own experience of toxic types is that there seems to be common "themes" - the one that immediately comes to mind is that the toxic person needs an enabler - usually a husband or wife who panders to their awful behaviour and colludes with them.

I know there's already a wonderful support thread (stately homes) but I thought it might be helpful to have a general discussion about how to identify these people and cope with them, plus a kind of support thing so folk know they aren't alone in having to deal with it alone?

I think I might ring my mum up in a bit and ask her:

'Wow, how DO you do it? All that ENERGY you use for the relentless negativity you pass on, by God, surely you must get tired sometimes? Are you taking a 'nasty' version of pro plus?

I agree with you flip about Lola's mum, sorry too, Lola, for the 3rd person talk.
Anyway , better get some housework done before my tablet gets confiscated lol, the bathroom is growling at me. Speak soon x

flippinada Sun 17-Mar-13 15:17:36

Lol at nasty pro plus!

So how do you deal with them then? Any Tips?

I haven't spoken to my mum since she upset me on Mothers Day. My best friend is having a 70th Birthday Party for her mum this week and wants me to invite her, my dad and my brother. I also have a show my dd is singing in at school and got tickets for them all. I might ring my brother and see if he wants to go. I just cba to ring my mum - she will let this go on and on and my dad will want me to pussy foot round her as usual.
She's not going to change. She just goes through some periods when she's okay and others when she's like this so i don't really know how you can deal with them really, apart from trying your best not to let them intrude in your own life when they are behaving badly, keeping them at arms length or just cutting them out completely.

flippinada Sun 17-Mar-13 17:19:50

Bringback It's tough. Really tough.

I think one option, if you feel up to it, is to treat them as you would a toddler, for example "I will be doing X at Y time. You are welcome to come but if Z happens I will be leaving".

The only thing I know of is a bit woo! grin

These stories are appallingly sad. I've had it happen to me and I still don't understand why they do it. Are they even aware of the power they wield?

Stardust123 Thu 28-Mar-13 12:18:10

Hello, not posted for a while, I'm in a difficult situation, without going into full detail, I am having counselling at the moment, as my toxic sister lost her husband 20 months ago and started visiting me even more with her negativity, moans, groans and ailments. Poor me, all about me etc. etc. etc. Very difficult to remain supportive, and I obviously felt an overwhelming sense of responsbility for her. This has sent me into a mess emotionally, I started suffering obsessive thoughts and anxiety which has continued for the past 12 months. Better now, but still suffering with obsessive thoughts. I have tried to cut contact several times, but now I've finally done it and decided I am not going back. She has no friends and wonders why. It's not just a case that she's been bereaved so she feels miserable, she's always been this way. I have never heard her once say that she loves and misses her husband, just that 'I'm all on my own now, life's never gonna get any better attitidue' slagging off everyone who is trying to help her, but also making me feel guilty by sending my kids notes with money saying that she loves them loads. This is the one who was arguing in front of them the other week with her son which upset my daughter then she told my daughter off for texting me. Then said 'well to be honest the sooner I am with my husband the better' in front of my kids. This was the final straw that made me decide I need to get this person out of my life. I think my obsessive thoughts have come from an overwhelming sense of responsbility that I have to look after this person in the absence of her husband (she has health issues) and how I was going to cope with it long term. I hope I can recover and that counselling will help me. It's taking me a while to digest that actually what has happened to me is not my fault, I know it's my thoughts that have done this to me, but hey you can't actually control them and if she wasn't such a toxic personality I wouldn't even feel like this. She has always been very negative and miserable might I add, not just since her husband has died. I have a deep sense of family values but just can't deal with this person. The worrying thing is that my obsessive thoughts are still there, 5 weeks after cutting contact. But I hope I will get through with help. Thanks all.

dothraki Thu 28-Mar-13 12:35:02

Stardust - 5 weeks is notlong. We have been nc for 5 months and things still are painful. You will get thereand there is great support on here. There is also a similar thread running "regale me with amusing tales of something a narc" - itis not amusing its very sad, and lots of people from this thread are on there too. Goodluck x

AndTheBandPlayedOn Thu 28-Mar-13 14:32:56

Hi Stardust,
Congratulations on your no contact! I don't even know you and I feel relief for you. Your children probably don't mind one bit either, do they? Mine didn't. I am 5 years out and just now feeling done with it.

Excapt I tapered contact. I became full no contact just this past September, realizing that sending her a birthday card was a mistake (with help from counselor), she did not respond.
Counselling helps. I have had two different counselors tell me: "It is not mentally healthy for me to be around her." This has become a mantra for me and I hope it will help you too.

The obsessive thoughts. I read it somewhere as a "thought addiction". Which makes sense as we are the victims (nay, survivors!) of abuse-emotional abuse. There is some mysterious dynamic to keep us in the place of what we are used to as change can be scary. But we are changing for the good of our own self and that is not wrong, from any perspective. And also changing to protect our children from this bad social dynamic (that point helped me greatly-if not for myself, then for the dc). And at some point, I was like, well, just so tired of thinking about it.

You don't owe her anything. Compassion, empathy because she is ill? Well, it is tough, but being ill doesn't change who she is or how she treats you: you still don't owe her anything. If overwhelming guilt has you in there anyway; then how long will it take you to "detox" from the exposure to her? That is telling you to stay away. What will people think? Their thoughts are completely irrelevant, you won't let them live your life.

You are not responsible for her happiness.

And you can control your thoughts. The cliche "think happy thoughts" does actually have some legs. Distract yourself with a pleasant hobby or music.

grin nasty pro plus...I think my toxic sister would use the "5 hour nasty energy".

Stardust123 Thu 28-Mar-13 17:07:25

Thank you all, it helps to read your posts. I know it's not me, it's her as no one really likes her very much, even people she classes as friends (which is only one or two). It's just the obsessive thoughts that are driving me mad, you think that once you get rid of the problem, you will get rid of the thoughts - not so ! Once she lost her husband, I thought that's it I'm stuck with her now, not a good start really, subconsiously I panicked at the thought of the future with her, the years of moaning, groans and ailments. I wouldn't say that she's really a vindictive person, just very negative and miserable, judgemental, biggoted, racist, homophobe! These are the traits that I can't stand. She does have a good side, that's what makes it harder. And she doesn't mean to be the way she is. My aunty says she hasn't got a good word to say about anything or anyone. I felt like I had to cut contact to protect myself from anxiety on the future, but at the moment I don't feel any better which is the very confusing thing. I don't feel a great deal of relief really either. My cousin/aunty can't stand her also, so they understand where I am coming from. Don't think my kids are bothered either way really. One of the traits of anxiety is obsessive thoughts, I really feel like I can't control them, but I am hoping that they subside with the help of counselling. Does anyone know of a good support group for 'anxiety and toxic people' ! ??
Going to try the 'it's not mentally healthy for me to be around her' thought, thank you.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Thu 28-Mar-13 22:00:38

Hi Stardust,
It will take time.
Do you wake up in the middle of the night (3:30-4 am) thinking about it?

One strategy that might help is to make an appointment with yourself to think about it for 30 min (or whatever) once a day, and then that is it for that day. Any time she pops into your thoughts outside of the appointment, you "just say no" and make yourself think of something else (I am fascinated by Google Earth for example) until the next appointment. Say it out loud, 'no sister, I'm not doing that right now'.

Counselling will help. If you are not already seeing a therapist, (I can only say for me that) it is worth every minute and money you spend on it.

There may be an element of guilt in that you feel responsible for "being there for her" but have decided not to be. That was a big one for me.
There may be an element of grief in that you did not get the nice, loving sister you deserve to have, or grief for the end of your relationship with her.

And, you know what? It is ok if you just don't like her. If you wouldn't choose to be around her if she wasn't your sister, why does her being your sister make a difference? It doesn't. Alot of folks may disagree, but being "family" is not a free pass to abuse.

Hang in there. Process the events as they come up in your mind, understand it was not fair, right, civil to be treated like that and you didn't deserve it. Acknowledge to yourself, your feelings that you may have kept hidden to keep the peace: that it hurt! And tell yourself you won't put up with it anymore.

GoodtoBetter Thu 28-Mar-13 22:24:04

My mother has been known to exhibit all but the last 2 on that list.

Stardust123 Fri 29-Mar-13 12:35:09

Hi, yes I think about her 24/7, an offshoot of anxiety ??? Feeling really like a bad person today, trying to cope with anxiety as well as the reality that I've cut her off, feeling guilty, I'm just not a malicious person. I feel all the things that you've mentioned. I do feel very responsible. I wouldn't choose to be around her if she was not my sister. However, we have a fifty year relationship which has not all been bad, so it's very very hard. I didn't sleep hardly for 5 months due to anxiety last year. Am sleeping better now, but she is the first thing on my mind when i wake up and stays that way all day, even when I am working or watching TV, it's always there. I know this is anxiety finding a channel, but it's so hard not trying to analyse your thoughts all the time. Anyone else suffered anxiety regarding a tox person ? Thank you all, it really really helps. !!!!!

Springdiva Fri 29-Mar-13 13:04:02

Have you tried writing stuff down, Stardust?

Ime it stops stuff running through your head all the time. Just write down all your thoughts and feelings, it 'gets it off your chest', though you may have to keep them hidden!

You can't change anyone, remember they can only change themselves, so don't waste time trying.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Fri 29-Mar-13 13:52:46

What Springdiva said does help, Stardust. In fact journaling sort of gave me my wake up call on the dynamic. I filled page after page of examples of sister's superiority plays and power festivals at my expense and even at the expense of others. I realized my journal was all about her (could I not escape her angry ) as the hate poured forth and it shocked me. And then I was afraid that she'd find it, somehow, someday, someway (even though she lives 80 miles away!).

So I CUT the pages out of my rather nice journal and destroyed the pages. The first thing I thought was what a coward I was at the age of (then) 46 to continue to be intimidated by her. May be she should find it and get a f-bomb clue. But then my first counsellor said that journaling, and then destroying the pages was therapeutic.

The idea is that writing it down is a process to get it physically out of yourself- from your brain down your arm through the pen and onto the paper. Now the paper has it and you don't need to worry about that event again. Destroying, (burn or shred -however), it makes it gone forever. It is cathartic.

Also Stardust, you know that when sister finally realizes that you have created boundaries, she may fuss like a toddler throwing a mega-tantrum. But eventually she will simply move on to get her supply from someone else. My sister gave me the silent treatment, hee hee, as if that was going to punish me. Little did she know, that was a win-win situation! wink

Stardust123 Wed 03-Apr-13 19:17:47

Hi all, on holiday this week but would like to thank you all. will come back nxt week for more discussion.

Stardust123 Tue 09-Apr-13 16:47:04

well, back after a weeks holiday, ended up texting my sister 3 days after I went felt really really guilty as it was her deceased husband's 60th birthday, said that I am currently having counselling and would perhaps consider meeting her to look at a way forward. Days later and I am regretting this ! she didn't reply but that's not surprising really. Can anyone recommend a good book about this issue, the dilema I am having is is it me or her ? I am sure if her husband hadn't passed away i wouldn't really have had anxiety issues, it's just the fact that I kinda felt responsible for her and that I had to be the one to listen to all the moans, groans, netagitivty, ailments, slagging off of people for the next 20 years and that she was pushing herself onto me more than she would have done. So my question is, is it me and my thoughts that have gone haywire about not being able to cope or is it her !! Going to counsellor on Tuesday, still having obsessive thoughts, no better than they were . Thanks !

carlywurly Tue 09-Apr-13 21:48:16

I'm sorry, I can't recommend a book but bloody hell, this thread has struck a chord with me. There is so much of this about. I'll come back when I can, but am still in the early stages of figuring my family out. hmm

tangerinefeathers Wed 10-Apr-13 01:27:35

MIL is just cold. She comes across as a lovely slightly fluffy kind of person but she's more than capable of leaving her own children in absolutely dire financial situations, if it would benefit herself. I'm not exaggerating. A while ago she tried to convince DH and myself to enter in to a financial agreement with her that would have let MIL completely off the hook for the bad financial decisions that she's made, and we would have been left footing the bill to the tune of nearly 100k. This woman has worked in the financial industry for most of her working life, I can't believe she wouldn't know exactly what she was doing.

this is my mother too! When I first moved to London she she became obsessed with owning a property there, and as I was working in the UK she could front up a deposit and use my (tiny) salary to get a mortgage. It became an obsession, she found some truly dodgy places and convinced me it was a great idea. In the end the bank basically told me to bugger off as there was no way I could afford the repayments, but if I had been given the mortgage I would have been stuck in a horrible place with my name on it and no escape.

She also dossed in my shared house for ages, which wasn't ideal given other people were living there too, and would think nothing of waking me at all hours if she couldn't sleep, so I would go to work exhausted. When she finally went home again I went straight to therapy!!

tangerinefeathers Wed 10-Apr-13 01:31:54

thebandplayedon my sister has given me the silent treatment for almost a year now, it's so nice. She was always a toxic presence in my life, teaching me to smoke and drink as a 12-year-old, telling me to fail the gifted stream test when I left primary school as I would be in with really boring kids if I passed (I would have passed too, but I failed on purpose which still annoys me!).

So many things she's done. Intrusive, asks really inappropriate questions, and if you ever pull her up you get abused or have to discuss it for hours and hours. She's exhausting. I remember when I was due to have a baby she convinced me to go on a huge walk with her and went on and on about old family crap, stuff to do with our mad mother etc. If I'd gone into labour that night I would have been totally drained. It's as if she tries to drain me. My mother is the same.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 10-Apr-13 02:40:49

Hi Tangerinefeathers, your sister sounds awful. Did she thrive on guiding you to, well, f*ck up? angry on your behalf...and a way good thumbs up on the disconnection. smile

Hi Stardust, I hope you had a lovely holiday. Don't beat yourself up for making contact. Just think of it as a slip up. You wrote previously that you know it is her and not you. It isn't you, it is her. You are cool, she is not. She is awful, you are together. wink

Your sister is an adult. She doesn't need you and you don't need her; she isn't responsible for you and you are not responsible for her. Yes?

You are burned out and used up by her. It is time to step away. Imho, for me anyway, it was like thinking about sister was a habit, a bad habit...then it somehow snowballed into the obsessive addiction thought process. Sisters' actions and interactions with us have been all about them (and it didn't help that with your sister, it was all negative) and that has in a way trained us to, wired us to, brainwashed us to think about them consciously or subconsciously.

I finally came to the point of being tired of thinking about her. (A first step was realizing how much I had been venting to dh and stopped that-he was sick of hearing it.) Then a sort of revelation hit me that I was still making my life about her (even though I had not seen her in years) by continuing to think about her. My life is not about her, my life is about me. That is my new mantra. My life is about me and I need to, and it is ok to, think about me, and not her.

This does take time, Stardust. It is retraining your brain to think differently. After dealing with toxic people for so long, thinking of ourselves, putting ourselves first, is a change of thinking.

Sorry this is so long, hope it can help some.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Wed 10-Apr-13 02:50:09

shock about your mom, too, Tangeringfeathers. So how else can she make use of you ? angry It boggles the mind what people who are supposed to love us, or at least be on the same team, are capable of doing. confused

tangerinefeathers Wed 10-Apr-13 09:04:40

Illness seems to be another theme here. I can barely remember being taken to the doctor as a child, so have a very high pain threshold and lack of awareness about physical discomfort, to the point where I just ignore physical symptoms/cold/damp etc. [Am getting better as married to a major hypochondriac]. I remember our parents were always really bad at picking us up. We'd be the last left at parties, friend's houses etc and left for ages after netball etc even if it was raining. I remember so well that feeling of watching the place empty out (violins...!!). And then the pathetic gratitude when their car would finally appear.

The bad behaviour thing in restaurants is also familiar. We stupidly went out for my birthday. It was half price night but of course I had to buy my own dinner (despite the fact that my parents are worth millions, as my mum is always happy to tell me when I'm upset about not being able to afford a house) and my mother sat there as if she was at a funeral. I have no idea what was wrong with her, but it was like eating dinner in an igloo, the atmosphere was so icy. I was so angry at her for behaving like that.

I am now pregnant and feel as if this anger I carry around is so bad for my little baby. I really hate her at the moment, really really hate her. She's getting a bit senile (I think) and more grandiose, attention seeking. Every conversation gets turned onto her and she will stand there and make you listen to her in great detail about something to do with herself, that always makes her sound like the hero. She tells the same stories again and again and again, it's as if she doesn't care if you've heard them a million times before, she just wants to tell them.

I was told by a therapist that she won't change, I have to feel that feeling I have for my DS and give it to myself, i.e. mother myself. I do try to.

I was lucky to have a grandmother who was maternal, consistent and loving, and thank god I can model my mothering on her. I always make a point of cuddling my son in front of my mother, showering him with love, as she has always told me I'm selfish, hard etc and I think she's jealous of the bond I have with my DS.

She's also just a fucking bitch sometimes. I recently was shortlisted for a prize and I came in with my framed award she said, oh, I was hoping you'd win. And then she rang me the next day and asked loads of questions about how many shortlisted people there were, how many entries etc. It was as if she wanted to pick the whole occasion into little pieces or find a way of feeling superior or something [probably doesn't make sense but it's something my sister did too, alway analysing and picking my achievements to pieces].

I like the simple idea of being allergic to her. I am allergic to her, she makes me tense and on edge just being in the same room as her, it's unbearable. I don't feel that sad about it though, I think because I had my grandmother.

Sorry to waffle. It's very cathartic. It's always been a taboo to slag her off as she presents herself as a living saint. I do wonder though how many people see straight through it and find her as tricky as I do. I love telling on her now (even just online) as I grew up in that classic stifled atmosphere where you never spoke about what really went on at home, her moods, her occasional physical abuse etc.

Stardust123 Wed 10-Apr-13 11:09:02

Hello all, thanks for the comments And The Band Played On. I am struggling, had a horrible holiday, obsessive thoughts all week, I know these thoughts are anxiety related and I know they have come from absolute fear of having to have her in my life and maybe having to care for her when she's older. When her husband died, I just thought that's it, I'm stuck with her now. That has lead to all my anxiety problems. Every day thoughts go round my head every minute of the day all about her, I can't seem to stop, but I am encouraged by people's comments on here. I can't say that my sister is as bad as some as these people, but somethings she has said in the past I can't forget and they keep coming back to me. Like 'well I've never been the favourite daughter have I' and 'when you came along, it was like I didn't exist'. Then she visited my Aunty (My Mom's sister) and asked her why My Mom never liked her! My Mom was an angel, literally, so kind, gentle and lovely. Sadly not with me anymore. x I have to get it through my head that I am not responsible. My greatest fear is having to be her carer in the future, she has lots of ailments (not sure how many are genuine though!), I told her in the past when discussing my anxiety problems that her health problems make me anxious. I think the last few times I saw her, she told me about something that had gone wrong with her health each time! That makes me mad! I am too soft a person, too kind and sympathetic for my own good, I agree I need to change my thought patterns but it's hard, going to see counsellor tonight, see what happens there.
Tangerine feathers, I know what you mean about being in the same room, and repeating stories, that's just like my sister. It's as if every time we meet, we have the same conversation. Nothing in common ! If I say I've had palpitations, she will straight away say 'well i know what that's like' and turns it all round to her. I am going to try and get it in my head that you know what, I am not responsible for her, and I have to get over the guilt. Also, if you broach the subject with other people who know your Mom, you will be amazed, if you see her like that, you can bet that others do - does she have any friends or just aquaintances that put up with her? I am so tired of the whole anxiety thing and I'm sick of thinking about her.

tangerinefeathers Wed 10-Apr-13 11:41:14

Stardust I hope you find ways of alleviating your anxiety, it sounds like it's really creeping up on you.

You won't have to care for your sister if you don't want to. She has a hold over you but you can break that, just by realising that she is manipulating you into taking on all her problems and worrying about her health. You didn't ask to be born after her. Remember when she starts going on about her health you don't have to listen, you can simply say, gosh, you need to go back to your GP and then disengage, get up, break eye contact, whatever. She will eventually get the message that her health is her responsibility. She sounds very selfish and demanding.

As for my mum, she doesn't really have friends, no. My father is her main ally. I have never seen her really laugh with a friend or let her hair down, she's far too controlled. I do wonder now about my grandmother, about how much she took on of our parenting and how she felt about that. My mother wanted to get back to work and my grandmother looked after us every day after school and many weekends too, she basically gave up her retirement to care for us. I now wonder how much she really wanted that or if it was forced upon her.

My mother though gets very jealous if we talk about my grandmother. I was talking about her the other day and my mother started going on about how she cared for my grandmother when she was dying, going into great detail about her final days, as if it was some exciting story with her as the hero, and not a very sad memory. I got out of the car and walked away when she exclaimed 'I was the one to give her the first morphine injection!'. Oh, she's bonkers!

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