Guest Posts | Living with Chronic Illness

Be Our Guest Fridays {25}: Self Care & Letting Toxic People Go by Lisa Salazar

Today, I’m happy to present you with Lisa, a cupcake loving, Southern suburban mom and a fellow book lover. We have similar taste in books and after chatting with Lisa on Twitter, she told me she endures several chronic illnesses. She used to blog just about books on her blog and when I asked her to be my guest, she decided to share something deeply personal. 

I’m honored she chose my site to share these important lessons she’s learned the hard way from having chronic illnesses. Self-care is important for everyone but for those of us with chronic illness, it’s even more vital to prevent unnecessary additional pain. I’m not here to do all the talking today, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Lisa!

Update: I have not provided a link to Lisa’s blog because she no longer blogs at Books in the Burbs or maintains another website. That being said, this post is still very relevant and well written so I’m happy to keep this important conversation going.

Self Care is vital for chronic illness patients. Guest writer Lisa Salazar teaches us why we need to love ourselves and let toxic people go. Includes 12 ways to determine if your relationship is toxic.

 

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Self-Care: Loving Yourself Enough to Let Toxic People Go

By Lisa Salazar from the former book blog Books in the Burbs

 

I’ve read articles and heard people discuss different vitamins that help our bodies rid itself of toxins and the Liver Cleanse. I am sure you have read or heard the same thing. When you are diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder, it quickly becomes about which medicines are helpful, which vitamins to supplement your body with, exercises, and ways to combat fatigue and stress. However, very seldom do I read or hear about a cleanse that involves eliminating toxic people.

Throughout my life, I have been the caregiver, the person people call when they need to talk, receive emotional support, or get money from. I was the “go-to” person in certain people’s lives. Whatever it was, I tended to take on their problems as my own and do what I could to help them….even at the expense of my own emotional and physical health. While I am a family therapist, it is hard to see the personal sacrifices made when in the midst of the situation. It has taken time, experience, understanding what is most important in my life and who is most important, for me to truly understand what it means to let go of toxic people. There is a saying that I have often heard throughout life: “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.” That is WRONG!! No! Do not keep toxic people in your life.

 

It took being diagnosed with my illnesses to truly understand the importance and necessity of streamlining my support system and identifying the toxic people in my life. I had to reevaluate the relationships in my life, which included family, and determine if that relationship was healthy and supportive, or toxic and energy depleting. Then, it took a lot of prayer and talking to my surrogate parents (who are also my spiritual advisors), to give myself the permission I needed to let these people go.

 

12 Ways To Determine if You Have a Toxic Person in Your Life:

• Does this person only contact you when there is an issue in his/her life?
• Does this person focus on his/her issues and seldom (if any) asks how YOU are doing?
• Does this person act passive aggressive with you and make snide remarks that are hurtful?
• Are you excluded from events or gatherings that are meant to be happy events, and then use excuses to explain why you weren’t invited?
• Does drama follow that person-whether he/she creates it or stirs it?
• Does that person focus on every negative issue going on life and not notice the positive?
• Do you feel your issues are dismissed about what is going on with you?
• Do you feel depleted from energy after you talk or spend time with the person?
• Do you feel that you aren’t supported or encouraged and your symptoms are dismissed, so that the person can quickly refocus on him/herself?
• Do you feel that you have to walk on egg shells around this person because he/she will quickly become angry and get defensive towards you? Then, you feel guilty for “rocking the boat”?
• Do you feel that your needs aren’t valued or your opinions aren’t important?
• Do you find yourself simply giving in and doing what he/she wants just to stop the tension?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time to re-evaluate those relationships in your life. Sure, there are times when a conversation will be about the other person. However, if you find that the person’s needs and interests are the primary focus of your relationship, then it is time to re-evaluate that relationship. For those of us who do have auto-immune diseases: time is important, self-care is essential, and priorities need to be made. This applies to family, friends, and new people who pass by in our life.

 

Who Should Be a Part of Your Life?

To determine this, it is always important to ask yourself these 3 questions:

• Is our relationship based on mutual respect, unselfish love, and understanding?
• Is this person as invested in my life, as I am in theirs?
• Do I enjoy myself around this person without a feeling of heaviness, fear, or guilt?

 

If you answered yes to those 3 questions, then these are the people you want to include in your inner circle and invest time, energy, and love to. For all others, I highly encourage you to read the post below. It is perfectly stated, giving you permission to be your own advocate. Who you surround yourself with is just as important as taking your medicines. Why? Because we feed off energy and are affected not just emotionally, but physically, too! We need to be around those who will uplift us, not overwhelm and burden us to the point of exhaustion with every single interaction made (via email, text, phone, seeing them on social media, etc).

When you take care of yourself and eliminate toxic relationships in your life, you make room for those who do love and support you. It is healthy and important to be your own advocate for self-care, which includes removing toxic people from your life. Because your emotional health is closely connected to your physical health, having less drama and more authentic and valuable relationships in your life will help you feel better, be more energized, and feel supported when your illness may not be so visible to others.

 

About Lisa:

Lisa from Books in the Burbs

Lisa Salazar is a licensed marriage and family therapist and professional counselor. She is also the owner and blogger for Books in the Burbs. Diagnosed with CFS/Fibromyalgia in 1999 and Hasimoto’s Disease in 2008, Lisa has had a long road to recovery. However, the greatest lesson she has learned is that it is okay to seek support, it is important to set boundaries, and it is necessary to say goodbye to toxic people for the sake of her emotional well-being. Lisa’s husband and children have been her greatest joy and support. God truly blessed her with a family that has walked this journey with her, sprinkling angels along the path, who have given her support and unconditional love.

 
© Books in the Burbs, Lisa Salazar, 2015. All rights reserved.

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I love that my book blogging friends are sharing some important messages with us. I think Lisa’s post complements Jennine’s guest post from last week about Relearning Friendships. Lisa tells us how to let the toxic ones go and Jennine told us how to rebuild and recognize meaningful friendships.

What a difficult realization that some people in your life are toxic to you. I had one particularly toxic relationship in my life. Just telling my husband about the upsetting conversations would send pain throughout my body and I’d be unable to move or play with my boys for days. Though I did not classify the relationship as toxic, I realize after reading Lisa’s post that it was. It did not take me long to realize that I could not stay in the relationship, I was letting my emotional stress cause me physical pain and my family and I suffered for it. I have not regretted it once in the past two years since I decided to take care of myself and let that toxic relationship go.

 

What about you? Do you love yourself? Do you have toxic relationships? How did you handle them? What do you do for self-care? How do you cope with your chronic illness(es)? Be sure to tell us and support one another in the comments!

 

Struggling to understand why your chronic illness is flaring? Subscribe to my newsletter to get tips for coping and thriving with the physical and emotional challenges that come with a chronic illness and get my FREE Food and Symptom printable to track how food, water, sleep and weather impact your symptoms to that you can start feeling better sooner!
 

Other Posts Like this You Might Enjoy: 

My Journey with Autoimmune Rheumatoid Arthritis

When Both Partners Have Chronic Illness by Guest Blogger Becomin Neurotic

Lessons Learned from Chronic Illness by Mindful Shopper

 

Recommended Tools for Coping with Chronic Illness: 


 

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29 Comments

  1. This is so timely, as I just had the awareness to draw a line in the sand with several people who were “energy vampires” and only coming around when they wanted some of my good energy to feed off of. Maybe they didn’t realize it and I’m sure they are just trying to reach a high frequency, but everyone must realize relationships of all kinds are give and take at equal amounts in order to balance each other. Thanks for defining all this and it pointing it out to educate!

  2. Great checklist of questions to determine wether or not we are in a toxic relationship and the 3 questions to determine who should be in our lives. I am very grateful that all my relationships do not fall into the toxic relationship category and do fall into what I call ideal relationships (yes to the 3 questions). You brought up a very important subject of the relationship of emotional health and physical health. I agree with you there are very much related. Happy to hear that your relationships are based on unconditional love, that you have wonderful husband and children.

  3. For me, gaining true friends is hard to come by, and reading your post had me reminiscing on how I dealt with my own personal experience. Letting go of people, especially when you considered them friends at a point in your life, is really difficult. But this time around, I’ve learned that if they are indeed your friend, they will not abuse or take advantage of your kindness. I’ve been patient with them but there are times that ‘these’ people will really test you and I had to understand that there’s a limit to everything which is why I’ve managed to learn from my mistake and to let go of these people when they were becoming too toxic for me.

    I think you might enjoy the article I wrote: http://www.escapedmonkees.com/musings/deal-joffrey-toxic-free-life

  4. Amazing post, Lisa! A lot of what we discussed last night. You are absolutely right that toxic people are just unnecessary weight. I call them “energy vampires” because they suck all the energy out of you just to be around them. I have a hard enough time finding energy without someone sucking it all up from me, too! I want to be around positive people. People who bring me light and love and value what I say and listen and understand. I want to be around people who allow me to do the same. Sarcasm is a given with me, but only in fun! I promise!

    1. You said it-vampires!! And, it’s quite selfish, because it’s at the expense of someone else for that person to feel good. I love your sarcasm and have some myself, which is a must when living with chronic illness. We have to simply find the silver linings and some joy to keep us going. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Thank you for this much needed post. I deal with toxic people in my life. It can be difficult when it is your family. I have cut them out before and now have limited contact. I stay in touch for my children’s sake, but it is a delicate balance. It’s encouraging when you hear how other people face similar changes. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Family can be the worst, when it comes to toxic energy. Why? Because we allow them more leeway and make excuses for their behavior. What I have learned over the years is this: being family doesn’t give that person the automatic right into my life or that of my children. It is based on mutual trust and respect that give anyone access into our lives.

      It is great to give people in your life boundaries, because you need that to protect yourself and your children. However, don’t do anything at the expense of your health. It is simply not worth it and honestly, your children want more of you to be healthy and happy, rather than seeing someone, who brings around negative energy: friend or family.

      Thanks so much for sharing and I’m glad this post resonated with you!

  6. Thanks for your post. I deal with a particular toxic person on a regular basis, my mother. She is narracistic according to my counselor who emcouges me to keep my distance. However, I am not ready to make this break yet. It will rip my family apart. Do you have any advice on the best way to do this without causing more trauma to the rest of my family. I realize I am not responsible for others actions but I want to minimize the damage.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. I am so glad that the post resonated with you! The best advice I can give you is to continue to process your feelings with your therapist and for both of you to decide the best approach with your mom. Because I don’t know the full history of your background, it would be quite premature and unprofessional of me to share a plan of action. However, I would like to commend you for acknowledging who is toxic and knowing you have to do something. Best of luck to you!!

  7. This hits home. I am a three-time cancer survivor who knows better to then to have allowed toxic people in my life. They suck life OUT of you. I have had to reset a few times, but these words of wisdom – I am abiding by them in my life and though it wasn’t always easy, it is so much sweeter now. Thank you for such a great post. (Followed you from the Small Victories Sunday Linky).

    1. A 3-time cancer survivor? Wow, congratulations and what amazing strength you have to overcome both your physical challenges and emotional obstacles. I am sure surviving cancer changes your perspective and brings clarity to relationships and the positive things we should focus on in our lives. Thanks for sharing your story with us Heather!

    2. Heather-wow!! You are one amazing woman and being a survivor of not just toxic people but cancer, too….you deserve every ounce of happiness in your life and surrounding yourself with those who will uplift and encourage you…not be life suckers, for sure! I understand how hard it is to identify toxic people, especially when you are in the midst of a situation. However, it is never too late to “reset”, as you stated!! Thank you for sharing and may you continue to have a life filled of great health and happiness, surrounded by those who love and care for you!! xx

  8. Lisa, thanks for sharing your important post. Your list of questions were particularly helpful. About a year ago it finally clicked with me that I had some toxic relationships and changes to make. Tanya, thanks for sharing this post.

    1. you’re welcome Pat, Lisa did a great job and so glad she’s sharing her wisdom with us. A lot of us don’t want to hear it, but sometimes it’s important to let people go. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    2. Pat, I am so glad you were able to identify toxic people through the list of questions. When we start to identify and remove toxic people from our life, we also invite healthier relationships into our lives. It is very true that we attract more into our life of what we receive…so if are constantly answering SOS signals, then we will have a lot of people in our world, who are always in a state of emergency. Self-care is not selfish, it is needed and vital to our emotional and physical health, which are connected to each other. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  9. Lisa–you are one of the most positive and beautiful people I know. You are always nothing but sweet and kind and I so appreciate that about you–our little community needs your positive light amongst us! I absolutely agree with this article and have had to let some toxic friendships go in the past. It’s caused me great guilt over the years but the pain isn’t worth OTHER PEOPLE making me feel guilt. We must take care of ourselves and allow ourselves be happy…because then we can help others shine in our positive light.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. You are so sweet and thoughtful! Thank you so much for your support and welcoming me into our wonderful community of book bloggers:)
      Letting go of relationship that are not healthy is always difficult. However, you are quite correct! Letting go allows you to grow and spread your joy with those who most appreciate you!! Never let someone have that much control over you that they take away your joy. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  10. Wow Lisa, the post I wrote last week about building friendships came from an experience just like what you write about here! I had a toxic friendship and hung on like that for a few years. When it ended (not on my account though), I was left with pieces of myself and all that had happened to figure out. It was a difficult process, having thought myself the problem and putting myself through stuff as much as the friend had put me through.

    The post I wrote here last Friday has been the ultimate result of the whole experience. It’s what I think helps keep us from toxic relationships. The questions you pose for asking yourself are perfect. When I start to see these things in people I know it’s not going to work. Depending on how bad it is, they either become a once in awhile get together friend or completely avoided. Thanks you so much for this valuable post.

    1. And to add on to what Tanya said at the end of the article about recounting conversations to her husband being upsetting, the toxic friendship I mentioned in my comment above came to my realization slowly, but looking back there were weird things I noticed. When our friendship starting moving away, I had to change the ringtone for text messages on my phone because hearing it go off startled me, thinking it might be my friend, angry or who knows what. When I saw a car the same make/model as my friend’s, my heart would jump in my chest, just thinking she might be right in front of me on the road – WHERE I WOULDN’T EVEN BE SPEAKING TO HER ANYWAY! When she was angry with me or upset in general, I’d have anxiety thinking about how it would all play out and then placate the friend as much as possible to avoid more anxiety.

      1. Wow, Jennine! You had a very toxic person in your life! When you are on pins and needles with this person, and certainly when you start to get anxious just thinking of that person, it is time to let go. You made the right and best choice for you and your family-letting them go. Toxic relationships have a way of leaking into your inner core family (your husband and children), so that they see you sad, angry, and hurt. You made a smart choice!! Thanks for sharing. I know we can all relate to toxic relationships, but it can be hard to know who they are, when you are in the midst of a situation.

        Tanya-thank you so much for sharing your story! Your so true- toxic relationships not only take away our time and energy, but can physically make us ill!! It’s awesome that Jennine, you, and myself have such supportive husbands, who are there for us when we are overwhelmed, confused, and hurt. God truly blessed us!

    2. I jumped back and read your post before replying. Wow! It seems like we have quite a lot in common. I can certainly resonate with the heart on your sleeve approach to friends, family, and co-workers. Sometimes, people don’t know why are hurtful and others do it because that is their MO. While we can’t change people, we can certainly change how we respond to them and decide if they deserve access into our life and space. I have realized that toxic relationships don’t have boundaries, so it is important to establish those for yourself to prevent people from bulldozing you and your feelings. I think giving and caring people don’t think the way toxic people think, so it can be startling and even have you second guessing if that really happened. Always rely on your initial gut instinct, that is your compass and it won’t steer you wrong. Thanks for stopping by!

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