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Dealing With Toxic People

Dealing With Toxic People

Having a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis makes life difficult. It can be an extremely hard life that requires a large amount of support. We often find that support in our close friends and family. Sometimes, that support isn’t available because there can be a tendency to lose friends when you have a chronic illness. Other times, however, you may have people that think they are being supportive, but turn out to be the exact opposite of that. That is what I want to talk about today, people, some that even mean well, but that have a negative impact on your health. So negative, in fact, that you can call them toxic. (Just a note, this doesn’t refer to anyone specific in my life at the moment, but certainly involves people I’ve met over the years).

Who is a toxic person?

While the term ‘toxic person’ can have a lot of meanings, for the purposes of this article, I’m specifically talking about a person whose behavior negatively affects us because of the way they deal with our disease. There are a lot of behaviors that I consider toxic to those with a chronic illness. Here are a few:

  • Constantly passing off your disease as something that isn’t important/real or constantly comparing how they feel to you when they can’t possibly understand. For example, I’m sure we’ve all heard people say: “Oh, I’m tired too”. To me, this also extends into the people that dismiss us by saying we just need to get more sleep or be more positive (or offer up some type of suggestion, clearly not knowing what they are talking about).
  • They don’t take the time to learn even the bare minimum about your illness. Listen, I get it, I don’t expect everyone I know to be super well-versed in MS. But if I interact with them a lot, I’d hope they have a small, basic understanding. If I am worth talking to, then I am worth the time spent to read a few paragraphs about my disease. If you aren’t willing to do that, then our foundation isn’t really good. Of course, if we aren’t sharing information, then this really doesn’t apply, that’s still on us to provide.
  • People that don’t want to hear it. Having MS or another similar chronic illness is a big part of our lives. If someone doesn’t occasionally want to hear about how we are feeling, to the point where you feel you need to hide it, then that’s a person you don’t want to be around. People that constantly seem frustrated by our illness fall into this too. We can already feel like a burden to people, even when we aren’t, so if someone constantly makes you feel that way, they’re a toxic person and are very bad for you. No one should ever make you feel like a burden. An occasional outburst of frustration can be expected, but if someone is constantly making you feel this way, it’s time to move on.
  • They make you feel disabled. Even if you are disabled, no one should make you feel that way. If any of their actions or words make you feel disabled or ashamed, then they aren’t good for you.
  • They make your tragedy their own. I’m sure more than a few of us have known people like this. They mean well, and appear super distraught over your illness, but they make it about them. It goes beyond sympathy and becomes a detriment.
  • Negative people. You could really lump a lot of these examples into this category. People that are constantly negative, whether it be about your disease or drama in their own lives, can have a bad impact on us. Stress is bad for us, and being around a negative nancy all the time will only increase our stress and make our symptoms worse.
  • Someone who isn’t supportive. Not only verbally but with actions. If you have a significant other and they can’t pitch in and help out, then you may have a problem.
  • While these are some examples, it’s important to remember that the best judge of a toxic person is how they make you feel. If an interaction with someone makes you feel bad about yourself or your disease, or just generally makes you feel worse mentally or physically, then you’ve been dealing with a toxic person.

The effects

Plain and simple, dealing with toxic people on a regular basis is bad for anyone’s health, but it’s especially bad if you suffer from a chronic illness. Increased stress often means we will have worsening symptoms. Depression is already more common for us than the regular population, and dealing with someone who makes us feel bad will only magnify those chances. It’s not easy to admit that another person can have such a dramatic effect on us, but it’s the truth. Removing one of these relationships from your life can truly feel like a weight has been lifted.

They can be anywhere

Toxic people can be anywhere. They could be your best friend, an acquaintance, a significant other, or even a family member. Living with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis can be extremely hard. You shouldn’t tolerate someone making that life even harder. That can make for some tough decisions though; it’s not easy to end a relationship of any kind, particularly when our disease can make them few and far between. It can be especially hard if it’s someone you’ve known all your life or if it’s a relative. You have to think of yourself though, and remember that you deserve better. Talk to the person and try to explain how they make you feel and why that is bad for you. If things don’t change, it may be time to remove them from your life.

Thanks for reading! – Devin

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Glenbear
    2 months ago

    My wife of 5 years & I recently separated & are now divorcing. I started noticing how my symptoms would literally disappear during the lengthy times apart, the return after we were together. I’m beginning to realise I’m better off dealing with this without her in my life, although I still love her & that’s difficult.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 months ago

    Thank you @Glenbear, decisions like that are never easy, but it certainly eye opening when you see the results!

  • Cman
    2 months ago

    Same here After 22 years she just don’t care so we just live here in the same house..I know your pain …

  • Carol
    6 months ago

    mghray – I am so sorry that you are considering divorce. Is your husband seeking or has been seeing someone for his unhealthy mental illness? I know that this must be very difficult for you. I am sorry that you are going through this.

  • Mghray
    6 months ago

    Been married for 20 years. I am having to make a big choice of ending my marriage. I love my husband dearly but his unhealthy mental illness is so difficult for my MS. I only have enough energy to keep me going and he is not healthy for my life.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi @mghray, thank you so much for taking the time to share what you’re going through. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be for you both, and I commend you for reaching out online. You are not alone! One of our advocates has several articles about the toll MS, or any chronic illness, can have on relationships that I thought you might be interested in reading here: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/marriage-ultimate-relationship-exam and https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/ruin-my-marriage/ I hope you find these helpful. Please continue to keep us posted on how you’re doing, if you feel comfortable doing so. We’re here for you! Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Janene
    9 months ago

    Thank you…. What you posted is me.. I have nothing but negativity. It scares the heck outta me. Been married 34 yrs. Can’t take anymore. Don’t know what to do OR where to turn. I have NOONE.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    8 months ago

    I am so sorry you’re going through this, @janene. You deserve loving and supportive people in your life. It may not be right for you or you may have already tried it, but have you and your partner looked into couples counseling? I also wanted to share this program MSAA offers that is designed to help you find local, one-on-one support if you’re interested: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support/Find-Support/Connect-with-Peers-One-on-One
    And while I know it’s not quite the same, please know this community is here for you 24/7. Please keep reaching out. We’re thinking of you! Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • gparado
    9 months ago

    Would people who constantly give advice on MS qualify as toxic? I have many friends who suggest various treatments, such using non-Western medicine, drinking goji berry juice, taking herbs, taking Vitamin E, etc. They’re convinced that these treatments would cure me and actually get super persistent about it. (“Why aren’t you taking my advice?!”) Also, a friend recommended a neurologist who is an expert on MS issues. Moving over to him would mean changing my HMO and changing my GP, so I haven’t done this. Whenever I see these friends, they seem to be indignant that I haven’t followed their advice. It’s to the point that I try to avoid talking about my condition with certain friends.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    8 months ago

    Thank you for sharing what you’re going through @gparado. I am so sorry to hear that you’re feeling this way, especially among friends. That’s so tough because it sounds like their insistence stems from sincerely caring about your well-being, but you don’t deserve to feel pressured or like you’re the one at fault. You are the best judge in knowing what’s right for you, as treatments work differently for different people. I hope they find a way to express their care for you in a more understanding and supportive way. Thank you again for sharing. We’re here for you! Warmest wishes, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • mcknighm
    1 year ago

    Thank you, Devin. I’m so glad you addressed this topic of toxic people. Sometimes, I guess family members try and say they understand what I’m going through with regards to my symptoms but they really have no clue and that’s the frustrating thing for me.

  • Bettybeem
    1 year ago

    Devin, thank you for your article. This really hit home. My sister, my only sibling, has become a toxic person. When I retired I moved over 1,000 miles to be near as planed. Unfortunately she has become so toxic that my physician and my counselor both strongly recommended I sever my relationship and it had become so toxic. She can not be depended upon in any way. She has absolutely no time. She has been exceedingly cruel. Her behaviors are such that I no longer host family Thanksgings nor do I go to her home for any holiday celebrations. I now belong to a family of choice that is accepting, supportive, and caring.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for sharing Bettybeem! At difficult choice I’m sure, but it sounds like you made the correct one!

  • Hershey21
    1 year ago

    Scott, I hope you see my response on the outdated post. I’m sure many people are in situations like you and may not realize that there is a name for it. It’s called co dependency. You can learn about it in a book called Co Dependent No More by Townsend and McCloud. Your brother is holding you hostage by using many mind games and emotions most likely. I understand completely. I spent decades in the same situation w/ a very close family member. I finally had to move on and live a life that doesn’t include her. We are both better off now. She had to start taking care of herself once I stopped. There are co dependency support groups as well. Regardless of what your negative, needy family member chooses to do you have to take care of yourself. If nothing else they will find someone else to use and abuse.

  • Nobu
    1 year ago

    I worked with a woman who was always looking at me with such pity. One day I got tired of her act and said – are you alright, you look unwell, perhaps you need a glass of water and to sit down for a bit? I think that stopped her silly behaviour toward me.

  • SweetSunshine
    1 year ago

    Nobu that’s a classic Classy move, nicely done.

  • Erin Rush moderator
    1 year ago

    What a clever way of dealing with this co-worker! I am glad it put an end to her behavior! Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

  • rayche
    2 years ago

    Thankyou so much for your articles Devin, and good to read all the feedback too. I am flipping back and forth between M.S. information and the Emotional Abuse website that I have been using all year. This is all long term stuff, and although diagnosed with benign M.S., now labelled with secondary progressive, about 20 years ago, and being in a very stressful relationship for more than a dozen years, I almost feel at the beginning again, having to outline my own needs., so, writing this

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you rayche! I’m very glad to hear that it can help in any way at all! Good luck to you!

  • Stephanie J
    2 years ago

    Thank you for writing about this topic because it’s so true! Stress is my worst trigger and my depression gets hot hard too! Staying around positive influence is one of the best things you can do for yourself living with MS!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much Stephanie! Appreciate you taking the time to comment!!!

  • Jordan
    2 years ago

    I have had MS for the last 4 years, probably more. My injections during that time, have stabilized me. I am doing ok. I have loved my x-wife for over 40 years, and have been loving my domestic partner for the last 9 nine years…but MS was was too much of a burden. I now have my loving daughter, her husband, who I treat as my son, and our 2 little granddaughters who are so beautiful. I now live for my family. I am a lucky man. Jordan

    I HAVE MY FAMILY… I AM A LUCKY MAN !

  • LuvMyDog
    2 years ago

    Jordan: I guess you are. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a family, a decent family, to support them. My mother used to say, “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives…” So very true. I’m 71 now, have learned a lot and I have gotten to the point where I think 90% of the people I’ve met in life, including those related to me, are phonies, liars, disloyal, disrespectful, underhanded people! I don’t have any support. My closest and oldest friends (40-50 yrs.) have died, the few “family” members that are left are selfish, self-absorbed jerks who haven’t an inkling what it’s like to live with MS, the fatigue, the pain, the depression. So I guess Jordan, that you’re pretty lucky, you sure seem happy, you believe you have a great family and support. Best wishes.

  • Jordan
    2 years ago

    thank you. happy thanksgiving. Jordan

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing Jordan! You certainly do sound like a lucky man. That shows everyone that even if you are around toxic people, you can move on and be very happy!

  • jmonti
    2 years ago

    Very helpful information — thank you!

  • scott
    2 years ago

    I thank god for this guy devin,, I just read this by finding the topic on facebook then, logging on here,, I almost was temptet do commit suicide just last week, I’m soo tired.. I got into a fight with my brother.. He is toxic, selfish, and needy . Been living with me all of my life.. Now in my own home.. Prison, unemployed, Relationships. Jail.. homeless. I been there for him… Now I even waited eight yrs for him to try for disability. turns out he was denied and now working again. I bought a new car for him to go back and forth.. The thanks I get is.. You Need to just go on and die…. u cant stand the sun, heat, sleep all the time in bed, I was crying when I told him that I felt betrayed, unloved, unwanted and onlyneeded to provide him a place to live and help him mentally, and shelter, and Car and just for Company to have around when he needs me to help him solve his messy life.. I’m also a caregiver, Raised my sister every since she was six months old,, didn’t know she was mildly retardation til about her elementary schooling.. Our mother died when she was a baby I had to leave the Army to take care of her, My mother told me before she died our father didn’t want her nor the baby.. Now she is 32 yrs old .. My sister and brohers talk about me around her and gets her in on it.. Me playing God,i over look it all. Cause I know the higher position I have and must take. They know not what they do.. I’m single. and don’t mind that part at all. But I’m getting tired more and more each day. almost in tears again now. lol.. I just need some good support with how to deal and change my life for the better.. I want to start over and leave this house ive been in for over 27yrs.. I don’t like my neighbors who stare and make nasty comments about my social life and call me names for being single for so long and not talking to them.. Good think is my car will be paid off in two months so I can have a choice to leave everything behind me and move on.. But I just need to know Where?.. thanks for allowing me to post my vent.. god bless.

  • Stephanie J
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing… Feeling used and unappreciated is all a form of stress! You must stay strong and know that you do matter. I’ve been where you are now, I’ve felt how you feel! Finally one day I packed my car and just took off! I didn’t go far but just by that minor move I found happiness again. Never give up on yourself it’s going to be alright! Take care of you first then everything else will follow.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Scott, I hope you are doing well You’re always welcome to vent, I know how helpful that can be! Not only to you, but to others going through the same thing. You most certainly aren’t alone!

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi scott,

    Thank you so much for your comment. We hear you; it can be so difficult, especially with family. We are glad that you are here with us and a part of our community. Please know that we are always here for you. What a difficult situation; I am sorry that you are going through this. You are not alone here. In addition to getting support online, we encourage you to get the support you deserve in person, through a group, counselor, or other professional. If you ever feel like giving up, please call this hotline 1-800-273-8225 or chat with them online at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

    Thinking of you, and thank you for sharing with us.

    Warmly,
    Margot, MultipleSclerosis.net Team

  • Bettybeem
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this well-written article. The toxic person in my life is my sister. Unfortunately, it has become worse over the years. On the other hand, I have a fabulous family of choice.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much Bettybeem! Many times it is our own family where this occurs. Sounds like your immediate family more than makes up for it though!

  • BillieLewandoski
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article. Since my diagnoses in 2005, I thought I was alone with having the toxic people in my life. My father and step mom apparently did not believe me when I was going through the tests before I was diagnosed with MS, according to them, they thought I was faking it and my husband during that time, kept telling me that it was all in my head. Now, it is 12 years later and my husband tells everyone he knows about my MS (gets the exact type wrong every time, I have relapsing/remitting), when I say I am tired he either tells me to take a nap or he is tired too, and as for help around the house, yeah, that doesn’t happen. I don’t get help from anyone, to be honest. This is why I went from not being able to walk or stand on my own in May 2005 to 6 months later, I was and still am, walking and functioning with out assistance. Not because of a miracle, but because I had to. I stick to my meds and watch my triggers. To all those who are going through the same thing, you are not alone and you are just as important as everyone else.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks you so much for sharing BillieLewandoski. I’m sorry to hear about your situation, know that you aren’t alone though and many of us have gone or are going through similar situations. At least we all have each other, we all understand what it’s like.

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