Evicting Toxic Tenants, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part post about coping with toxic friendships. I previously discussed the formative relationship that led me to seek out toxic friendships, the anger connection that was the center of these friendships, how I chose to ignore the red flags, and my own toxic role in these friendships. What follows is a continuation of my self-reflection and how I’ve worked towards being healthier in my quest to remove toxic friendships out of my life. 

Read part one here


Preventing Healthy Relationships

By engaging in toxic relationships, I prevented myself from being receptive to healthy friendships. I do have healthy relationships, but the ratio of toxic relationships outweighed the healthy ones since childhood.

I am lucky to know people who want to establish a healthy relationship with me. Unfortunately, in the past, I haven’t done enough to nurture these friendships though I am trying to do more as I change my friendship patterns. I am not quite there yet, but I am hoping I can reach out and do a better job reciprocating once I’ve healed.

There are three main reasons why I stifled healthy relationships: one, the toxic ones took up more time and energy so I couldn’t think about fostering another friendship; two, I didn’t think I deserved healthy friendships because of my own low self-esteem; and three, I was so uncomfortable with the healthy dynamic that I did not know how to handle it.

I found myself suspicious of any healthy relationship. Clearly, the other person wants something out of me and I was unwilling to give it to them. Ironically, I was willing to give a toxic person everything and more, but when the relationship had an equal dynamic I didn’t know how to handle myself. I found myself freezing and not pursuing the friendship hoping it would go away.

Emotionally healthy people scared me for the longest time. I resented that they highlighted my own inadequacies because I never measured up in comparison. I wanted to be where they were without doing the emotional legwork.

I sabotaged healthy relationships throughout my life, which I deeply regret. I don’t know how many awesome friendships I’ve missed out on in favor of the toxic ones. I am very lucky for the healthy ones I have today, and I recognize how patient these friends are with me and how they pursued my friendship with no expectations.

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Evicting Toxic Tenants, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part post about coping with toxic friendships. Today I will talk about the formative toxic relationship in my life, how I connected with others to encourage a toxic relationship, the red flags I ignored, and my own role in a toxic relationship.


For the month of August, I am writing about tidying up the home life: from cleaning the house to effectively organizing my time.

I am also working through some internal cleaning: my mental headspace. Living healthy doesn’t exclusively mean eating right or exercising on a regular basis. It means being mindful of my emotional and mental health as well. It’s easy to focus on the external stuff, like what I eat and how much I exercise, but very hard to concentrate on the energy I give to thoughts, interactions, and even friendships.

Friendships are a sticking point in my internal life.

I have a lot of people I consider friends, some I consider close friends, and fewer considered best friends. In my 30+ years, I have a lot of failed friendships and until recently, rarely did I focus on the successful friendships, but much of my mental energy went towards the unhealthy ones.

Many, if not all, of these failed friendships, were toxic in nature. It is important to note I am not talking about friendships that died due to time, distance, and a lack of communication. The toxic friendships generally did not have geographic issues nor was there a lack of time for the friendship, they failed for other reasons.

When the friendships were dying or at a clear end, I would repeatedly reflect on my perceived failures: lack of perception for the warning signs from the beginning, my role in encouraging the negative friendship, and the length of time I allowed myself to endure the unhealthy dynamic.

What follows is my experience with toxic friendships, the self-reflection I needed to complete to move towards healthier friendships, and the fallout from these situations. This process wasn’t easy, and I am nowhere near finished with it, but I wanted to share my current position both as catharsis and hopefully to show that there isn’t anything wrong with you if you realize you’re in a toxic friendship.

My Toxic Origin Story

I am rather lucky that I can point to the origin of my toxic friendships. It was one individual in my life and how everyone surrounding them responded to their toxic behavior.

It was a family member that I dealt with since I was six years old. I have allowed geography to cut them out of my life which helped me heal, but the scars and patterns remain today from the experience.

This person controlled everyone around them with such toxicity, that the only way to reasonably handle them and keep familial harmony was to give in to their desires. We would eat on their terms. Do activities on their terms. Listen to their problems on their terms. There’s video evidence of them completely changing the mood of the room when they walked in for my sixth birthday. This video saved me from believing I imagined their behaviors when they tried to gaslight me as I grew older.

What I saw growing up with this relative was the following:

  1. It’s important to love a toxic person no matter what. Unconditional love will help them.
  2. Give that toxic person whatever they desire because that’s part of the expression of love. They are broken and only you can help fix them by giving into them.
  3. How they treat you is a measure of your worth: if they treat you badly then you are doing something wrong. If they treat you well, then you are doing something right. Always strive to be treated well.

I dealt with this relative for 18 years, which straddled my formative years on how to foster friendships with others. Unfortunately, what guidance I received to navigate my troublesome peer-relationships didn’t match the example I was given regarding this ever-present familial relationship.

So instead of seeking healthy friendships, I sought the relationship I was most familiar with: a toxic one. I don’t know how many friendships I’ve had that were toxic on some level, and that’s the thing, not all these relationships were toxic in the same way.

Think of it as gradations of toxicity. Sometimes I can overlook toxic behavior because the time spent with the person is more important than the slightly toxic behavior they exhibit from time-to-time. With others, they wrapped up so much of my time and energy that it was a drain to think about the next time I would see them. I will be focusing most of my post on the latter.

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Revisiting a Phone Detox

On Monday, I decided to take a much-needed break from my phone and putting restrictions on my usage for Jai’s sake and my own. I found the process both daunting and freeing and plan to keep the forward momentum I’ve gained by limiting my phone usage.

How the Week Went

Overall, I found myself to be more productive.

While I still found I spent a lot of time on my phone, it was doing more productive work like checking my social media accounts for the blog, interacting with other bloggers, and whatnot. But more importantly, I found myself no longer making excuses for getting ahead and working on some side projects that have been on the backburner for a while.

I am not surprised at how much of a distraction my phone is in my life.

I suspect that I use it as a tool to keep me from pursuing more important personal goals. I am someone who has an insecurity when it comes to the threat of failure, so I use my phone as a means to distract myself from the task at hand. If I don’t complete a task I’ve set out for myself, I can’t fail. It really doesn’t make sense when you look at it objectively.

The point is this: my phone was used as a means to keep me stagnant. I waste time doing unimportant tasks with no tangible benefit in order to avoid tangible productivity that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This week I turned towards more tangible tasks.

I worked off of my paper planner more which increases my productivity versus my electronic calendars and apps. Try as I might, I can’t get away from the allure of physically writing something down as a means to commit something to memory or plan something out.

The Most Difficult Part

Night time was the hardest time to manage because I tried to ration my time out with my various apps to save for bedtime. I have a very bad habit of needing to use my phone to fall asleep. Looking at a phone screen up to three hours before going to sleep can affect you sleep health and habits. I fall asleep most nights with my phone on and in my hand.

Not good.

I bought a dimmable book light and pulled some books I’ve been meaning to read and put them by my head to help facilitate the process of turning to books as a means of falling asleep rather than my phone. I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting there.

Kat, a blogger at the Lily Cafereminded me of this on Monday: remove the phone from the bedroom altogether. Having at least one phone is a good idea in case of an emergency so it would have to be Ash’s, but I should probably leave my phone charging in the kitchen at night.

It will prevent me from reaching for it when I wake in the middle of the night. I find that once awake and on my phone, I have a harder time falling asleep. I start thinking about things as I read social media or I get wrapped up in banal game tasks that an hour or two has passed without me falling back to sleep.

Known Personal Benefits

On the nights I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone I found that I slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning. This, in turn, helped boost my productivity.

By reincorporating books in my daily life I am rediscovering the joy I had of reading. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years because it’s easier to have on in the background when chasing a toddler.

Jai is also helping reignite my love: he will sit for extended periods of time in his room just flipping through his books. He’s not reading, we’re nowhere near that yet, but he is looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy whatever is internally playing out in his head.

Some days I am able to entice him to naptime by putting a favorite board book in the crib and he’ll sit contentedly flipping through the book until he falls asleep or throws it out of the crib.

This week I’ve taken to reading my books to him. They are dry, boring parenting books, but books I’ve been meaning to read for the blog and for myself. I read during the times I would be on my phone to distract myself while he engaged in independent play. Sometimes he wants to hear me read, other times I read silently.

Either way, it feels good to be doing that again. I feel guilty about reading books while in graduate school because I feel like I should be reading academic books rather than pleasure or enrichment books. I am learning to let go of that guilt and just enjoy the hobby that drove me to graduate school.

I also feel my time spent with Jai is more meaningful and no longer squandered. Sitting in a corner of his room while on my phone always felt like I was taking his toddler moments for granted. My biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret spending time on my phone rather than interacting with him.

I do not believe every waking moment should be spent interacting with Jai, having the independent play and alone time away from mommy is good for his development, but I also would rather spend my idle time doing something productive and less distracting. My absorption in my phone is so full that it can be hard to break away versus I find it easier to put a book down when he needs my attention.

Moving Forward

This week was a small step in decreasing my dependence on technology. I had my moments where I had to pause app limits because it was necessary to spend an extra five minutes on a problematic app for communication purposes.

I find that I still used my phone more than I would like, but it was getting down to a more acceptable time sink.

I plan on keeping my app blocker and further limit my technology usage by incorporating productivity extensions on my browser. I don’t want to stop using technology for fun altogether because as I stated on Monday, technology has always been a hobby since childhood, I just want to manage that time better and make sure it doesn’t take up all of my time.

Technology isn’t the enemy in my life, it’s a fantastic tool that I want to use and embrace. I just want to make sure that I am being healthy both as a means of achieving my personal goals and avoiding stagnation while modeling balanced behavior for Jai as he gets older.

 


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Taking a Phone Detox

When Jai wakes up in the morning ready to be taken out of bed, the first thing Ash reaches for is his glasses. The first thing I reach for is my phone.

I wish I could say it’s because I have a bunch of important messages that I need to check from overnight. But it’s not.

The main reason I feel the need to instantly check my phone is for a resource/time management game and social media sites like Facebook or Reddit. I need to see what happened overnight, make necessary adjustments, comment, upvote, downvote, like, subscribe… I need to interact with the digital medium.

And then respond to any important messages.

None of what I am doing is so imperative that it must be the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.

My name is Deborah and I am addicted to my phone.

I am not being flippant about this, I genuinely believe I have an addiction to my phone (and technology). This has been a long-standing addiction, something I’ve dealt with since before Jai was born. I believe my addiction got worse due to countless hours of breastfeeding when Jai was a newborn and never scaled back as he got older.

When you are stuck with a little one on your breast with nowhere to go, reading and interacting on your phone is the easiest and most entertaining means to pass the time.

Now that he is more aware of what is going on, I need to be mindful of my phone usage, particularly around him.

I have this overwhelming fear he’s going to get the message that he’s less important than my phone. With my current phone/technology usage – it’s unavoidable.


This post isn’t about shaming parents who use technology, it’s about my problematic usage of technology and an attempt to have a healthier relationship with it. This post isn’t about passing judgment on others’ technology usage, but an examination of my own.

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Final Thoughts for this Week

Today is the final day of my diet reset. Overall it went well and I am feeling better about my eating choices, though it wasn’t an easy process to get through. It got rather boring by the end and I was excited to be eating different types of fruit throughout the day if only for the variety they provided. The food that I made for the reset was delicious, but even delicious can get boring if you are eating the same thing over and over again.

How I am Feeling

I feel much better at the end of the week, a little bit lighter (I lost 2 pounds), and I don’t feel as bloated as I did on Sunday. I think that has a lot to do with the water I’ve been drinking; it certainly helped flush out the extra water weight I retained from high-salt and fatty foods. I also found that I enjoy drinking high-alkaline water, not because I think they do anything specific for my health, but because I like the taste and it’s easier to drink. I learned something new about myself.

I also feel more energized, though I am still feeling fatigue from the last vestiges of my flu. Once I have finally shaken off my flu fatigue, I can already tell that I am  motivated to dive into my running again. I just need the temperature to go up a little bit in the mornings. Running in temperatures lower than 20F are rough. I can do it, but it’s hard to be motivated to get out there when bed is so warm.

Cravings I Encountered

Some cravings I encountered throughout the week: fried foods, eating late, coffee, and bacon.

I was really surprised by the fried foods craving since I haven’t had anything deep fried since October. I think that was a carryover from the flu at the beginning of the week. I have learned that when I am sick, I really love to have fried foods for comfort.

The desire to snack after 7 pm wasn’t entirely surprising: that’s when I do the bulk of my snacking during the day. Once Ash is home and Jai is in bed, Ash and I sit on the couch and will snack while catching up on our shows. The snacks may be healthy in nature, but it’s the quantity that becomes unhealthy. There are nights where I will grab a snack just before going to bed because the idea hit me that I was “hungry.” Through this reset I realized that I was less hungry and doing it out of habit.

The craving for coffee was a surprise to absolutely no one. I went from drinking two cups of Americano a day to nothing. I use coffee as a natural means to boost my energy in the morning and early afternoon. I really love the taste of it, especially during cold winter days. I find it very soothing because of its familiarity and I missed that with the cold snap we’ve been going through. I had a few mild headaches that may have been caffeine withdrawals, but I drank a bunch of water and herbal tea to help minimize the discomfort.

I found that I was craving salty protein some of the time, specifically bacon. I don’t eat a lot of bacon, though when given the option, I will take it. This might also be attributed to the cold weather – looking to derive some pleasure in high-fat foods which is fine in small doses, but hard to moderate in the dead of winter.

Some Reflections

The detox/reset went relatively well, but not as well as I would have liked. I ran into some issues following the protocols I had planned by Day Four because life got a little hectic. I wasn’t able to do my morning ritual from that day forward because Jai picked up a really bad cold and needed care as early as 2 am some mornings. Getting up after that to do yoga was really hard despite going to bed around 10 pm.

When experts say to plan detoxes/cleanses around periods of time where it will minimally impact your life, they aren’t kidding. I couldn’t account for Jai’s cold, but considering I just dealt with the flu and he’s in close proximity to me, it wouldn’t be hard to extrapolate that he’d get sick too. So I probably should have delayed given the circumstances.

While this was a good start as far as length is concerned, I think a longer reset would be more effective for me. They say that it can take up to two months for a habit to stick and while I wouldn’t want to spend that amount of time on a reset, perhaps spending at least 9 to 12 days on it would be more ideal. It will help give me more time to break through some of my bad habits and understand my deeper cravings. I believe that the longer I go, the more random and intense the cravings are and I assume those are the really ingrained cravings that I might not normally notice. By bringing them to light, I can decide how to deal with them.

I think that my daily energy and feeling lighter comes from not eating after 7 pm. In fact, I would argue that the best thing I did through this entire reset was not eating after 7 pm. I think I have a lot of psychological energy tied up in my snacking late and this helped show me how dependant I was on it. I think that some of my extra weight comes from eating late and if I go a few more weeks not eating past 7 pm I might see some more weight lost because of it.

I don’t know how this impacted my MS, in fact, I don’t think it impacted it at all. It’s too short of a time for me to notice any appreciable changes in my health, but I did find that focusing on the regimen gave me something to think about and not worry about my MS as much.

Moving Forward

I am going to keep the following things from the reset: no eating after 7 pm and try to be in bed by 10 pm. Even if I don’t fall asleep right away, being in a position of rest helps get me through the next day and feel less tired when Jai wakes up in the middle of the night.

I am, however, going to pick up coffee again. I already have an Americano with my name literally on it waiting for me tomorrow morning. I really can’t go without my caffeine, no matter how healthier it might be for me. I need some vices.

I think I will consider doing some form of a reset every 6 months, almost like a booster shot. I considered doing a 3-day version every 3 months, but I will have to examine I am feeling with my diet at the beginning of March before I make any commitments. Doing it when my motivation is flagging will help keep me going and feeling good.

While I liked this modified version of the Ayurvedic detox, I am interested in examining other types of healthy resets. A juice cleanse, a raw food reset, possibly Keto, or just a very bland diet with nothing special to it. I want to make sure that whatever I try in the future it will be healthy and safe for me. By experimenting with different types, I might find the one that fits best for me or combine a couple into something that works. The whole point is to give my body a rest from all the junk I’ve put into it and feel refreshed by the end of it.

I will be eating a strict plant-based diet (no animal products whatsoever), no gluten, no sugar, and no alcohol. I may need to make a few exceptions here and there, but this will be stricter than I have been since before the holidays. So if I have a day or a meal where I indulge in something, it won’t be continued beyond that.

I want to shoot for June, a full 6 months of eating this way, as that will give my body plenty of time to remove the old stuff from my system, remove bad gut bacteria and allow the good bacteria to flourish. It will also help me determine if I have any allergies or sensitivities I was previously unaware of, like sugar.

2018 Health Goals

I anticipate that during the next 6 months I will reach my ideal body weight for my body type. If I want to be successful in this weight loss, I will need to maintain that ideal weight for at least 2 years. In order to do this, I will want to be more aware of my eating habits and if I re-incorporate anything back into my diet, do so in moderation. Allowing my eating habits to go out of control is what got me to my highest weight originally. I would like to not return to that point again.

When I go to see my neurologist in March, I want him to tell me that I am still doing well and that we don’t need to alter my treatment until I am ready. I already mentioned that I want to go the entire year flare-up free, which I think I can do by eating healthy, being mindful of my stress, and exercising.

I want to get my natural energy levels up to what I perceive is normal for everyone as often as I can. MS makes that difficult to do everyday, but if I can have more days with higher energy levels than not, I will consider that a success. This will be harder to measure, but if I feel that I can go the entire day without needing an actual nap, and just an hour of rest while Jai is sleeping, then it would be considered a low-fatigue day.

I will continue to check-in from time-to-time with how I am doing like before, but I will be shifting my blog focus away from my personal habits and onto healthier living habits overall.

What healthy goals have you made for this year? What are your plans to keep them?