Replacing Apologies With Gratitude

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do.

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“Thank You” is the new “I’m Sorry.”

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on April 4, 2017.

When I was younger, I was a sounding board for many of my friends who felt they didn’t have anyone else to talk to. I heard stories of depression, anxiety, suicide and anything else you can imagine teenagers between the ages of fourteen and sixteen have to say. It was a really demanding and heavy job; I often felt that I had no where to release my own feelings and began to absorb others’ on top of my own. Soon, I found myself in a toxic environment where I was doing everything wrong and so I began apologizing for everything, even when there was nothing to apologize for.

Being in a toxic environment is like suffocating; being surrounded by several toxic people at once is like drowning. It’s heavy, it’s debilitating and you always feel guilty and shameful. Toxic relationships have a way of bringing you down, as if you were shackled to a wall inside a tornado. Manipulative people take your fears and insecurities and their own insecurities and demons, and your life becomes a whirlwind of darkness. You feel as if everything is your fault, because they make it seem like you’re to blame. You’re not, and sometimes you know you’re not, and that’s what makes everything harder.

Leaving a toxic relationship of any kind is stressful and scary; you’re never quite sure if you’ll make it out alive. The first few steps of freedom are light and airy, and you wish you had done it earlier, if only you had known you were being manipulated. The bad times don’t stop there though. After leaving a relationship like that, sometimes you take those habits with you long after the fact.

Always feeling as though things are your fault is a common habit that follows you and weaves its way into your other relationships. The roots a toxic person digs into you are so deep, even when you thought you had severed the last of them, there are still seeds hiding underneath your memories.

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do. They often say something like, “Oh my god! Stop apologizing!” or “It’s not your fault.” Well, we all know it’s not your fault, but it’s become a habit to feel like it’s your fault, so you speak that feeling.

The best way for both parties to decrease the amount of apologizing and animosity toward the constant apologizing is this: simply replace the word ‘sorry’ with ‘thank you’.

When someone is speaking to you about something that is bothering them, do not apologize. Instead try saying, “Thank you for confiding in me.” When someone is apologizing for something that isn’t their fault, try saying, “Thank you for listening to me.” or “Thank you for your concern.”

The thank-you-replacement can go for other situations, too.

Instead of apologizing for being late, try saying, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Instead of apologizing for speaking your mind, or expressing your feelings, try, “Thank you for understanding and comforting me.”

Stop apologizing for everything. It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s pretty simple to replace an apology with an expression of gratitude. You will begin to feel less heavy with guilt, and the roots of that toxic relationship will eventually dissolve as you become more thankful for your surroundings.

When I was a junior in high school, and I found myself surrounded by toxicity, I found the clearest way out of the situation and rode the solo wave for a while. It was difficult to repel the signs of red flags I saw in other people; I was always on my guard so that I wouldn’t be in a similar situation again. I was so scared of being sucked back into the darkness that I didn’t know how to immerse myself in meaningful relationships again.

When I began replacing my apologies with gratitude, it was like I had opened an entirely new door to my future. There is so much beauty in the world, and we take advantage of it every day. Expressing gratitude for my friendships, my family and myself became something I would try to build on in the future, and attempt to gain more of as I grew older. The remnants of guilt and heaviness from my previous toxic experiences soon faded away and dissolved into my past.

I am still triggered by some things relating to those relationships today, but I no longer let them weight me down long term. I remember to thank my lucky stars for what I have in present time, and what those toxic relationships have provided me with since. Gratitude in place of apology has opened my eyes up to the little things, the little bits of beauty we forget to remember.

I am thankful for the light I have discovered outside of the toxic relationships I once had. There was a time when I thought I’d never see the beauty I have. Getting away from toxicity is difficult, but it is not impossible. Know that gratitude will always be waiting for you to embrace it, even when you think there is nothing to be thankful for. There will always be something to be grateful for, and unlike guilt, gratitude is never apologetic.

It’s Not Giving Up, It’s Stepping Back

Know that even if someone important to you does depart, that they may return. If they don’t, however, know that you’ll be just fine because you can stand on your own two feet.

What to realize when someone “leaves you” due to your mental illness.

This article was originally published for the The Odyssey on March 6, 2017.

We’ve all seen that picture that circulates the internet with a few words written on a photograph that reads, “Please don’t leave,” or “Please don’t leave me.” I’ve heard many people relay those same words to me as they beg me not to ‘leave them behind’ due to their mental illness. I wish they would realize that I’m not leaving them behind; I’m simply taking a breather. When someone ‘leaves’ you for reasons surrounding your mental illness, understand that they’re not giving up on you; they’re simply taking a step back.

Mental illness can be a very powerful and draining thing. Enduring it alone is difficult and many people believe they cannot survive without the support of others. This is true in some cases. The problem is that there will almost always be someone who ‘leaves’ due to the circumstances surrounding your mental illness, and you can’t give up just because that person is no longer around.

I don’t really like to use the word ‘leave’ or ‘leaves’ because I think that usually correlates with someone disappearing. Generally, you leave a place, not a person. You are not an object. You are not an island and your mental illness isn’t shark infested waters. A better word for your situation is likely ‘step back’ or ‘give in’. Giving up and leaving are generally not what a person does when they can no longer bear the weight of your mental illness.

Your demons are dark, no matter what kind they are and no matter where they originate from. They are dark and heavy on your soul. They try to eat you alive. That’s what creates depression, anxiety, and other types of mental illness. When a friend or family member that was once close to you decides to remove themselves from your life due to a circumstance surrounding your mental illness, it is not your fault. Let me repeat that: it is not your responsibility to keep someone from taking a step back.

Friendship is fluid. Family can even be fluid, though many don’t think so. Demons are scary and powerful. They will try to drag anyone and everything down with them into the pits of darkness. They are incredibly toxic. When someone close to you forfeits their relationship with you, it’s because they’re trying to get as far away from those evil demons as they can.

Many of us shoulder our own demons, and if someone takes a step back from their relationship with you, it’s likely due to the fact that they cannot handle both your demons and their own.

It feels personal, but I promise, in a real friendship or a real, genuine relationship, it isn’t. Friends are not generally equipped to handle those types of things. They aren’t registered therapists or psychiatrists, and no matter how many times they lend you an ear, they simply aren’t trained to help you in the way you require.

Understand that those who can no longer face your demons are not giving up, they’re taking a step back. In the bargain that is their mental health and your relationship, they will and should put their mental health first. Just as you aren’t to blame for your mental illness, you’re not to blame for your friends departing.

As long as you have not hurt those friends or family members on purpose, or manipulated them in any way to get what you wanted, you are not the problem. If you genuinely did not hurt someone and they step back, it is not personal. Know that, however, if there was manipulation and ill-feelings involved, that your relationship may not return, and sometimes that’s for the better. It is not someone else’s job to fix you. It is their job to hold your hand while you fix yourself.

Think of your relationships as one of those bridges that lifts up its ends to allow the ships to pass through. The ships represent time. You and that person are just lifting up your sides of the bridge. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to, the bridges cannot pass through if you do not lift your side up. Many ships will pass through. Sometimes, even after the ships have passed, your friend may not wish to put their side of the bridge back down. That’s okay, too. Sometimes it’s not meant to be.

After realizing the reason for your relationship’s hiatus, you have to remember that you are not alone, no matter how lonely you feel. Everyone has to put their mental health first, but that doesn’t mean that yours no longer matters. Your mental health and mental illness are just as important as anyone else’s. Know that you cannot give up just because someone you care about took a step back. You have to take a stand up for yourself and fight tooth and nail for your life. If life was meant to be easy, we’d all live forever.

You have to learn to be your own anchor. You have to prop yourself up and fight against all the negativity coming at you. Be your own ray of sunshine, and perhaps you’ll be a ray of sunshine for others too. You are meant to be here. You have a purpose even if you haven’t realized it just yet. If you weren’t meant to be on this Earth, the Universe would have picked you off long ago.

You are meant to be here to change the world, even if it’s someone’s world. Realizing that will help you in your process of healing. Know that even if someone important to you does depart, that they may return. If they don’t, however, know that you’ll be just fine because you can stand on your own two feet. You are strong. You will always be strong. Continue to be strong, if not for anyone but yourself. No one can drag you down but you, remember that. You are your own anchor.

Take It From Me: Deleting Toxic People Is So Important

However, when you realize you’re stuck in a messy and bad relationship, it can be difficult to end things or escape.

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.” – Robert Tew

This article was originally posted on The Odyssey on May 30, 2016.

Relationships can be tricky sometimes. When it’s good, it’s good, with problems that can be solved in a mature way and memories you’ll never want to forget. However, when you realize you’re stuck in a messy and bad relationship, it can be difficult to end things or escape. If you are confident in your self-worth and know attempting to fix something broken is a waste of time, this article probably does not apply to you. This article right here is for those who aren’t quite sure how to delete toxic people and break out of a toxic relationship. In this article, I will discuss my journey with toxic relationships, how I was able to escape them, and how others should go about deleting toxic people from their lives.

When I was a junior in high school, I became involved with a plethora of people that had all sorts of problems. I was that friend that everyone always went to for advice or to vent. I thought that this was a good thing at the time, and I thought it meant that people trusted me and depended on me. That is, until I realized that they were doing more than depending on me, but rather, leaning on me. They were latching onto me, asking me to fix their problems, not help them fix the problems by themselves. They were clinging to me for survival.

I began to feel very worn down all the time and feel extremely bad about myself. I entered what my parents thought was a phase, but was me feeling like I had let down every single person I had ever known. My friends would act happy and free when we would hang out, and the minute they went home, they would post something negative or dangerous online, which only gave me anxiety about their safety. I didn’t know where to turn. I thought telling my parents would be violating the trust bestowed upon me and asking for help from other friends would only betray those suffering. Any time that I had attempted to help a depressed friend, I felt like I was the only one trying to save them. If I didn’t succeed in making my friends smile or laugh, I thought that perhaps they would self-harm later and the blame would be on me, for not being good enough at helping them.

If I wasn’t able to succeed in “helping them,” I would instantly feel as though my self-worth was equal to zero. I felt as though I did not deserve to live because I could not even be there to help my friend who was on the verge of ending everything. I wasn’t trying to help them, simply because they weren’t asking for help. I was trying to fix them, to cure them, because they made me feel like I was the only one who possibly could. Those friends put me under a spell that I could not break, and so I fell into the negativity cycle that made me consider ending my own life.

Thankfully, I was able to overcome that consideration and realize that my life is valuable. I was lucky. I know others do not have the same luck that I do. Toxic people are like leeches; they will latch onto you and try to take you down with them. It’s not always intentional, and sometimes they are oblivious to the pain they put you through. While this explains the terrible way they treat you, it does not excuse it.

During this terrible year of high school, I was faced with several toxic relationships, that I dug a hole deeper into every time I was unable to fix a friend’s issues. Sometimes the separation you require from a toxic person is easy; sometimes all it takes is one last straw to be broken, and you decide that you are finished with all the negativity. Other times, it is excruciatingly difficult. Manipulative people will always try to rope you back into the situation, no matter how many times you try to leave. They will make you think that you are the problem and that everything is your fault. They will try and trick you into staying and continue to serve them. I am telling you now, right here, that you are not the problem.

Finally, I realized that I could not possibly help the toxic person and that they were beyond my help. We as people are not built to fix other people. We are built to hold other’s hands while others figure out how to fix themselves. We are built to support other people while they embark on the journey of recovery. Asking someone to be your only crutch in this world is not only selfish but harmful for both of you. Support systems should always be made up of more than one person. One person will not be able to handle the pressure, the overbearing anxiety, or the disappointment that often accompany recovery.

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship of any kind, whether it be a romantic or sexual relationship, a friendship, or literally any other kind of negative relationship, know that you are better than that, and you deserve better than that. Know that there are so many people willing to help you, and lend a hand. Remember that you are never alone, no matter how many times you fall down, fail, and don’t feel like getting back up again. You can get back up again, and you will.

I cannot tell you how difficult it was to cut off and delete all the toxic people in my life. I am going to be a sophomore in college and I am still in the process of it. Toxicity is sneaky, it will hide behind the nicest smile, the most soothing hug. The minute you start feeling like you are the only one responsible for someone else’s life, mental health, and safety, is the minute you need to wake up and realize that you are not in a healthy relationship.

All relationships should maintain positivity, happiness and love. Even through all the bad stuff, you should never have the fear of having someone’s blood on your hands for something you could not possibly fix. Mental illness does not disappear with love. Mental illness is something that needs to be survived by an entire team of people, supporting and encouraging baby steps of success. Toxic people often bloom under the duress of their mental illness and tend not to operate under the love and positivity aspects one would usually expect from a healthy relationship.

Sometimes it is not their fault, and like I said, they are not always aware. Remember that if you are unable to handle someone’s mental illness and the anxiety of the whole situation, you are not a failure or a quitter. Mental illness is hard, and if it begins to affect you negatively, you know it is time to leave. The other person may hate you for leaving. They may not understand, and they may try to put you down in any such way that they can. If this is the case, just hope that one day they understand why you left. If you find yourself bereft of hope, remember that you did not give up, you just let go.

While the deletion of toxic people is a long and emotional process, the aftertaste of freedom is amazing. The weight that will be lifted off of your shoulders will be extreme. You may not know who you truly are without that toxic person and you may get lost finding your way back to yourself, and that is absolutely OK. There are many bad people out there in this world, but believe me when I say that there are so many, if not more, good people out there as well. You deserve to be free, happy and healthy.

If you feel that you are anxious or depressed as I once felt, I encourage you to reach out to someone for help. Just as that toxic person should not have depended solely on you, you should not depend solely on yourself or another. Life is precious, and we were all put on this Earth for a reason. I believe that we were all put on this Earth to change the world in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be on a large scale, or simply changing someone’s world, you are here to make a change, so before you think about ending your life, remember that there is an entire world out there with an infinite amount of possibilities willing to help you make that change. Remember to put yourself first. You deserve it.

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