Updated: Mar 6
Doctor Jim was a doctor near my house, in a pretty long-running but small family practice. I took my 2 year old daughter in to see him at the little brick building quite often over a period of about year for what seemed to be continuous strep or ear infections. On one of those visits I was also sick, but uninsured, so I was only there for the kiddo. Jim asked about my treatment and insisted on treating me for free once I explained the circumstances. I left with meds for myself and my daughter in sample form and didn't pay a cent for the visit. This act endeared him to my heart and firmly placed him in the "kind people" category of my brain. Dr. Jim was good people.
Over the course of our visits, he got to know me and gained an understanding of my situation. I was bouncing back and forth between an abusive relationship and an abusive home with my only available parent. (See The Story of Eight Womento hear of my adventure on a walk between the two). On one of those visits he offered some advice that has stuck with me for 22 years now. "Toxic people are no less toxic based on how closely related you are to them". Being the naïve 19 year old I was then, I needed some additional explaining on toxicity in people, as this was a concept I hadn't heard of.
Our Discussion resonated in my brain and I started to recognize the abusive behaviors in the people around me more and more. This broadened my personal philosophy on toxic people after much contemplation.
Toxic. What a word to describe a person, huh? To be clear, when I say toxic person, what I actually mean is that a person can be toxic to another person. Dangerous, destructive, deadly, poisonous. I was contemplating this theory from the perspective of a young woman who survived sexual exploitation at the hands of her mother; and was at the time in an abusive relationship that often included being locked in my home behind key-locked iron bars. So an insider perspective is probably an understatement. What I used to formulate my thoughts on toxicity was my bee allergy. I was deathly allergic and had thrice been rushed to the ER, unable to breathe in anaphylaxis.
But I really love bees.
I really loved my mom, too. I went to great lengths and expended endless energy to protect myself and my child, to recover from the continued "exposure", all to maintain a relationship that society told me I was obligated to continue. By this logic, I should be suiting up in beekeeper gear, living in a beehive, and hoping we survive. That is just absurd. Unless it is your job, when something or someone is deadly toxic to you, you don't look for ways to mitigate the danger and continue exposing yourself to the toxin, you avoid it at all cost!
It's really difficult to accept that someone you love is toxic to you, but it is profoundly
liberating to eventually grow away, into the natural shape of your Self without the constant, toxic doses of pain. The development of this theory helped me leave my abusive partner one day when the gate was left unlocked briefly. I grabbed the items I had packed waiting for just that opportunity, my daughter and we spent the next month in a domestic violence shelter.
I never went back.
I haven't had any contact with my mother in almost 18 years, and I still sometimes find myself discovering little forgotten, poisonous seeds she planted long ago, for me to uproot in my psyche.
I like to think of it as fertile ground for very colorful flowers.