Thoughts on Toxicity II

Toxic Person tells me,
“I have good intentions,
so if anyone doesn’t take my actions well,
that’s their problem.”
They catch themselves
a second too late
but the damage is already done

Those words,
as misspoken or poorly worded as they were,
bear volumes of red flags
Those words,
withdrawn as quickly as they were delivered,
still shed light on every interaction we’d ever had
and illuminate every interaction from that point onward

Toxic Person tells me,
“You mean the world to me,”
over and over and over and over again
trapping me in a web of well-intended words
killing me with their kindness

Toxic Person tries very hard
to “understand” me but instead
of meeting me where I am at
they yank me to their side
trapping me in their arms with
a rope labeled “relatability”
They disregard my skin that has begun
to chafe from these chains
because their priority is only proximity;
Toxic Person dismisses
our dozens of differences
for the sake of seeing only
our surface-level similarities
This suffocates me
and I let it
I have other people in my life who will make up for this, 
I try to comfort myself,
but it is still not enough

Toxic Person becomes used to me
pandering to each of their problems
stretching and contorting myself in ways I don’t bend
After all, all I’d ever known
is setting my own self aside because
“when the people around me are happy, then I’m happy”
and this is what determines the detrimental design
of a toxic relationship,
dealing with their discomfort with the world
all at the expense of my own
Toxic Person must have sensed this
they seize my sympathy for themselves
and I let them

Toxic Person continues to comfortably steamroller ahead,
bulldozing a path forward for themselves,
and I let them
because after all, who is going to pay attention
to the things they are running over
when the things they are running over
don’t scream loud enough to be heard over the engine?
When the bulldozer has “good intentions,”
how dare I challenge them?
If Toxic Person has “good intentions,”
surely I am the one with the problem
if I am uncomfortable–
I learn way too late
that “good intentions”
are just a good alibi
for toxic people to gaslight their peers
into being okay with their toxicity

Toxic Person scolds me,
“If you don’t set boundaries,
how am I supposed to know if I’m crossing them?”
I nod and shoulder the responsibility of reasoning
for both of us once again
I let them fantasize that I am the only one at fault
I realize too late I should have screamed back,
“You consider others’ boundaries in the first place!”

Toxic Person is wounded
when I tell them of their toxicity
And for the Nth time, I disregard my own discomfort
I immediately rush to bandage the damage I’ve done,
to relieve them of the responsibility
they need to take for themselves,
paying no mind that I myself have been bleeding out
from a knife with their name on it
long before I even said it out loud

Toxic Person paints themselves
with a brush dipped in Victim
and I too am on the canvas,
very close to being Villain
just for trying to escape–
after all, how dare I, how could I,
when their “good intentions”
should be good enough?

Toxic Person tells me,
“I can’t imagine
not being in each other’s lives,
I can’t agree to not talking to you”
They assert themselves,
crowding me with their codependency,
as I have let them do so many, many times–
Their words make me recoil,
threatening to bend me once more–
My first reaction is to respond,
“Of course, of course, you’re right,
who am I to deny you something you desire?”
to feel guilty and negative
for not giving them what they “need”,
for not speaking the words they seek,
to set myself aside so they can stay satisfied
as I have done so many, many times–
because when they do not get what they need,
when they do not hear the words they want,
their emotions, their entitlement, are all unbearable,
and I would take it upon myself
to fix their failure to fix themselves,

This time, as they are speaking,
I reach down deep inside myself
past my exhausted heart
past my shriveled and suffocated lungs
I pull out the very confidence I’ve called for
I pull out the very courage I’ve cried for
I pull out the very boundaries I’ve begged and bled for
I set them in place with purpose and perseverance–

I breathe for what feels like the first time in forever.

In the days after I set myself free
I wake up in the mornings
and the first thing I catch myself doing
is still exhausting myself by worrying how Toxic Person is today
wasting time wondering if they think I am the villain in their story
for doing what I needed to do to become the hero in mine

In the weeks after I set myself free
I wake up in the mornings
and the first thing I catch myself doing
is trying to look back, and I tell myself
to keep moving forward
I write this poem,
and the first thing I still fear
is their reaction in response to these words I write

I tell myself,
I am under no obligation
to make sure someone understands their own toxicity
when I had been suffocated by it for so long

I tell myself,
I am not responsible
for someone’s inability
to take responsibility
for themselves

I tell myself,
I am allowed to write and weep and reel and rant
because I have allowed myself to stay silenced
for far too long

In the month after I set myself free
I am already happier and healthier
unfettered and unrestrained
empowered and unencumbered
It will take a while to turn my back on the toxicity that terrorized me
It will take a while to learn the lessons this taught me
But I learn nonetheless
and the next time someone tries to trap me
in their web of well-intended words,
the next time someone tries
to kill me with their kindness,
instead of letting myself be their scratching post,
instead of bending over backwards to be their teddy bear,
instead of dealing with their demands to accommodate their assertiveness,
instead of reciprocating their requests to receive their “love”,

I will set myself free before they can even wrap their fingers around my wings

[Thoughts on Toxicity I]


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