An American author, political activist, and lecturer by the name of Helen Keller once said, “walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” This quote, for many years, was my anthem. My best friend and I went through many difficult situations side by side, holding this quote close to our hearts.
We were friends since the very beginning of our sixth grade year. For years, I considered her my best friend. I could never even fathom the thought of her doing anything to hurt me. I always thought that the way she treated me was normal, though my mother, grandmother, and even other friends, would argue this. They told me that she was treating me poorly. It started with subtle weird behaviors. She would ask me to do things for her, such as throwing things away or cleaning her dishes. I just felt like I was being nice and helpful. I found out later from others that she took pleasure in me “being her pet”. While I was just doing a nice deed for my best friend, she took my kindness for granted and took pride in having a servant.
That was only the beginning of a long, toxic friendship. It started out with behaviors so subtle that nobody else could really notice. A friend telling you to put her dishes in the sink is not exactly over-the-top controlling behavior. I stopped volunteering as her dishwasher but she still found other ways to control me. She used my soft-hearted, easy-going, and slightly shy personality to her full advantage. She started to pick random fights. She would cut me off for days on end, most of the time without giving any reason. She would latch back onto my now battered being by means of manipulation. Whenever I would try to pull away, she’d reel me back in with stories of her drunken mother beating her sister. She knew that I would feel bad if I wasn’t there for her.
I let her control me for years. I let her beat me down to a pulp and make me feel completely worthless. It was hard having a best friend who treated me so poorly. I knew deep down that our friendship was extremely toxic and that I needed to let her go, but I was afraid.
I felt like she needed me. She had no other friends. Who else could she talk to when things in her relationship went downhill or when her mother got drunk and picked fights with her? She manipulated me into believing that I deserved to be treated the way she was treating me and that everything was my fault.
She cut me off for six months. In those six months, I accomplished so much more than I could ever imagine. I grew more in six months without her than I did in six years with her. Although it was clear to see that she never really needed me if she could let me go for such a long time, I still decided to reach out to her again. I really don’t think I necessarily missed her, I just missed having a best friend. I was blind for doing such a thing, but I was really convinced that things would be better. We’ve had time apart and that could only strengthen our friendship. For a few months, things were great. We actually remained friends without fighting or her cutting me off for five months.
I should have known that the good times would never last. I know why I ended our friendship, but I’m not sure why things happened in the sequence that they did. Everything that resulted in me terminating our friendship happened in just two weeks. First she belittled my boyfriend, calling him controlling. Then, on senior prom day, she held our entire group up and made us two hours late for the dance. Finally, she got mad at me for not texting her back for an hour and a half. She resorted to writing nasty posts about me on Facebook, and at that point, six years of being poorly treated finally caught up with me. Why would I want to be friends with such a mannerless person?
There is no easy way to end a six-year friendship. I felt that the best way to do it was to do it in a very blunt manner. I told her that our friendship was no longer going anywhere, and there was no point in trying anymore. I just had too much going on and she was one more added stress that I could not deal with anymore. She told me it hurt that I was letting a friendship go so easily that lasted for so long. I actually felt bad for about thirty seconds.
Memories of wasted nights spent crying in my bedroom flickered in my brain. It was at that point that I started to feel relief. I finally cut ties with the most toxic person I had ever known and it was time to move forward.
I currently feel impassive toward my ex-best friend who I once loved unconditionally. As I grew stronger and older, my feelings changed. I also decided to swap out my old anthem for a more self-empowering one. “No once can make you feel inferior without your consent”, a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt is my new life motto. I can thank Alexis for helping me to see that I am not only worthy of respect, but I deserve it. And you are damn right that I will demand respect of anybody who wishes to play a role in my life.