Having a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis makes life difficult. It can be an extremely hard life that requires a large amount of support. We often find that support in our close friends and family. Sometimes, that support isn’t available because there can be a tendency to lose friends when you have a chronic illness. Other times, however, you may have people that think they are being supportive, but turn out to be the exact opposite of that. That is what I want to talk about today, people, some that even mean well, but that have a negative impact on your health. So negative, in fact, that you can call them toxic. (Just a note, this doesn’t refer to anyone specific in my life at the moment, but certainly involves people I’ve met over the years).
While the term ‘toxic person’ can have a lot of meanings, for the purposes of this article, I’m specifically talking about a person whose behavior negatively affects us because of the way they deal with our disease. There are a lot of behaviors that I consider toxic to those with a chronic illness. Here are a few:
- Constantly passing off your disease as something that isn’t important/real or constantly comparing how they feel to you when they can’t possibly understand. For example, I’m sure we’ve all heard people say: “Oh, I’m tired too”. To me, this also extends into the people that dismiss us by saying we just need to get more sleep or be more positive (or offer up some type of suggestion, clearly not knowing what they are talking about).
- They don’t take the time to learn even the bare minimum about your illness. Listen, I get it, I don’t expect everyone I know to be super well-versed in MS. But if I interact with them a lot, I’d hope they have a small, basic understanding. If I am worth talking to, then I am worth the time spent to read a few paragraphs about my disease. If you aren’t willing to do that, then our foundation isn’t really good. Of course, if we aren’t sharing information, then this really doesn’t apply, that’s still on us to provide.
- People that don’t want to hear it. Having MS or another similar chronic illness is a big part of our lives. If someone doesn’t occasionally want to hear about how we are feeling, to the point where you feel you need to hide it, then that’s a person you don’t want to be around. People that constantly seem frustrated by our illness fall into this too. We can already feel like a burden to people, even when we aren’t, so if someone constantly makes you feel that way, they’re a toxic person and are very bad for you. No one should ever make you feel like a burden. An occasional outburst of frustration can be expected, but if someone is constantly making you feel this way, it’s time to move on.
- They make you feel disabled. Even if you are disabled, no one should make you feel that way. If any of their actions or words make you feel disabled or ashamed, then they aren’t good for you.
- They make your tragedy their own. I’m sure more than a few of us have known people like this. They mean well, and appear super distraught over your illness, but they make it about them. It goes beyond sympathy and becomes a detriment.
- Negative people. You could really lump a lot of these examples into this category. People that are constantly negative, whether it be about your disease or drama in their own lives, can have a bad impact on us. Stress is bad for us, and being around a negative nancy all the time will only increase our stress and make our symptoms worse.
- Someone who isn’t supportive. Not only verbally but with actions. If you have a significant other and they can’t pitch in and help out, then you may have a problem.
- While these are some examples, it’s important to remember that the best judge of a toxic person is how they make you feel. If an interaction with someone makes you feel bad about yourself or your disease, or just generally makes you feel worse mentally or physically, then you’ve been dealing with a toxic person.
Plain and simple, dealing with toxic people on a regular basis is bad for anyone’s health, but it’s especially bad if you suffer from a chronic illness. Increased stress often means we will have worsening symptoms. Depression is already more common for us than the regular population, and dealing with someone who makes us feel bad will only magnify those chances. It’s not easy to admit that another person can have such a dramatic effect on us, but it’s the truth. Removing one of these relationships from your life can truly feel like a weight has been lifted.
They can be anywhere
Toxic people can be anywhere. They could be your best friend, an acquaintance, a significant other, or even a family member. Living with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis can be extremely hard. You shouldn’t tolerate someone making that life even harder. That can make for some tough decisions though; it’s not easy to end a relationship of any kind, particularly when our disease can make them few and far between. It can be especially hard if it’s someone you’ve known all your life or if it’s a relative. You have to think of yourself though, and remember that you deserve better. Talk to the person and try to explain how they make you feel and why that is bad for you. If things don’t change, it may be time to remove them from your life.