Stop Telling Us to Cut Toxic People Out of Our Lives | by Megan Holstein | Aug, 2021


Around 2015, when I was first becoming aware of how profoundly mentally ill I was, I had a best friend we’ll call K. She and I hung out all the time. We spent every free hour of the day together going shopping, scrolling Tumblr, complaining about men and rich people and all the other things it’s trendy to complain about.

After two years of protracted mental health struggles and personal issues, it dawned on me that my friendship with K seriously contributed to my suffering. When we hung out together, we tended to do things that made our lives worse: We complained, we made excuses, we ate junk food, and we enabled each other.

When I realized this, I had no idea what to do. None at all.

The only scrap of wisdom I’d read on this subject anywhere was from websites like YourTango and Medium, and they tended to say the same thing: “If you’ve identified a toxic person in your life, cut them out!” So I did. Clumsily, awkwardly, rudely, over the process of three or four weeks, I stopped hanging out with K.

That was great — for like six months. I quit a bunch of my bad habits and really started taking care of myself. Cool! But I also fucking missed K. And it wasn’t because I was experiencing some kind of weird toxic-narcissist withdrawal or whatever self-help writers call it. I missed K because she was cool and I liked her. She was the best friend I ever had.

And instead of trying to talk to her about things, or resolve conflict in a healthy way, I just stabbed her in the back.

Cutting K out in such a clumsy way is one of my biggest regrets in life. I did it because my head was filled with crazy ideas about how “cutting toxic people out” is “the only way” to live a good life. What horse shit.

If someone had told me there was another way, I might have taken it. Things might be a lot different for me today.

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