How Toxic Relationships Can Impact Your Health
Average Read Time: 4 minutes
I remember walking with a family member at the county fair one summer about 10 years ago. It had been a hard Spring as I was dizzy all the time. Hashimoto’s and perimenopause weren’t playing very nicely in the sandbox together. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do about it. I had two young kids whom I was homeschooling when I turned 40, and it was like the warranty ran out on my body.
I had nystagmus (where the eyes shake back and forth) for about 15 hours a day and my face was the color of school glue. My boys were five and seven and my heart was breaking each time I had to go to another scary test at the hospital to see what was going on with me, and if it was something that was going to turn all of us upside down.
So that summer day, I was doing my best to rally at the county fair. The family member turned to me and asked snottily, “Why are you limping?”
I felt self-conscious when I answered because I was trying to be so normal and not have the day be focused on my health or me.
“I didn’t realize I was limping,” I said honestly. “I’ve been really dizzy and don’t know what’s going on.”
You know what she did?
She laughed at me mockingly and walked a little bit faster so I was a few steps behind.
That’s not love.
Not even close.
What would love have done?
Love would have wrapped her arm under mine to help support me.
As a fellow mom, she could have understood that I was trying to create a memory for my kids, despite how I felt.
And as a compassionate human, she could have whispered something reassuring in my ear like, “You’ve got this. I’m here.”
That’s just one example of hundreds of toxic interactions I could give—and that you likely could, too.
We all have those stories.
If you’ve read my book, You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone, you know that I went around the mulberry bush like a SCRILLION times with doctors who misdiagnosed me.
They told me it was all in my head
While I was gaining over 100 pounds
Had sinus infections for 7 months straight
And my skin was bleeding when you touched it.
All in my head?
They put me on antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, pain pills, and sleep aids…
Eventually, they told me I was right, but by then, it was too late, because they said I was dying.
When I look back at all the times I stayed with disrespectful doctors, or spent energy on dismissive family members, I realize that it cost me something to stay with people who were committed to not believing me.
Those are toxic relationships.
What are toxic relationships?
Relationships that don’t contribute to your healing, and add hardship and unhappiness to your life.
They look like:
– Someone who is judging you.
– Someone who is not believing you.
– Someone who is mocking you and belittling you.
– Someone who is disempowering you.
– Someone who is taking the vulnerable position that you’re in and pushing you lower instead of lifting you up.
But toxic people don’t just show up as being negative about your health condition.
They can show up as:
– Someone who is bringing the chaos of their irresponsible life into your space, and expecting you to accommodate them or fix them or be responsible where they are not.
– Someone who takes advantage of you or devalues you.
– Someone who lies or breaks a commitment to you and then acts like you’re the problem.
– Someone who is physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive to you.
And then, treats you like you’re unworthy of love and kindness.
A toxic relationship can be one of those weird patterned or cyclical relationships where it’s fine for a while, and then, there’s an incident of mistrust or hurt (like the hundreds of times before), and then, there’s defensiveness and denial, followed by threats of leaving or ending, and then, ultimately reconciliation.
Until it starts all over again.
It’s crazy-making, is what it is.
That is a toxic relationship.
And it can show up in big or small ways…sometimes it’s almost imperceptible.
UP NEXT: MY LIFE AS A GO-KART: WHEN YOUR THYROID CHANGES HOW YOU LIVE
Here are some of the price tags that come when we stay in toxic relationships:
Price Tag #1: We take time away from our healing
Healing takes time. When I was involved in two car accidents before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I learned very quickly how much time is spent at doctor’s visits, physical therapy, filling out insurance paperwork, and phone calls—not to mention the time it takes for extra rest, to move slowly, or any meds they put you on to relax muscles or help to sleep through the pain.
It’s the same during certain seasons. You need to:
- Get your labs
- Go to specialists for tests
- Adjust meds
- Learn about foods that you can eat
- Educate yourself with books, articles, and courses
- And, on top of that, there’s the time it takes to move slower as you manage brain fog, fatigue and other thyroid symptoms.
Healing takes time.
And as my friend, Beth, reminds me, “Time takes time.”
If we’re spending our time in the direction of toxic relationships, we’re not spending it on our healing.
Price Tag #2: We take energy away from our healing
Healing takes energy. Many of us are dealing with a slow down of our thyroid, which affects our heart, our brain, and every organ in our body.
It takes a lot of energy to try to self-regulate the systems that are slower, AND it takes energy to heal.
If we are in toxic relationships that call on us to protect or defend ourselves (or to convince others of the validity of our condition), that energy is being sent AWAY from our healing.
In the same way that the body has a system of prioritization—first the heart, then the brain, and then the other organs in a certain order behind those—WE have to know what requires the most from our energy.
Demanding and judgmental people will take all the energy we give to them. We need to have our priorities in place so we know what matters most.
Price Tag #3: We take time and energy away from the people who need us and love and support us the most
I have stood in my kitchen and stared at two cute little boy faces eager to share stories and jokes and play pat-a-cake with me.
And you know where I was?
In my head.
Finishing the last argument with some family member who didn’t get it, or some doctor who didn’t believe me.
I’ve actually missed out on being present with my kids.
And I’ve been cranky with my husband.
And impatient with myself.
All because I’d given my time and energy to someone who was creating a lot of drama and pain in my life.
I finally had to say to myself, “My children ACTUALLY need me to cook them a meal. Their love is a HEALING love to be around as I snuggle them and read them a story. Why would I waste my time on someone who doesn’t truly need me, value me, or add value to my peace, healing, and joy?”
When I answered that question, I was able to step away from people who were wasting my healing energy and time, and I was able to step toward the people I loved the most, who brought me the most joy, and who truly needed, wanted, and appreciated me.
Price Tag #4: We lose our peace
Our body needs homeostasis to heal in optimal ways. Homeostasis is when the body is in a stable state and the rest of our system can do what it does to heal.
That is a physical state.
The impact on our physical state can come from our emotional state. When we are in antagonistic relationships that affect our rest, calm, and inner stability…
It can make us anxious and angry
Hurt and depressed.
Frustrated and afraid.
If you are being chased by a bear, your body is not in a restful, peaceful state. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins while your digestion shuts down so that your body’s focus is firing up your muscles so that you can get out of Dodge.
When that happens, it’s only supposed to last long enough for you to either escape the bear or become lunch.
When we stay in toxic relationships, we are always in a state of being chased by a bear. When we do that, we lose our inner balance and our body doesn’t work in that optimized way because it’s living in emergency mode all the time—where healing systems shut down in order to accommodate the stress.
Our mind being at peace matters so that our body can have the best chance at maintaining a stable state of rest—so that it can heal.
Do you want to know the biggest lesson I learned from staying in crazy-making relationships?
I was 100% in charge of the insanity.
I thought I was the victim to other people but the truth was this: I was willing to put up with drama and distractions—being disregarded and dismissed—because there were FOUR KEY elements missing from my life:
1. FOCUSED COMMITMENT to my healing.
2. VISION for my health.
3. UNDERSTANDING of my value and worth.
4. RESPONSIBILITY for my life.
Without those four key elements, I was willing to be engaged in all kinds of crazy with HUGE price tags on my health.
I was willing to give up my time, my energy, and my peace.
And to miss out on the people I loved the most.
When the revelation of those four key elements came into my consciousness, my whole experience in life was different.
I want to share with you a powerful practice that you can use to radically shift your relationships from toxic dynamics to healthy partnerships.
It’s a mantra that I wrote for myself and spoke to myself every day for months, for five minutes each morning:
I am 100% responsible for my life, health, happiness, and peace.
When I caught on to that truth, I was able to own my life in a way that set me free and set me up to win in my relationships.
When you start owning your life, vision, and personal responsibility, caring people will step forward.
And toxic people
Will fall away.
Yes, it’s important to get out of the toxic relationships that surround you…
But the most important relationship that needs to be healthy and non-toxic
Is the one that you’re in with you.