People Who Come Back to Haunt Me

Over the last few years, maybe more, I’ve been getting rid of the toxic people in my life. It hasn’t been easy because there were quite a few.

It took a lot of soul-searching. I thought I was a magnet for these people. I figured it had to be something in me and blamed myself. I thought I had to fix these relationships—that it was my responsibility. Well, it did have something to do with me. I may have been a kind of glue for these people, but that doesn’t mean it was my burden to bear.

I think it was a combination of me gravitating toward the familiar and also being an artist. Other artists may tell you that we get a lot of strange people trying to connect with us. I’m sure the people who want to know us mean well, or maybe they don’t. I really couldn’t tell you their intentions. But most of the time, in my experience, they want more from you than you are able to give. Then, they might wind up resenting you, and you were just trying to be neutrally friendly.

I grew up in a toxic environment, so this is what’s familiar to me. Either people know this about me and seek me out as an easy target, and I can’t see it coming, or it’s just a recipe that happens in an alternate universe.

Since I was super young, I was the person who was responsible for fixing my mother’s emotional problems. My mother was mentally ill and quite abusive because of that fact. It didn’t matter how hard I tried; my efforts were never good enough. But I still had to keep trying because I was made to be responsible for her well-being. So, it’s no wonder similar situations glom onto me.

This was the number one reason I took my book out of distribution. There’s more than this reason, but this was the biggest. I disclosed quite a bit of personal shit in there. Too much. A number of people who read it thought I was disclosing these things to them personally. Therefore, some of these people felt they could share their deep, psychological pain with me, but I’m mentally ill, too!

But I am nobody’s doctor. I can’t fix anything. I don’t even know what to say. And since when did I give any signs that it was appropriate to dump that kind of crap on? Don’t people know anything about mental illness? I don’t think anyone who has survived a life like mine should run a suicide hotline. I know I can’t. It would send me into a straightjacket.

So, I seriously regret publishing the details about my life and what I’ve been through in a book. I don’t regret writing it, but I regret publishing it and promoting it to anyone who knew me at all beforehand. People decided they “knew” me. I read a lot of memoirs, and you can’t fully know anyone from a couple hundred pages or even a couple hundred thousand. Some people out there think they know me from one particular chapter.

Little by little, I’ve been cutting myself off from people who haven’t been healthy for me, but it’s been really difficult. Some are more difficult than others. I’m not a total ice monster. Removing communication with a few of them has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do, ever. It’s taken years to do this.

The only caveat is that some of these people don’t respect boundaries. Every now and then, they come out from under a rock and try to make contact again. I don’t get it. Family, I kind of understand. Boundaries should still be respected, but you can’t blame that small burning flame for the hope that one day, things might change (even though they probably won’t).

As for everyone else, when they make contact, it’s a kind of haunting that puts me right back at the beginning all over again—the same feelings of guilt and frustration, sadness and horror. It distracts me from all the shit I need to do. It looms just beneath the surface, and a current of anxiety buzzes through my life for a while. I may want to, but I don’t engage. Instead, the conversations commence in my head. Is that just as bad? Seems it’s just as bad for my mental wellness. That is unless I get to vent a little. That helps. I have a blog for that. But the blog seems like just another type of “publication” where people get to guess who I really am and think they know.

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