It’s over, I realized last Friday morning with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
I couldn’t blame anyone else but myself. I hadn’t listened to my intuition which had implored me to distance myself from an unhealthy situation.
What happened was this: I developed an internet friendship with “X”. Some people think that internet friendships are bogus, but in many cases they aren’t. I genuinely cared about X, and as the months passed and our live Facebook chats grew more frequent, I grew closer to X. I exposed my not-so-pretty side. X wrote that I could vent to her as much as I wanted to, so I did. In return X vented to me, and we sought support and advice from one another, sometimes on a daily basis for weeks at a time. As we both lived with bipolar disorder, we commiserated with one another about what it was like to live with medication side effects, parenting challenges, mood swings, and much more.
Last Friday morning my nasty cold was at its tail end, but my coughing fits had kept me up most of the previous night. I was exhausted, and as anyone with bipolar disorder knows, I was concerned about my sleep loss affecting me in serious ways. I planned to get my girls off to school and have a calm morning, but it turned out to be anything but that.
I hopped online to check my Facebook newsfeed for a few minutes. X messaged me asking me to participate in a small online project, but I refused due to my feeling unwell. This is the seemingly insignificant exchange that triggered X.
What happened next caught me totally off-guard. X messaged me back and accused me of slandering her when I had done nothing of the sort. X proceeded to call me a “fake friend”. The fact that her bizarre accusations were completely groundless, they came out of the blue, and full of a strange hostility disturbed me at my core. I knew had I been a very, very good friend to X – I certainly had not been a “fake” one. When I brought these realities up with X, my concerns were ignored.
I realized I couldn’t be friends, either virtual or in real life, with someone who threatened my recovery in any way. It sounds selfish, but it’s self-preservation, and of course what I allow to enter my life affects my children and husband as well. Some may think that I could have worked things out with X, but I’m leaving out many details that further illustrate that to be friends with X would result in further toxic accusations. I would never feel safe again with someone who called me a liar and a fake for absolutely no good reason. A line had been crossed. I’d rather be friendless than have a”friend” like this.
I ended the friendship right away. I selected the “block” function. It took just thirty seconds.
I knew the fallout would be ugly and it was. I received an email from X stating that she hoped I’d “get the help I needed.” After that occurred, I blocked X’s email address. I felt totally unnerved, upset, and angry the rest of Friday.
Today my feelings about X are less intense, but I know it’ll take a while for them to fade.
While this type of situation would be much harder if X lived in my town, it still has been awful. Like many things in life, Facebook can be a blessing and a curse. There’s no Facebook algorithm informing us that we need to end toxic friendships. For a second I thought about closing my account. However, Facebook has been much more of a blessing than a curse in my life, and I couldn’t let the X situation be the reason for leaving social media.
Ironically what helped me feel better was internet-related.
After blocking X on Facebook, I posted a very brief status message about my ending a friendship and my anguished state of mind. I then promptly deleted it, hesitant to air my dirty laundry. On a whim I re-posted it, and I’m so glad that I did. I received wonderful private messages from friends who had been through similar situations. Friends also left kind comments that lifted my spirits. An internet pal sent encouragement via Twitter direct messages.
I was surprised at how much this virtual support helped me move through my pain.
While Facebook was the gateway to my friendship with X, I couldn’t blame Facebook for what happened. It was me…me who ignored obvious signs X had repeatedly given me over the past year that one day I’d be the object of X’s wrath.
Apart from my friends, it was humor that helped alleviate some of my sorrow, guilt, and anger. On Friday afternoon my daughter watched an episode of “The Pioneer Woman”, a television show starring Ree Drummond. Drummond was initially a famous blogger who has developed a Martha Stewart-esque multimedia empire. Out of curiosity, I did a Google image search for photos of the star before she got famous. I spotted a weird-looking image connected with a blog titled “The Marlboro Woman”.
Drummond always refers to her husband Ladd as the “Marlboro Man”. “The Marlboro Woman” blog featured a picture of Drummond superimposed over Ladd’s headshot that I found hilarious. I started laughing and clicked my way over to the blog. The blog pokes fun at Drummond’s cooking styles and elaborate lifestyle, to say the least. (If you’re a huge Ree Drummond fan, I don’t advise you visit “The Marlboro Woman” as it might rub you the wrong way! But it might not…)
The rest of the afternoon I treated myself to reading “The Marlboro Woman” blog. Each post receives up to 500 hundred + comments! The Marlboro Woman and her co-blogger Vera’s replies to some of the comments are just as funny as the blog itself. Reading “The Marlboro Woman” kept me from ruminating non-stop over the horrible events of the day. I still felt bad, but it helped to focus on something funny.
I worry that X will be the one to slander me. It’s entirely possible and so easy to do in a virtual world. But I can’t control X – I can only control myself. I’m thankful that I was able to extricate myself from a harmful situation….it’s better late than never, I guess. I’ve learned a powerful lesson from this perturbing experience, and the next time my intuition presents me with a bright red flag, I won’t turn my head the other way. I’ll pay attention and act on it.