Deciding on No Contact with Toxic Friends and Family
Choosing no contact (going no contact, enacting a no contact rule) with a toxic friend or family member who has been in your life for an extended period of time can be difficult. That being said, it can be even more challenging if you’re in the process of healing and living with mental illness.
I live with dissociative identity disorder (DID), and there can be a lot of confusion among my personalities when I decide to go no contact with a toxic person. Why is the person no longer in our life? What did he or she do to be ousted? Will he or she ever come back? These are just a few questions I hear from my group of personalities when I choose to go no contact with a person.
However, it takes an ample amount of energy, time and patience to exercise a no contact rule, whether it pertains to one individual or a group of people that you deem toxic — so why do it?
Cutting Off Contact with Toxic People
Choosing no contact with a person is not one I take lightly, nor it is one that I make on a regular basis. I opted to go no contact with my primary caregivers, for instance, after decades of emotional abuse that ultimately resulted in my trauma. It was not a split decision that I made on a whim — it took careful thought and consideration.
Given my diagnosis with DID, it also came with a lot of back and forth between my personalities as to whether we even wanted to go forth with the no contact decision. Ultimately, I (as the host and leader of the group) needed to do what was best for my system as a whole. I can honestly say that it has been one of the most impactful choices I’ve ever made in terms of my healing journey, and I have no regrets.
Whether you have already decided to go no contact with a toxic person or you’re considering it, it is critical that you not only weigh the pros and cons, but also think about how you will handle any sense of remorse.
Is No Contact with Toxic People Right for You?
These days, there’s a lot of talk about creating distance from toxic people, but it’s often easier said than done. Going no contact altogether can be a journey in itself — one that may take months or even years to achieve. I do not recommend taking the option lightly, regardless of whether you live with a mental illness such as DID or not. But how do you know if no contact is right for you?
There are definitely questions I ask myself when I’m considering no contact with a toxic person. First, how does the person make my personalities (and system as a whole) feel when we are together? If there is any sense of threat, danger or fear, I know that the person isn’t right for me.
Next, does the individual care about my actual wellbeing, both physically and emotionally? The person should be willing to fulfill the role he or she plays in your life, whether it’s caregiver, friend or family member.
Finally, is the individual causing harm in any way? This question may seem like a no-brainer, but take a moment to really think about the words and actions of the person, specifically when he or she is around you. How does that person make you feel?
Ultimately, you may decide that you simply need a break from a friend or family member, and a no contact rule is not something you are ready to fully consider — this is completely acceptable. The key is to ensure that you’re making the right decision for your mental health and not impeding your healing journey.
How have you achieved no contact with a person in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Vermes, K. (2020, January 28). Deciding on No Contact with Toxic Friends and Family, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2020/1/deciding-on-no-contact-with-toxic-friends-and-family
Author: Krystle Vermes
I cut myself off from my mother last year, just before Mother's Day. I even sent a cut-off letter. I changed my mind a few months later and contacted her, which affected my splitting. My alters came out and confused my husband, who also struggles with mental disorders. Just before Thanksgiving, I blocked her again after she sent me a picture saying, "I'm going au natural now," with an angry face that she would have when spanking me. She is also one of the reasons I struggle with financial abuse issues (even financially abused the person I love the most because the behavior wasn't obviously toxic to me). I'm running a business to heal from codependency, hoping to help other women who have been sexually abused and exploited process their traumas through writing. I'm not a therapist, so I prefer my clients to either be stable or have a therapist they can talk with, too.
I still have a long way to go to change my behaviors, but I connect with my alters as much as I can each day. It's hard, as sometimes I gaslight myself into thinking I'm lying about the alters. Looking at the symptoms, I had them all. Even now, I feel like I'm in a command center, looking at life through multiple lenses. Some of us love our life, some want more money so we can move with our love to a more rural place since we fear stalkers. (When multiples come out, our "I" turns to "We").
We still get the urge to call Mom, especially Micra (my inner child that's 5 years old). Mitra is 13-17 (My inner Teenager) and rebels, preferring reading and disappearing into fantasy worlds instead of reality, where she's forced to accept that she'd be a sex object when she wanted to be an author. Lalah speaks Darglish, which is a combination of Persian-Dari and English. She fears loud noises, especially mortars, and wants to build a pillow fort on the fourth of July, with Mitra who wants to play in cherry-scented bubbles like she did when her family went to Fourth of July parties at the park thirty minutes away from her house. As I'm healing, all these "characters" come out randomly, sometimes through my writing process.
When I wrote "The Scarring of the Roshanra," I learned I could escape from the prison in my mind. I self-published it just to say I did, after 16 rounds of edits. It took us six years to write the book, and we've been working on the second one for two years. We also started the third book in my Capstone for my Creative Writing AFA, and started a YA Fantasy that links to the same world this week. It's hard to stay on one journey, but we feel great combining our efforts to do what comes naturally to us. We're learning we're awesome. Just need to evolve a little more.
Having a compassionate, protective husband has helped us, though we tend to fear people in general. We think he does, too. But one of my alters is a version of him, since we broke up for a while in 2017. I'm writing a memoir based on one of the times he came out to protect me when I didn't protect myself. Cutting ourselves off from Mom has been one of the best (and most painful) things we have done. We love her. We also love ourselves enough to not accept torture, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
One of the more painful things: my brother cut me off a few years ago and I had to accept that he either hated me, he was groomed to distrust me, I was toxic to him, or he had shame after bringing home a rapist when I was 13 or 14 (right on the cusp, but can't recall what month it happened).
Apologies if we've overshared or rambled. A lot has come up for us today after an emotional breakdown last night, where the suicidal thoughts came up when all hope seemed lost.
It's important to recognize the thoughts aren't who we are. We have the thoughts to tell us what direction we need to take. We hate hurting people, so we people please. But people pleasing hurts us and the people around us, so we're learning to be independent, yet still count on others when we need them.
Argh! I'm a Libra with Scorpio Moon and Scorpio Rising. So many emotions to balance!
Your post brought me hope. Tashakur (thank you in Persian Dari, transliterated)!
I'm estranged from my family of origin due to severe dysfunction on their part. I recently found out my sister has brain cancer which will eventually take her life.
I've made two attempts to reach out and be of assistance to her but both ended terribly and I told my sister I would no longer be in her life.
I feel terrible about this. The only way to reconcile with my family is to face attacks on me, have lies spread about me and accept that my mental health will greatly suffer. I feel so guilty and want to be there for my sister but she's the one causing the most trouble. I don't know how to reconcile my grief, guilt and need for self care.
Hi Kelly. I'm sorry to hear about your estrangement. It's important to understand that grief and guilt are very real parts of going no contact with friends and family. I can honestly say that it becomes more bearable with time, but in my personal experience, it doesn't necessarily go away. That being said, you will eventually grow stronger, and definitely strong enough to begin practicing self-care and self-love again. Best of luck to you and yours.
I am the sister of someone with DID. My sister is estranged from our family and has been for 4 years, due to dysfunction, abuse and trauma me and her faced during childhood from our step-father. While my mother was in a state of denial for years and could not offer enough emotional availability and support, I should not be a 'toxic' person in her life, yet I have been cut off too.
I am understanding that this has been a necessity for her and her healing/treatment process, although I have shared experiences of childhood with her and feel I could be of huge support to her memory, identity and validation of feelings. I have stuck up for her while she has been away and got justice for us against him. I would love her to know this and see the change in mindset of our mum as she has awoken to the situation and divorced him. He is out of our lives forever. I want to show her I am here to listen, avoid triggers and help her healing journey, peacefully and at her own pace. We spend our time researching about DID to get the best understanding we can of how we could support her if she were to return.
There is a healthy home full of love and educated, non-judgemental family members waiting for her, if only she knew.
From the perspective of a loving family member of a DID survivor, I think the space for her away from the perpetrator and anyone truly toxic has probably saved her.
However loved ones will be on a healing journey from the situation too, and from the grief of losing you, it is possible they have many regrets and realisations like myself.
I believe there is a way you can educate them on your situation/feelings/needs/guilt, without becoming involved too soon. Is it a letter for them to sit with and understand?