Two years ago, in August, I made the conscious decision to remove a toxic, manipulative individual from my life. This person and I had a decades long “friendship”.
This relationship, of course, didn’t start out as the godawful, soul-crushing, gaslighting nightmare that it became. If it had, I would have run the fuck in the opposite direction. Even I, Brightside Barbie, doomed to look for the best in everyone, would have said, “Nope!” and kept on moving.
A few weeks ago, Jenny Trout, one of my utterly amazing BFFs, stumbled across some shadyass Vaguebooking about me and snapped. The results of this were five blog posts that detailed years of emotional abuse at the hands of the individual I jettisoned from my life. Jen was pissed. And while she may not always stand up to defend herself, she’ll defend the fuck out of the people she loves and the ideals she believes in. I didn’t ask her to write those posts. She did it because she felt it was the right thing to do. Very much like what I’m doing here.
If you’ve never dealt with an emotionally abusive manipulative person – or if you’re not the type to to get conned by them – that’s awesome. *high fives you*
If you have, like so many of the people who’d commented on Jen’s posts, then you know how incredibly insidious and harmful these people can be. You know that the gaslighting techniques they employ can break you the fuck down until you begin to doubt everything around you—even your own thoughts. Hell, especially your own thoughts. I won’t go into all the gory details about how this works. That’s not the point of this post. There are tons of great resources out there if you find yourself in a relationship like this. This blog is a great place to start. But please be aware, those of you who’ve dealt with these sorts of relationships may find it triggering.
But to illustrate just how damaging this behavior can be, I’d like to share something. About five or six months after I was no longer speaking to the person Jen wrote about, my husband, who’s known me since I was 15 fucking years old, looked at me and said, “There you are. I’ve been missing my girl, and I didn’t know how to find her.” That broke my goddamn heart.
The reason I’m sharing this is because now that Jen has chosen to remove the five posts detailing the wild ride that was our life with this toxic person, there are readers out there who are upset. Some are upset because they didn’t get to read the last installment before they were all unpublished. Some were upset because they feel that Jen isn’t standing by her convictions by keeping the posts up. Some were upset because those posts that detailed this person’s behavior could have “real world consequences” for that person.
I get that it’s frustrating to be really into something and find it entertaining and never be able to see the conclusion. But good news, it’s cached out there somewhere, folks. But I understand internet caches as well as I understand imaginary numbers and algebra, so…I’m not the person to help you out with that.
To those who feel like Jen isn’t standing by her convictions, let me tell you what those posts accomplished for the two of us. And probably for Carol, too. Having those experiences laid out before the cold, unblinking eye of the internet did something amazing. It gave us both the courage to admit that this shit actually happened. This is the shit that shitty people do to others under the guise of friendship. It gave other people who’ve experienced similar shit solidarity recognition and understanding. It gave Jen and I those things, too. But when Jen unpublished those posts, it gave us both something more. It gave us the feeling of finally being fucking free.
No matter what Jen and I have accomplished professionally, even after this person was no longer in our lives, those accomplishments were always tainted with the remnants of her voice in our heads and the echoes of her words in our ears. Trying to explain how detrimental that is in a way that someone who hasn’t been through this shit can understand would take months, and TBH, I’m not willing to to devote any more headspace to this person than she’s already had.
But, what I would love for you to understand is that really talking about these things, getting them all out of our heads, and then flushing them, finally felt like we were free of it all. That the garden of self-doubt that this person planted in our heads and carefully tended had finally gone fallow. I wish I could somehow translate our happiness sense of wellbeing to everyone to provide a glimpse of how amazingly beautiful and freeing that felt. For the first time, I was no longer worried about running into this person at the grocery store—a likely prospect since we live so close to one another. Just the realization that I wasn’t afraid of running into her in public was huge. That’s just one example of the power of releasing this.
So for those of you who felt like Jenny wasn’t standing by her convictions, I realize there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. But I hope you’ll consider that choosing to unpublish the posts wasn’t about convictions. It was about freedom from something that’s haunted both of us for years. Basically exorcising a demon—minus the priest and the holy water.
And finally, for those concerned about the real world consequences those posts may have had, I have a question. Why are the real world consequences of income loss more important than the real world consequences of having one’s mental health maliciously chipped away for over a decade? I’m not sure how money is the most important thing here. Sometimes there are consequences for being a horrible person. Sometimes those consequences involve people no longer wanting to read your work.
Additionally, some people may not have a problem if a homophobe profits by writing MM romances. Some people have a huge problem with it and would prefer to vote with their dollars.
Like most writers, the written word is my and Jen’s medium for figuring out our shit—both reading and writing. Sure, we talk a lot, too. But like many writers, I think we process better through reading and writing. I don’t know how Jen felt writing them, but I know that reading them felt like amazing therapy.
One of the things I love and admire most about Jen is that what you see is literally what you get. There’s no public persona—there’s just Jen. And I will be forever grateful to her for standing up for me, and more than that, helping me stand up for myself.