Toxic People and Empathy

I have this friend that I think most people would agree is toxic. Every interaction with her is a drain on my spirit. She takes and doesn’t give; she makes hurtful comments and frames them as jokes. Our conversations consist of her complaining about her problems, her judgments of others, and nagging me about the way I handle my health issues. She tries to make me feel guilty for not spending more time with her and attempts to put the weight of her loneliness on me.

When I’ve vented about this online before, people respond with a simple, “Cut her out of your life. You don’t need toxic people around you.” But I can’t. It’s just not that simple.

I think BPD has a lot to do with this. Those of us with BPD have a reputation for lacking empathy, but I don’t think that reputation is deserved. I am sure there are borderlines with low empathy, but there are people who don’t have BPD who are surprisingly indifferent to the suffering of others. Reading the comment section of pretty much any YouTube video or news article will show that. I just don’t believe that poor empathy exists more in the BPD population than it does in the general population.

Anyway, for me (and lots of others, I’m sure) I think my intense emotions and acute pain have made me more sensitive to the suffering of others. I don’t mean that in a self-congratulatory way at all. It just happened that way for me naturally, not because I’m virtuous or something. When someone else is having a shitty time my brain automatically reminds me what that feels like, and I can’t help caring about that person’s pain.

I’m not saying it works like that for me 100% of the time. I have had times when my stuff is so bad that I just can’t handle other people’s problems. I’m unable to pull myself out of my pain enough to connect to theirs. I have to be really overwhelmed to reach that point, though.

I’m saying all this to make it clear why it’s so hard for me to take care of myself first, and why it’s so difficult to cut off this toxic friend. We met in group therapy about 5 years ago. She has anxiety and depression, plus physical health problems. She has always been tiring to be around, and she has always asked a lot of me without giving much in return. But for the past year interacting with her has been a complete chore. She used to make me laugh and occasionally uplift me. Now I dread being around her or even responding to her texts. But every time I want to ignore her I remember what it’s like to feel like no one cares, and I think about how alone she is (she doesn’t have many other friends because she alienates people). And I just keep letting her drain my soul.


One thought on “Toxic People and Empathy

  1. Thank you so much for writing this 💖. Interestingly enough, your voice is inspiring empathy in others 💗. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very people who would claim that people experiencing BPD lack empathy when it’s the “claimers” themselves who actually don’t understand 😘. We Asperger’s/autistic peeps find ourselves on the receiving end of this, too 💚💙. Thank you for sharing your insight ❤️


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