Pandemic raising toxic relationships from the dead?

There is a reason old relationships are left behind to die. I don’t just mean romantic relationships—all relationships: friendships, familial, and romantic. Maybe you know why it happened, maybe you don’t.

And I get it. We’re all feeling the pain of loneliness and isolation. Trying to fill hours, days, weeks, and months with something, anything. Stuck with a lot of time on our hands to reflect and reminiscence. This pandemic is wreaking havoc on lives worldwide and many of us are struggling to maintain our mental health and our peace of mind in a time when the entire world is up in arms. We’re worrying about health and finances, social unrest and political gaming, family and friends, our lives and our futures.

So much worry. So much fear. So much anger.

But the last thing anyone needs is an old toxic relationship rearing its ugly head in search of answers and adding to our already full plates. So maybe think beyond yourself, and just don’t do it. Don’t reach out.

[ Trigger Warning: May mention or refer to physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse. ]

Oh crap! It’s my father.

The other week I received a ridiculous pro-trump message in my inbox from my essentially estranged father. I don’t recommend politics as a way to attempt re-connection by the way. It was hard to figure out how to take at first, so I replied saying as much. The resulting conversation shed a little light on why there are people who still support this man-child, but it also opened the door to air some dirty laundry I’ve been carrying around my entire life. In the end, he was delegated to the restricted list, and the only good that came from any of it was the cathartic unpacking of years and years of secrets.

And maybe that sounds like a good thing on the surface. Catharsis is, after all, a purging of emotions. However, it was also a trigger. It’s been two weeks and I’m still trying to regain my footing.

I am a survivor.

He acted like it was news to him, which I can only imagine is because he was so distant and self-involved my entire childhood. Visitation was sporadic, sometimes years between visits, and usually encouraged by whoever he was involved with at the time. He had no interest in us unless the woman in his life wanted him to, and even then, it was always half-hearted and short-lived.

He confirmed some things I had questioned about my early childhood, while denying others that I know in my heart and mind to be true because logically, they make sense. If my anxiety disorders have taught me anything at all, it’s that logic is key.

In the midst of panic and anxiety attacks we allow emotions and fear to override logic and convince us that things are dire whether they are or aren’t. Evaluating those situations in a logical manner can help alleviate some of the panic and anxiety. Though, it’s been my experience that the anxiety-ridden brain fights tooth and nail to defy the logical, relying instead on the natural instincts to preserve one’s safety in the face of any perceived threat.

It doesn’t matter how small or big the threat may be in actuality, or how non-threatening it is to someone who doesn’t live day in and day out struggling with anxiety disorders. Our bodies and our minds sense a threat and go immediately into overdrive.

But I digress.

The point is, whether he knew about abuses I endured while he was busy living his own life doesn’t matter. He definitely knew about the physical abuse he imparted upon me before I was even verbal. He just didn’t know I knew.

Oh crap! My step-father too?!

Oddly enough, while still recovering from my father’s attempt to reach out during this COVID pandemic and the very unexpected bout of logorrhea that summed up my entire childhood, it seems my step-father was also moved to reach out. You’ve got to be kidding me? was my only thought as I sat staring at the vibrating rectangle on my desktop. I don’t answer normal phone calls, so the chances of my answering this were completely zero. He left a voicemail. Then a few days later, he left another voicemail.

This is a man who psychologically and sexually abused me for several years.

I don’t know if it was coincidence or not. I do know that my reasons for cutting both of them out of my life are just. I can think of no reason to maintain contact with perpetrators of abuse at this stage of my life and I have zero interest in hearing explanations or attempts at justification from either one of them.

It seems logical to conclude that the solitude that is part of all our lives today thanks to the gross mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic was, at least in part, the impetus that led them to reach out.

So please, if you’re thinking about reaching out to some long lost someone or other that you’ve done wrong, maybe you should instead be thinking about why you want to do that and how that may affect them in these already trying times. This probably isn’t the right time to do it.

No matter which end of this you’re on, if you’re struggling with depression, feeling hopeless, or in any kind of crisis situation at all, please know that there are resources available! Mental health matters. Help is just a phone call, text, or live chat away. 👇

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