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How to Spot a Toxic Friendship

So today’s blog post is something very different for me and my blog but its a subject that is very close to my heart, due to personal experience. I wanted to share my own experience of how my Mental health was left in pieces and how I managed to pick myself up and eventually move on. I’m going to share my story of how I became stuck in a controlling friendship and how I finally was able to get out of it. I have had many different friendships through my educational life and sometimes they have been complicated and confusing to understand. The whole point of this blog post is to make you aware of what a controlling relationship looks like and how it affects you, without you knowing.

Sept 2013

Back in September 2013 I started university, which was a very scary but exciting time for me. I didn’t have much confidence and was very shy but I knew I needed to push myself to make friends and settle in, otherwise, I would really struggle with university life. At freshers fair, I knew I wanted to join a club and I came across the Sailing Club Society and knew that was the one I wanted to join. I went along to their open day and never looked back, I feel in love with it and I also made some amazing friends. The sailing club was where I met the ‘man’ who I became very close friends with. He had just finished the degree I was starting and we both loved sailing, so we hit it off immediately. Over my first year of uni, I become closer to him and start to fall for him. I have never had a proper relationship before I felt this could be my first one. I use to always sail with him, he helped me become a competent helm (sailor) and I then became one of the main helms for the sailing club. We became closer and closer over the year and eventually, we went out on a few dates and I was in love. I loved spending time with him, he was a complete gentleman and the sort of guy I wanted to spend my life with.

Over the summer I went back home and we stayed in contact and I saw him a couple of times then in July he went silent. I couldn’t get in contact with him, thinking I had done something wrong.

Sept 2014

When second-year started and sailing was back on, I finally saw him again. He explained to me that he was having a lot of back problems and he had shut himself off from everyone. I knew from this point onwards that we weren’t going to have a relationship and just a friendship, which I completely understood so I supported him and tried to help him as much as I could. During the first few months of my second year, I started dating my now Fiancé. In the October I had a sailing accident and hurt my back and fractured two ribs, which was very difficult to cope with alongside uni, but I managed. This meant that the ‘man’ and I were both in the same position but it always seemed that his problems were worse than mine. He decided sailing whilst being injured was the right thing to do and use to tell me I was pathetic for not sailing, I knew my injury would get worse if I sailed, but he would never listen to me. I didn’t do much sailing but I was down at the sailing club a lot socialising and I was also the secretary of the club so I had important responsibilities as well.

The ‘man’ was on a lot of pain medication, due to the amount of pain he was in. Due to his level of pain if he was angry or annoyed he would take it out on me verbally in person or through message, but I would continuously stand by him no matter what he did or said. Looking back there were times most people would have walk out on the friendship but the control he had over me meant I would always run back to him. I loved this person like my closest friend or a brother and I felt he needed me and I couldn’t leave him, I was waiting for the old him to return. One night at a sailing social, he had been drinking and was on medication and he grabbed me around my fractured ribs and wouldn’t let go. He was trying to get me to go to the club with him and he had no awareness what he was doing was hurting and scaring me. Our friendship had gotten to the point where I was completely under his control, he could do anything and he would be able to convince me it was ok, NO ONE should have this power over you EVER. When he was angry I was so scared he would shout at me and towards the end I thought he could physically hurt me. Looking back it’s scary how much power he had over me, I would forgive him without even thinking, I never wanted to hurt him and I didn’t want to lose him. By the end of the second year, my back was eventually healing with a lot of physiotherapy and I was ready for my final year.

Sept 2015

Third-year came along and I was ready to get my head down and finish my degree. By this point, this controlling friendship was taking its toll. Now my back was better I was back sailing again for the first few months, and I loved it. My friendship with the ‘man’ was getting worse. I would lie awake at night thinking about him and how much I wanted it all to go back to when we first met, as that was the guy I was waiting to return. He still wasn’t in a good state with his back so he would still take his anger out on me when he felt like it. This mixed with the stress of the third year was breaking me slowly and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t deal with it. I still couldn’t see what was wrong so my mum and boyfriend had to show me how wrong the friendship was so we made a list and then I started to realise how much trouble I was in. Eventually, I wrote him an email, if I did it face to face I would never have told him. I explained that I needed some time apart and that there were things that he was doing which weren’t right. I didn’t hear back from him for months then eventually he rang me and demanded a meeting at my house. I was so scared of what he had to say and my housemates and Fiancé were all in the house so if something did happen they were there.

After about two hours he left and I have never felt so scared and upset in my life, I was shaking throughout the two hours. He manipulated the whole email in his mind so that he was made to look like the ‘victim’. He had read my email and then forgotten everything I had explained to him and how I feel about our friendship. The one part of the conversation that will never leave me is he told me he needed counselling as he tried to commit suicide over what I had said in my email. He told me exactly how he was going to do it and the look in his eyes scared the life out of me, he was beyond angry. He had claimed I had called him mentally unstable which I would never say to anyone. Anyone who knows me would say I am very careful with what I say and I never want to hurt anyone. I basically sat there for two hours listening to what he had to say as I was too scared to defend myself or say what I felt. After that meeting I eventually emailed him telling him how I felt about the meeting and that I never wanted to see or hear from him again. I then blocked him from everything.

At my degree show, he turned up to see others work and at a talk, he decided to walk right behind me, with my friends and fiancé on the other side of the room. It completely scared me but after the talk finished I walked over to my friend and never looked at him. I have now moved away and can now start to move on. I thought my new everything would be ok but I still have my bad days. The problem is he was a huge part of my uni life, I have some amazing but also scary moments with him. If they were all bad memories I feel it would be easier to forget. Whenever I hear or see his first name I get a flood of memories come rushing back and the feeling of being scared and anxious returns. Hopefully in time, when I have started my new life and get married, it will become easier and maybe I will finally be able to completely move on.

So that’s my story, sorry it’s so long but I want to show you how friendships can evolve and change. If one of your friendships sounds similar to mine or has traits then try to get out of it, I know its hard for you to recognise but talk to people around you who can help, listen to true friends, and escape.

Steph x


  1. jadelsia
    September 25, 2016 / 7:31 pm

    Very relatable post, great read and thank you so much for sharing x

    Jade x

    • September 25, 2016 / 7:42 pm

      Thank you, I felt it was a story that needed sharing and I’m glad I pushed myself to write it x

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