Is toxicity intoxicating you?
Anyone ever suffered ingrown toenails? Well, I suffer that condition and I can tell you it is not comfortable when it happens. For the sake of those who don’t know what this condition is, let me explain it to you the best way I can.
When a toenail is ingrown, the sides or corners of the nail curl down and dig into the skin of the toe, causing swelling, pain and redness. This condition mostly happens to the big toe, where the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, making it inflamed. Initially it may start as a minor discomfort, which if not taken care of may progress into an infection in the adjacent skin (cellulitis) and/or become a reoccurring problem. I’ve been told that the medical term for this condition is onychocryptosis.
If I may be allowed to digress just a bit, who comes up with these terms? Have you ever noticed how tough medical terms are to pronounce or write? It’s like someone purposefully sits down and decides to come up with the most outrageous combination of letters and calls that a medical term. All the same, I salute anyone who does Medicine because as far as I am concerned, my relationship with this discipline is complicated.
Going back to the ingrown nails, like I said, I suffer this condition every so often but now that I have realized it exists, I have found a way of dealing with it before it makes me walk like a duck. Every two weeks, I get a pedicure where I have the ingrowth terminated before it can start causing me discomfort. For those who don’t know, pedicure refers to superficial cosmetic treatment of the feet and toenails. A pedicure can help prevent nail diseases and nail disorders. Even though originally pedicures were done for cosmetic, therapeutic and medical purposes, today they are also done to improve the appearance of the feet and the nails, not just for women but for men too. So if you are a man and you have some feet that you keep hiding in socks and closed shoes because you are embarrassed to display them (especially the toes) in public, maybe you should try a pedicure one of these days. It will liberate you.
Going back to my condition, as much as I try to deal with the ingrowth before it develops, sometimes I don’t get it in time and so by the time I’m going for a pedicure, the toe is so painful that besides the pedicure I have to use antibiotics and a particular cream to deal with the inflamed area. All the same, I still have to trim the ingrowth, a process which is quite painful especially if it is done after the ingrowth has fully developed. As painful as it is though, I have no choice but to have it removed because leaving it there causes more pain. It’s like a bad tooth. It hurts you when it is still attached and even more when it is being removed. However, after it is removed, the peace and quiet you finally experience in your mouth is amazing.
Unfortunately we have people who are so afraid of the dentist’s drill that they would rather stay with the bad tooth than have it removed. Similarly, there are people who are so afraid of the pain involved when removing the ingrowth of an ingrown toenail that they would rather avoid wearing closed shoes than have the inflamed section removed. The problem comes when that inflamed part is touched by mistake. Say you are in a daladala and someone steps on you, or you are walking and you kick a stone, having forgotten that you have an ingrown toe. The pain you feel pierces your brain like some sharp ray. Instead of going through this, why not just have the ingrowth removed?
It is not just bad teeth and ingrown nails that cause us pain. Majority of us live with bad relationships, which for all purposes and intents I will refer to us ingrown relationships. Like the ingrown nails, these are relationships that cause pain to those in them but they are too afraid to walk out of them. In other words, these are toxic relationships, dangerous and hazardous to all those in them. They are toxic because they drain life and energy out of you. You become a perfect example of the living dead, meaning you walk around like you are alive but deep within you there is no life. For lack of another word, you are a zombie. “Toxic” doesn’t only entail obvious damage like physical abuse, stealing, or name-calling. It also represents all the internal turmoil that results from an unhealthy relationship, regardless of whether it is a romantic relationship (lovers) or a professional relationship (work-related), or even family. Yes, family members can also be toxic.
How do you know whether you are in a toxic relationship? Like with the ingrown nail, there are clear symptoms that you are in a toxic relationship. Like I said, this applies to all kinds of relationships, and not just for those in a romantic relationship. For instance, are you working for a boss who seems to think you cannot do anything right? Then it’s about time you re-evaluated your relationship and really determine whether you are likely to grown in that organization or not. Besides, why would he/she keep you in that organization if you never do anything right? Are you there as a puppet to be used whenever needed?
Secondly, is everything in this relationship about the other person? Does he/she not consider that you too have feelings? Are your opinions never considered and respected or instead of acknowledging your “side of the story” they battle with you until they get the last word? This in itself is a form of abuse which if allowed to continue may damage your self-esteem which eventually affects your self-confidence.
Something else you should consider is whether you feel comfortable enough in the presence of this person to enjoy his/her company and also be yourself. For instance, if every Monday morning you know you have a meeting with your boss but the thought of going in makes you sick because you dread being in his presence, then you need to ask yourself how healthy your relationship with your boss is.
On the other hand if you are such a boss then I have a message for you: you do not need to boss people around in order to feel respected. Those are habits that should have been left in the 18th century and besides, such a behaviour just goes to proove how insecure you are. If you are such a boss, then you need to reconsider your leadership style and realize that you get more out of people by being human. You need to read a book called The Power Principle – Influence with Honor. (If you need it get in touch with me). Remember, leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another positively.
Similarly, if you are not comfortable being yourself with your partner, if you cannot speak your mind without worrying that you will be misunderstood, if you have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person, then you need to reconsider that relationship.
Like with the ingrown nail, you have to reach a point in your life where you say enough is enough. You need to reach a point where you tell yourself, "I’ve suffered this pain enough and now I need to remove its source so that I can be free to walk and kick pebbles without fear of that piercing paing coursing though my toe all the way to my brain..." You need to feel free to wear your closed shoes without fear of touching that inflamed part. Similarly, if you are in any kind of toxic relationships, you need to realize that such relationships hamper your grown in many ways. If it is in your office, how do you ever expect to grown when you have a boss who thinks you are a coconut head, and that nothing sensible can come out of you? If it is in your personal relationship, how do you expect to grow old together with someone who derives happiness in seeing you unhappy?
Cutting contact with toxic people will transform your life. Obviously at first it will feel miserable, like you are going cold turkey on an addiction, but as time goes on, you will come to discover that each passing day brings unexpected new blessings. You will begin to develop self-respect, boundaries and true meaningful relationships that would not have been possible before. Instead of running around absorbing and forgiving everything, you begin to evaluate and immediately discard anyone from your life with the semblance of toxicity . You begin to spend time with people who do not try to put you down but instead help you grow to heights and levels you never thought possible. Surprisingly though, you might be lucky to find that the moment you start doing this some of those people realize your worth and they begin treating you as you should be. This shift is not always guaranteed so always be prepared for the worst whenever you decide to detach yourself from toxic people. Someday you will look back and wonder how you even tolerated interacting with such “unhealthy” people.
How healthy are your relationships? Are you in them for the right reasons, or are you there out of fear of the unknown? I know these are hard questions but you need to answer them candidly in order to make the right decisions.
Today I leave you with the words of Michael Josephson said, “toxic relationships not only make us unhappy; they corrupt our attitudes and dispositions in ways that undermine healthier relationships and prevent us from realizing how much better things can be”.
Wishing you a non-toxic week ahead.
PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 8th June, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"