What can you do to determine if you are the toxic one once and for all: Examples

In this post, we are going to walk alongside Shannon's journey to determine once and for all if she is the toxic one. 

Shannon is a fictional character I created based on my own experiences and the experiences of the folks that I have worked with. Shannon is a 35-year-old elementary school teacher. 

Shannon has been having a lot of tension in her personal life. She keeps trying to become closer with folks, but things always seem to go wrong. She is beginning to wonder if the reason things keep going south might be because something is wrong with her. 

Shannon is really eager to figure out why she can't seem to find the peace and fulfillment she longs for in her personal life. She turns to her typical haunts on the internet- YouTube, and Instagram, to try to find some answers. In her research, she discovers that some of her problems line up with the way folks discuss toxic people. She begins to wonder if she might be a toxic person. 

Shannon begins to see that folks on the internet often associate toxicity with mental health problems. She hasn't paid much attention to mental health issues in her life except for college when she went to the school therapist to manage test anxiety. She decides it's time to get more in touch with her own mental health. 

After reading a million posts and videos about how to improve one's mental health, she tries out a few different things. She starts regularly meditating. She tries journaling once a week. She strives to make time to read and do some of her favorite activities regularly. These efforts don't seem to be helping resolve the problems in her personal life. This gives her even more reason to think she might be the problem. 

Finally, Shannon decides it's time to find some concrete answers to her worry about being a toxic person. She doesn't want to leave such an important question up to random internet articles or her best guesses based on her browsing on Wikipedia. Shannon recognizes that being a toxic person means having a serious mental health problem, so she decides to approach a mental health professional, 

After searching a while to find a mental health professional, she finds one who is open to exploring her concerns about being a toxic person. Once they have worked together for a while, Shannon asks the doctor what her formal diagnosis is.

Much to her surprise, the doctor says that she doesn't have a personality disorder. Shannon is somewhat relieved to hear that, but she has been thinking for months that she might have this kind of mental health problem. Before she can feel at peace with this diagnosis, she wants a second opinion. 

This time Shannon picks a mental health professional that has a different method than her first doctor. The first was a psychotherapist, but her second specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Shannon wants to make sure that these differences in training aren't part of the reason she was given her initial diagnosis.

Again, after some time, Shannon asks this doctor whether she has a personality disorder. And the doctor says that she does not. 

Now Shannon has been evaluated by two different mental health professionals. Both of these experts spent years training how to identify folks with mental health problems using the DSM. Both experts agree that Shannon does not have a personality disorder. 

Although Shannon still thinks her behavior sometimes aligns with mental health disorder posts on the internet, she can now rest easy that folks who have dedicated their entire careers to evaluating the state of folks mental health have independently determined that she is not a toxic person. Shannon is more confident than ever that she is not a toxic person, but she can also recognize that her behaviors do sometimes contribute to the problems in her life. 

Now that Shannon has worked with two different mental health professionals, she has decided to continue working with the second doctor she met. While she doesn't need to work on addressing a personality disorder, she does have some emotional work to do. She believes she can benefit from working with this kind of expert. Over time, Shannon begins to make progress on some of the tension that she was carrying in her personal life. Shannon does eventually find ways to create close relationships within her life. 

Let's step back a little and consider what happened on Shannon's journey: 

  • Shannon, like many of us, see ourselves in some descriptions of toxic people on the internet.
  • Shannon began her journey by developing some useful self-care behaviors that can contribute to good mental health, but those efforts were not enough to help her with her concerns about toxicity.
  • Shannon had some evidence that she was a toxic person, but rather than self diagnose, she turned to mental health professionals. Since these folks have dedicated their careers to understanding the nuances of the DSM, they were able to confidently tell Shannon that she does not have a personality disorder.
  • After two of these experts helped soothe these concerns, Shannon was able to move forward and start doing the work that more directly improved her emotional life.

So what are some big picture conclusions we can draw from the case of Shannon?

Well, it can be super tempting to want to self-diagnose. The DSM can make things seem so simple on first pass, it is not always clear why we would need to turn to the help of experts. 

For many of us, the only way we can really find peace with the question of our own toxicity is to consult with mental health professionals. 

By consulting more than one expert, we can feel confident that we either do or do not meet the specific criteria for any given mental health disorder. 

Ultimately this process helped Shannon access resources that really did lead to improving her life. 

If you'd like to think more about Shannon or any of the content from this week, be sure to check out our latest episodes over on our Podcast. You can check it out here

In our next post, we will wrap up Season 1 with some concrete things you can do to begin your own journey determining once and for all if you are the toxic one. 


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