Sometimes when we are at our weakest, we allow people to enter our lives, even though they’re not good for us. During my freshman year of high school, I was naïve; I had little self-confidence, making me the perfect victim for Erin*. I was vulnerable coming out of a difficult middle school experience, and a recent diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (that’s a story for another time!)—I felt like I had nobody. All I wanted was a best friend, and Erin was looking for an accomplice.
Gym was a mandatory course for freshmen, and it was always my least favorite class, because it was such a social class and I didn’t have many friends to socialize with. The locker rooms were full of rows and rows of the same cold, blue lockers, each filling the air with the smell of sweat and body odor. In gym class, we were forced to wear a school uniform that consisted of blue shorts, a white t-shirt and sneakers, so all of the girls typically left their required apparel in their lockers when they weren’t in class. Girls would share lockers as a public broadcast of their friendship and, obviously, I had nobody to do that with. Not only was the locker room uncomfortable for me, it was lonely. There were people all around me, but to me, I might as well have been the only one in the room. Then, the second semester of my freshman year, my life changed.
“Hey! I’m Erin,” said a short, thin brunette. “What’s your name?”
I was baffled that someone was actually introducing herself to me. I quickly replied, “I’m Sarah*.” I had felt invisible for so long that even a tiny greeting made my day.
Erin told me that she saw me alone and asked if I wanted to hang out with her in class that day. I excitedly agreed, and by the end of the day we had exchanged numbers and had plans to hang out that weekend. When I first met her, Erin was endearing, inviting, bubbly, sociable—all I ever wanted in a friend. She actually looked me in the eye when I spoke. When she said, “I’ll text you after school,” she actually did it. She promised me that she would always be there for me, and that nothing could ever change our friendship. It wasn’t until later that semester that I realized how diabolical she actually was, and that everything she ever told me was a lie.
After a few months, we became known as a dynamic duo at our school. People associated us with each another. She was the “Karlie to my Taylor,” so to speak. If Erin was going to a party over the weekend, it was assumed that I was going as well, and vice versa. She introduced me to a bunch of her other friends, and we sat with them at lunch every day. It became my safe place. That one spot on the dirty school floor made me the happiest girl in the world. My new friends engaged me in all of their conversations, let me in on their inside jokes and invited me to hang out with them. I felt accepted and wanted, and it had been a long time since I had last felt that way.
By the end of freshman year, Erin and I had the friendship I’d always wanted. We knew everything about each other and we were constantly having sleepovers, switching off between houses every weekend. But that summer, I started to notice a few things about Erin that I had never seen before.
I noticed she was vague when she talked about what she had been doing all day. She started constantly bailing on our plans. She pressured me into doing a lot of things I never would have done had I not been friends with her. She convinced me to sneak out with her at night to meet up with boys, with whom she would cheat on her boyfriend at the time. She was also the person who introduced me to the world of “high school parties,” which included a lot of underage drinking. I had rarely lied to my parents before I became friends with Erin, but because the activities Erin introduced me to were totally unacceptable for girls our age, lying became an everyday event for me.
Every time I tried to confront Erin about the way she was acting or how she was upsetting me, she would shut me down. She told me that she “created me” and that I would be “nothing without her.” She blamed me for her depression and self-harm. She blamed me for everything.
“You’re heartless and all you care about is yourself,” she’d say.
“You basically gave me a reason to cut again.”
“Maybe it’s my turn for the knife. Lets see if you'll be there for me.”
“I’m all you have. You need me.”
Not a day went by without me finding out that, yet again, she’d lied to me about something else. My mom started to notice my constant misery; because of the way Erin was treating me, my self-hatred only grew. I became depressed.
One day sophomore year, my mom finally forbade me from seeing Erin. At the time, I hated my mom for it, and I told her that. Despite all the negative energy in our relationship, I still held on; Erin was my best friend, and the first person to have shown affection towards me in a long time. How could my mom take that away from me?
For about six more months, I shut out all the red flags and refused to believe that Erin was doing anything other than looking out for me. I forgave her for her lies, and I allowed her to act as though she was in charge of me. I lied to my mom almost every day about where I was going after school, and I hung out with Erin instead. I just wanted to be wanted.
As the weeks went by, Erin’s lies got bigger and bigger. Finally, the biggest lie she’d ever told came out: for over three years, she had convinced every student at our school that she had cancer—including me, her so-called best friend. I was terrified when she first told me. I remember crying, but her face was stone cold. She had no reaction, even after she opened up to me about her supposed terminal illness. It seemed odd, so I called Erin’s mom to ask if she was okay, and her mom was completely confused when I told her what Erin was telling everyone.
But it didn’t stop there. She lied about being assaulted. She lied about being in a car accident. She lied about everything. Erin is a pathological liar.
Finally, I reached my breaking point, and I worked up the strength to tell Erin that we couldn’t be friends anymore. My palms were sweaty, and I couldn’t stop shaking, but I did it. After once I’d done it, I realized it was the most emancipating thing I had ever done. For weeks, she contacted me daily, trying to convince me to rebuild our friendship. And she did it in a manipulative way, targeting my insecurities and telling me that I would be nothing without her. I had had enough of her verbal abuse. It was finally time for me to move on.
Through this tough journey, I began to understand that pinpointing and getting rid of toxic relationships is one of the most important things a person can do. Being confident in yourself and doing what’s best for yourself should be your top priority in life.
Erin and I still cross paths when we’re home from college because we have mutual friends, but we do not communicate. I can’t look at her without thinking of all of the pain she caused me, and I will never forgive her for that. Despite the fact that I will never forgive her for what she did to me, I have forgiven myself for being blinded by her lies. I am proud that I have put her—and her issues—behind me.
Abuse isn’t always physical. I experienced verbal and emotional abuse, both masked by lies and smooth talking. A friend should make you happy. A friend should never make you feel like you have to change yourself to be closer to her. A friend should always be beneficial to your life. Friendship is a two-way street.
Now, I’m in my freshman year in college, and I truly feel blessed that I have made the friends that I have made so far. I wake up every morning excited to be able to spend my day with them, whether we’re getting food, going to the pool or beach, longboarding around campus or just staying in and watching movies.
Ending my friendship with Erin not only made me a lot more confident in myself, but it also made it easier for me to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The friends I have now are people who make me happy, and who strive to make me so.
*Names have been changed