“You will never really see how toxic someone is until you breathe fresher air.” — Unknown
The story of the boiling frog applies here. At the start of a toxic relationship (work or personal), things are good because both parties are on their best behavior and there is a bit of a honeymoon phase. But then the mask starts to slip a little, the darker personality or culture slowly manifests itself. Little by little the stress cranks up, the boundaries are moved, and abuse creeps in. But since it is ratcheted up over time, we tolerate it. And the abuse grows, the stress increases, and the psychological damage compounds.
Until it all changes.
Until the pressure is released, and suddenly you can breathe and notice suddenly what had accumulated over years.
That first breath of freedom is heady.