Yes, that’s right, I’m guilty—I’m a ghoster. Ghosting is socially frowned upon, although it happens quite a bit. A LiveScience article cites research in which about 25% of participants had been ghosted, and 20% had ghosted someone else. It’s often talked about with regards to romantic relationships, but it may be even more common in friendships. That’s where I come in, or at least where I have come in since depression has been in the picture.
I’d like to propose two different types of ghosting: offensive ghosting, which serves to actively reject another person, and defensive ghosting, which is done for the purpose of self-protection. I say this because depression has made me a ghoster.
If I’m feeling uncomfortable or invalidated in an interpersonal relationship while I’m depressed, I get really overwhelmed, and my first instinct is to retreat into my hermit cave. It’s not that I want to hurt the other person; I’m just trying to feel safe. Depression means that some of my more mature coping mechanisms just aren’t available to me. When I’m feeling really low, avoidance is about all I’ve got to draw on.
I used to have friends, although now that seems like a whole lifetime ago. When I became depressed a couple of years ago after experiencing workplace bullying, my depressive urge was to isolate. I tried the opposite action direction to push through and try to socialize anyway. But these friends, though I know they were trying to be helpful, were being really invalidating.
The pressure of trying to stay connected with these people eventually became too much, and I snapped. I blocked numbers on my phone and didn’t respond to emails. I tried to hide from the world, and I became a full-on ghoster. It’s not that I was trying to reject these people; I was just trying to hold onto a shred of sanity.
I also ghost my family. It’s very hard to feel connected to them when I’m unwell, so it feels quite uncomfortable when I have contact with them. That means that when I’m feeling really low, I just fall off the grid completely. Unsurprisingly this is very stressful for them, and they worry that the next thing they’re going to hear about me is a call from the police. I know that, yet when I get the phone call and see the number on my call display, the thought of answering makes me feel ill. They love me, but I make it very hard for them.
Alone is just easier
I suppose ghosting can be appealing because it feels safer than any alternatives. It’s very hard for me to feel safe with people, and especially hard for me to feel safe in any sort of conflict with people. I wish that I didn’t frequently feel under attack when interacting with others, but that’s a sense of safety that I just haven’t been able to rebuild.
And until I do, I’m sorry to the people that I run away from, but I’m the only one that can look after me. So I retreat to my fortress of solitude, because that’s where I feel the safest and most comfortable.
Are you ever a ghoster? Do you think your illness plays a role?