On Ghosting: Personal Thoughts On Social Rejection and Psychological Abuse

Update: if you’re coming in from Andy’s video; thank you! I’m genuinely touched that he felt my post was insightful enough to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want! :-) (25/05/2017)

I realise it’s been a while since I spoke about my mental health, thus I am grabbing the chance now because I feel I have something to add. I recently became aware of a social behaviour known as “ghosting” due to some fairly prescient controversy that I happened to chance upon. Considering the discussion online was about a controversial entertainment figure wrongly complaining about being “ghosted” I decided to read the article and do some research.
Fair to say, these were a handful of articles that I would say without hyperbole have changed my outlook.

Ghosting refers to the act of breaking off a relationship (often used in the context of intimate relationships) by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as avoiding and/or ignoring and refusing to respond in any way to the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate.

Another prescient and apt definition:

Being “ghosted” is one of the toughest ways to be dumped. What do we mean by the term? It’s when someone you’ve been seeing suddenly ceases all contact with you. They defriend you on Facebook, stop following you on Twitter and avoid responding to calls, texts and emails. They just disappear; fade out of your life mysteriously…

Just reading the brief description of “ghosting” in the articles I’d read and the initial research was enough for me to begin to identify with it. Looking back at what’s personally happened to me I would absolutely say that I have been the victim of “ghosting”, though perhaps not in the romantic/dating mindset the articles I’ve read seem to be aiming toward, though I’d follow that up in saying that my situation would certainly be almost akin to that, and why shouldn’t especially-close friendships not qualify. But regardless of the semantics, I can say with clarity that a very close friend has decided to “ghost” me, and I can say with equal clarity that the experience has resulted in a significant amount of emotional and psychological damage that I am only really and truly starting to gain a semblance of recovery from.

Ghosting has been considered as being a type of behaviour that can be especially traumatic for those on the receiving end, due to the psychological effects of ostracism and rejection and those with low self-esteem can be especially vulnerable to negative emotional and psychological consequences as a result of it. 

Absolutely. I would say that the feeling of rejection, abandonment, that I am somehow “disposable” are the key things that in early 2016 finally pushed me over the edge and into depression. I felt isolated, rejected, abandoned, thrown away, and those things led to me feeling worthless, useless and in a sort-of permanent state where my self-esteem would be so fragile, and would require so much effort to maintain, late at night or when alone, it would crumble to nothing. It has been the worst thing in my life so far to experience and I would certainly say it caused a seismic shift in my personal that I’m still… not struggling with, but coming to terms with.

What I found worst about “ghosting” is the feeling of being, in my mind’s eye, absolutely pathetic. I felt like I had some kind of emotional deficiency, or a complex – letting the actions of one who I had mistakenly trusted to an extent that losing them was a very destabilising experience. I felt on an emotional and personal level like a Jenga tower, and that a block at the very bottom had been unceremoniously wrenched out.

It led me to a dark place, and unhappy place and I still feel the pain. I felt pathetic and alone because I was letting “one person” do this to me. “Ghosting” is where the person who unilaterally cuts contact completely might as well expect to be treated as “effectively dead”, because by choice they’re acting like a dead person. With the loss of my dad and my aunt in 2015, I could almost come to terms with that because I knew they were, for lack of a less gentle term, “actually dead”. But the feeling with being “ghosted”, that this is all being intentionally done, is and was a truly awful feeling that destroyed my sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Clearly, thought I, this was an indictment on my character, and therefore my character deserved it. But it’s so needless, and so callous in its malevolence – and at odds to what I expected from this person with whom I shared an intense, close but, to me, rewarding friendship. My mind kept questioning why? and what actually happened but answers are still not forthcoming; if anything, they’re being actively withheld which to me is more cruel and abusive.


People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel. The lack of social connections to people who are met online also means there are less social consequences to dropping out of someone’s life. 

In reading more about the sociological phenomenon of ghosting, I found myself reading more about why people would actively choose to engage in this kind of, frankly, shitty behaviour. Personally, in the early stages, where I was still reeling and wondering “why have you suddenly deleted me? What’s going on?” I tried to act civilly, like any difference or grievance could be resolved, or at least discussed, through communication. But that opportunity never arose – instead, I would be subject to some quite hurtful and I think callous emotional abuses – I was this, I was that… I never disputed these instances but I, for one, certainly thought it went both ways (this friend, who shall remain nameless, failed me in ways that I didn’t want to punish them over, but rather make them aware over). But nothing I could say, or rationalise, or emphasise, seemed to have any impact. I felt like I was talking to a brick wall, and therein began the frustration, the panic, the abject feeling of loss and horror… and it led to some certainly less-than-civil things borne of that frustration. Where civility failed, I guess I slipped into being the “monstrous person” they characterised me. I feel that was a weakness but I’m honest and open enough to be able to admit that, which is a strength I feel, even in the face of adversity, is so important to maintain.

Modern technology gives us ample chance to connect with someone but it’s also incredibly easy just to stop communicating.

Do I feel the Internet has made this easier? Absolutely. I believe in openness and hearing someone out. A fair hearing. Justice. Doing the right thing. The internet is a great tool for communication – indeed, there’s so many ways to communicate online it’s hard to keep up. But the way, for me, I was blocked on every imaginable way just felt like I was having a door slammed shut in my face. I wasn’t allowed a right to reply to any of the messages I got about what a “monster” I had apparently been. There was no chance to explain the context – I was ghosted by someone who certainly didn’t want to face their own emotional discomfort from how they had mistreated me. They didn’t give a damn about the increasing mental and psychological stress I was under – they were more worried about protecting themselves. Insulating themselves. Taking a bunker mentality. It became a vicious circle and it was self-defeating. I guess it being online, and not having to face me physically, just made it considerably easier to hide from any (but importantly: not all) of the responsibility of what had happened. If it gave the person who “ghosted” me some sense of finality and peace of mind, then that shows their shallowness, their emotional immaturity and their own weakness.

In many cases it’s the incompleteness of it. It can be frustrating when someone appears to finish with you out of the blue and then won’t talk about it. We want answers to achieve closure but can’t get any

I can absolutely relate to this on a deeply personal level – I’d frankly state that the crux of my quite destructive 9-month or so phase in which I have sunk into depression was brought about completely by the person who, in my eyes quite callously, decided to ghost me after four years of loyal and rewarding friendship, deciding to erect walls. They continuously and consistently spurned my efforts to understand the situation or even discuss it. They claimed it was “too much mental stress” for them without even giving thought to my own, demonstrably-real mental inability to cope with this course of action. Adding to what I identify now as emotional abuse, absolutely, was being told that I was “going to get some answers” but because I’d vented, say on Twitter, then I would be further “punished” for that. An ever-present sense that I am being consciously and continuously punished… if that isn’t an obscene example of emotional abuse, then what is?

The worst thing about being ghosted, personally, was the feeling of powerlessness. The friend who “ghosted” me totally controlled the narrative. I was an irredeemable monster. If anything, my friend is the irredeemable monster – they’ve shown their true colours: their callousness, their capriciousness, their immaturity, their cowardice. Their monstrousness (the Jekyll and Hyde from what I thought I knew to the cold, callous attitude I got after the ghosting began). This was someone I’d thought I knew well, and I blamed myself a lot for that. Now I’m more at peace with the idea that I made a mistake. I’ve made many, and I’ll honestly admit to them.

There seemed to be nothing I could do right in this situation, and that hurt me a lot, eroding my self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

No-one should be made to feel as low and as worthless as I did in some of the worse times. My only sense of regret is not discovering this phenomenon a lot earlier – since researching ghosting further, I feel a lot more empowered and I feel my strength is beginning to recover. I don’t feel alone, that my feeling of being cut off by someone I (mistakenly) put trust in is just a complex of my own mind’s skewed sense of priorities.  I feel able to grasp this narrative. I also feel a sense of… relief: I was right to call the person who ghosted me immature and a coward because their behaviour – their chosen and conscious behaviour that they have actively decided to engage in – demonstrably shows those characteristics.

And, after so long, fine. Be of low character, be persnickety, be vexatious, be a coward, who doesn’t give someone who invested a lot of energy in you the decency of telling them you were done, be selfish and thin-skinned enough to deflect any remote criticism of your own failings with saturation blocking, be a hypocrite who is lacking one iota of self-awareness, be cruel and emotionally abusive; and somehow able to sleep at night – but you know what you won’t be? You’re no longer important to me. You will no longer hurt me. You will no longer own me. You no longer control the narrative.

My advice to those who have just run against a brick wall and feel they’re being ghosted? Don’t let it consume you like I did. Worry more on the people in your life that actually care, and are there for you even in the difficult times. If, like me, you’re ghosted by a supposed “best friend”, the best thing you can do is not to beat yourself up. Be strong and forthright. Whatever the effort or the time, if someone can treat you that disposably, then return the favour and don’t waste time on them. They’re not worth it.

Remember this above all else:

The important thing to remember is that when someone ghosts you, it says nothing about you or your worthiness for love and everything about the person doing the ghosting. It shows he/she doesn’t have the courage to deal with the discomfort of their emotions or yours, and they either don’t understand the impact of their behavior or worse don’t care. In any case they have sent you an extremely loud message that says: I don’t have what it takes to have a mature healthy relationship with you. Be the better person, retain your dignity, and let him/her go peacefully.

Don’t allow someone else’s bad behavior to rob you of a better future by losing your vulnerability and shutting yourself off from another relationship. Keep your energy focused on doing what makes you happy. Know that if you are someone who treats people with respect and integrity then the ghoster simply wasn’t on your wavelength and someone better is coming your way, as long as you keep your heart open and your focus forward. 

Do I think the friend that ghosted me will read this? Perhaps. They’ll probably be angry, though anything I do is a means of provocation to them. And, for what it’s worth, the door’s open if they want to explain themselves and belatedly provide answers. But I’ve wasted too much time on one person who was clearly unworthy. They made the choice to do away with a fiercely loyal friend, and that speaks volumes about them. I do wish them luck in the future, and I hope their conscience doesn’t gnaw at their very existence. Although I’m not religious, I do believe karma can, indeed, be a bitch. And writing this has been… therapeutic.

At any rate, what’s the worst that can happen if my ghoster doesn’t like what I’ve said in this post? What’re they going to do about it, not talk to me some more?

Please feel free to read my followup post to this one!

Articles Referenced

Ghosting (Relationships) – Wikipedia (Accessed 20 March 2017)

“This is Why Ghosting Hurts So Much” – Psychology Today 

“Ghosting: What to do if you’ve been a victim” – The Independent 

“Ghosting: the creepy modern phenomenon ending friendships” – The New Daily



Not Wired The Same


So last time I did say that I’d write again following my psychological assessment that I undertook after suffering from an extended, deep and pretty unpleasant spate of depression this year. Because this post exists, I’ve heard back and I’m reflecting on what I have learned.

The key fact is that I do have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism and it both changes nothing and everything.

My diagnosis changes nothing because this doesn’t stop me being me. I’m not “diseased”. I don’t even like to call Asperger’s a “mental illness” as I’m not actually broken; rather, I am different. And that’s OK. I don’t feel like I live in a sense of a pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis world – it’s always been a part of me and it’s important to not denigrate the importance of finally getting confirmation of something I’ve always kind of been aware of – I’ve always known, deep down, I “wasn’t wired the same” as, say others or my contemporaries – because it’s an important development.

But it’s important to initially realise it’s also not the beginning and end of what makes me, well, me. I don’t intend to use my Asperger’s (which still feels somewhat odd to put, but the more I do so, the more comfortable I’ll get with it) as a white flag. I feel it would be remiss to just dismiss my social problems “on the Asperger’s” as that does what I feel is most harmful – I shunt responsibility for my actions onto the condition and I don’t think that helps.

What’s more important and productive, I feel, is to use this knowledge rather than as a shield, and to carry on making these mistakes and not learning from them, but to identify my strengths and work on those. It’s far too easy to let one’s weaknesses – perceived and tangible – dominate. That’s part of what I feel made me vulnerable to depression. I want to use this knowledge to be much more positive in my outlook and on furthering personal goals.

While the diagnosis that I have Asperger’s Syndrome is a confirmation that a part of me functions differently to the considered norm is just that – a part – I also do feel it’s a profound learning experience. I can look back at my history and contextualise a lot better my actions, inactions, mistakes and think “ahh, yeah…”. But I can also use this knowledge looking forward – maybe it helps me to identify troublesome aspects of social interaction that I can forsee struggling at. I’m going to see mishaps and awkward situations in the future and be better able to think “ah, yeah, it didn’t help…” and then learn from that.

I’ve already been re-evaluating some of the things I have done in the past that have been not so good and re-approaching them through this new lens. Things in the past are done, though I hope that I can now understand them better and also, through being open about it, others can at least be mindful of the areas of socialising and interaction with other people I might see differently or struggle with.

While I don’t want to really use my diagnosis as an “excuse”; rather I want it to be something that spurs me to better work to my strengths… I do feel that a few people who have seriously misunderstood me, especially recently, should at least take this information on board. I don’t expect it to totally do away with their potentially-narrow-minded viewpoint (and that’s sad, more than anything) but it’s a perspective at the very least.

For now, I am still pretty much processing the diagnosis. I’m weighing up the outlook I want to take in the next year – again, weighing up that Asperger’s is just a part of me and how Asperger’s has a profound and wide-ranging impact on my daily life. I still don’t really know a great deal about Asperger’s Syndrome, and autism in general (I recall facing a lot of self-imposed stigmas, largely derived from ignorance, about my struggles with mental health) so my focus is to learn more. I’ve decided, as a first step, to book a follow-up with my psychologist (who has been extremely supportive) where it can be laid out what the condition means, and what it means in terms of me.

But most importantly: I’m happy with who I am. I don’t feel like Richard the victim who’s had this awful news; I feel like Richard the empowered who is just beginning to learn, really and deeply, who he is and how he works best. Again, a part of me wishes this had all been done sooner but better late than never, eh?

In terms of the depression? Yeah, it’s still there. It still affects me. But it’s something I am aware of and it’s a construct within my mind that has been manageable. I feel that this diagnosis is another weapon against the depression as it’s allowing me to be frank about myself. It’s a crap time of year for me – a lot of the “catalysts” that I spoke about initially are hitting unhappy milestones. But I am trying counter that sense a lot by just thinking: this year I got to grips with a serious subject – myself.

I intend to keep writing about this as I progress. In terms of tangible steps, I’ve got the follow-up with my psychologist soon, and I hope to be going into therapy soon after. I feel I’ve identified a lot of the latent and background reasons that I’m vulnerable on an emotional level and I’m equipped to tackle those problems.

These blogposts have certainly helped as an outlet. I can now say I’ve catalogued my journey here and I encourage anyone who feels similarly to do the same. It’s a positive learning experience, and I do feel that, despite the intense pain and sadness and anger and all those emotions – I still feel, right now, very disappointed and, honestly, resentful that certain people I trusted abandoned me for the journey I’ve had to go on – I’ve actually made a material difference to understanding myself. And I can’t go on to do great things in the future unless I’m at peace with my own psyche. I’m happy and proud to say I am on the road to that!


Silver Linings


So last month I wrote publicly about my recent struggle with depression. I do want to elaborate on what’s happened since then but the original post has enjoyed a reception that I am pretty grateful for – I got a lot of very nice tweets, comments, messages etc of support, and it’s certainly reassuring to know that, crazy as I may be, that there’s people whose positivity and support is much appreciated.

Anyway, one of the key aspects of depression, as I’ve found out myself, is that talking about it is the first step, but it’s probably more important to talk about it to the right people. I’ve made a few quite big errors in this regard – dumping on people who are ill-equipped, whether that be wantonly or incidentally – but I’m pleased to say I’m seeking some professional help.

On Tuesday I had an assessment with my local ADHD/ASD team because, with this depression, I want to really get to the root causes of it, and then take things from there. I’d made a doctor’s appointment some months ago explaining that, after giving this whole situation a lot of thought, and taking my own historical considerations – that is, thinking back and realising, maybe I wasn’t just “being myself” – into account, I’d a strong belief that I was suffering from Asperger Syndrome. I didn’t know a lot about it, but it’s a continual cycle of gaining knowledge about the condition and my own self. However, I did print off the page on Asperger Syndrome from the NAS, and annotated it with my own thoughts and reflections and my doctor referred me to this team.

I do feel that a diagnosis would be helpful to me – for too long I’ve just assumed “I’m wired a bit differently” but a diagnosis would be advantageous, as I could use it as a signpost to go some way to explaining how, perhaps, I act against certain expectations and that, at its most basic, it’s “not me just being rude”.

Arriving for the appointment was weird – I was pretty anxious the night before because this is a pretty big thing for me. I was more anxious walking in to the hospital because I glanced a sign saying “Mental Health” and it struck me. I felt a strange sense of “well, you’re going into a mental health unit, there must be something wrong with me” and “here’s me just feeling a bit crap, maybe I’m wasting my time”, but I went in.

The assessment was surprisingly pleasant, and surprisingly in-depth, too; exploring my reactions, expectations and also my developmental history. I talked about my concerns and what led me to seeking help, the emotional “events” that had happened and the discussion then went quite in-depth, from my childhood to how I react to certain situations even now. The psychologist I saw was extremely pleasant and I did feel at ease. I feel that so much about mental health is associated with unhelpful “stigmas” and it’s the real barrier to getting treatment. I do need to go back for a second appointment to finish up the evaluation but, as with most “new situations”, now I know what I’m in for, I can prepare for it a bit better and be less anxious. And, honestly, I’m looking forward to it – the nice thing about a psychologist or a therapist is their neutrality to the raw emotion of situations that lead to being in places like this.

I think that whatever happens – if I get diagnosed with Asperger’s or not, or Borderline Personality Disorder (which I definitely feel, on initial glance, I’m a candidate for; but this assessment is about finding out what’s really up in my head) – this experience is good for creating an emotional resilience I feel I am clearly lacking. I’m also learning a lot about mental health through this experience – and confronting to a lesser degree, the awful stigmas around it – which can only be positive.

Being open has helped me and I will try my hardest to continue doing so. This is a journey for me that I feel is worthy of being documented and open about – that way I get the support I need and it’s not something that just breeds horrid resentment if left to bottle up. So expect more posts about it as I work through this issue – both the macro (my underlying personality issues) and the micro (current bout of depression) – side of things.

Image credit: frinkiac.com