There are a lot of used to’s in my life. I used to be well, I used to be happy, I used to have a social life, I used to have friends.
It feels like a long time ago that I had any of those things.
It’s easy to blame my depression for my retreat from humanity, especially when it comes layered atop a strong introversion trait. While things probably wouldn’t have turned out this way without the influence of depression, I think there’s another layer at play here.
I don’t know how to say goodbye, even if that goodbye isn’t necessarily permanent. So I ghost, and that pretty much seals the deal on permanent goodbyes.
It was three years ago that a lot of things started to become used to’s. My happy little world that I’d constructed for myself began to break apart, which triggered a relapse of my depression in spite of being well-medicated.
Depression makes it hard to be around people in a few different ways. I find it hard to pretend to care what people are talking about. I am cognitively slowed down, so responses don’t flow very freely on my end. I go through phases of depression-induced irritability, and that’s not pleasant for anyone involved. The biggest issue, though, is that trying to interact with someone takes a huge amount of mental energy, of which I have very little to spare.
It also didn’t help that friends minimized my career implosion; they thought they were focusing on the positive, but to me it just came across as invalidating.
The first thing I stopped doing was going to shows at the theatre a group of us had season tickets for. I didn’t explain myself to anybody; I just didn’t show up on performance nights.
I answered text messages and emails sometimes, but not often. I tried to maintain some face-to-face contact with people, but it was both difficult and unpleasant.
For a while I stayed motivated to keep trying. I would go to spend time with people even when it was the last thing I wanted to do. But then my motivation started to fade. These people no longer felt like the girlfriends I’d been close to — they just felt like strangers.
One of the first to go was Anna. One summer afternoon I had met her at her place, and we were walking to a restaurant for lunch. She was giving me some advice that I’d already told her multiple times I wasn’t interested in, and I snapped at her. I didn’t fully lose it, but my tone was quite irritated. Anna said that if I wasn’t in a good mood then we should do lunch another time. We parted with her saying I should get in touch when I felt up to getting together. We never spoke again.
Layla was someone I saw regularly, but she tended to be far more focused on her own problems than anything that was going on with me. One evening I went to a music gig she was playing. I was feeling really irritable, but I knew she expected me to go, so I felt obligated. I ended up full-on spazzing at someone she knew who I’d only met briefly a couple of times. Layla was clearly embarrassed, and wanted nothing other than to shut me up. I got up and left, and never spoke to her again.
Deirdre was one of my oldest friends. She was the most persistent of all of my now-former friends at trying to stay in touch. Eventually, she gave up too after countless unanswered emails and text messages.
I can think about what ifs, even though it doesn’t accomplish anything. What if I had said that I needed to take a break? What if I had said this is goodbye for now, but I hope it won’t be permanent? What is I had used my words and said anything at all?
I didn’t, though. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to say goodbye, so I vanished. I retreated into my protective cave.
I don’t know that I’ve ever actually missed any of those people I didn’t manage to say goodbye to. It’s as though when I ghosted them, I also ghosted the little corner of my memory that they’d inhabited.
Ghosting is frowned upon, as it should be. Yet now it seems to be all I know how to do. I think I need to expand my repertoire.
This is in response to the August InkMend prompt goodbye.