Ghosting Out: The Guilt-Spiral of Social Withdrawal

We here at the Seven Bedroom Suite do not have what you would call a large audience. In fact, the only person I know of who regularly checks for updates is my mother (hi, Mom!!!)

Thus, I feel comfortable addressing more personal issues, since my mom already knows everything there is to know about me, right down to the fact that I am willing to sit in a 10th-avenue Dunkin Donuts for two hours straight just because my friend said he saw Andrew Garfield eating a bagel there recently.

Andrew Garfield looking like his sexy self

What I wouldn’t give to watch this man put a bagel in his mouth.

Unfortunately, I have other mental irregularities that are much more serious and much less charming than my need to stalk beautiful celebrities. It’s always been a bit difficult for me to accept, but since my teens I’ve been affected on and off by depression.

Now, one of the biggest problems I’ve had with this (apart from the fact that I seem to be stricken with every possible adverse side effect that anti-depressants have to offer) is my inability to get my family and friends to understand what exactly depression means. To my parents and sister (who are seriously the most loving, attentive, and forgiving people anyone could ever ask for, do not get me wrong), it was always my acute emotionality that was the red flag.

Yes, I was your basic teenage girl nightmare. Crying in my room, being quick to anger, screaming, throwing things, cursing like it was going out of style, writing freeform poetry in my diary about how i was alone in the middle of a storm-tossed ocean—to my comparatively placid and generally more logical family, these were signs that something was just loose in my hormone-soaked brain.

Loki is just misunderstood.

I HATE EVERYTHING!!!!!!!

Something it took me years to understand—and something I’m not altogether sure that my loved ones have absorbed yet—is that intense emotions aren’t the problem. It’s the opposite that you really have to watch out for: the gray, static, sludgy condition of just not giving a fuck.

While you’re screaming and crying and flailing about, you’re irritating as all hell but at least you still care what’s happening to you. When you stop caring, though, the screaming stops. The crying stops. You don’t care how much or how little sleep you get. You don’t care if you get out of bed at all. You stop caring what goes into your mouth and you fail to acquire any food to balance out the diet Pepsi and loaf of bread in your fridge, which of course deprives you of every necessary nutrient ever and sends you further down into fuzzy apathy.

These things happen because you stop caring about yourself in general. You lose the ability to think ahead, even as far as tomorrow, because you can’t muster the strength to accept that anything you do has consequences. You lose the ability to tackle any responsibilities, because in your mind, you’ve already failed and there’s little point in confirming that failure. You eat too much or nothing at all, because your body even more unimportant than the rest of you.

And, worst of all, you stop caring that people care about you. It just stops being important. The more concern people show, the more you pull back, because they aren’t letting you exist in a vacuum. The hope is that if you let calls and messages go unanswered long enough, people will just forget they ever wanted anything from you.

person covering face

You can’t see me!

But there is one emotion that can penetrate the fog of social withdrawal, and that’s the hulking, snarling bastard known as guilt. Every call you send to voicemail, every email you leave un-clicked in your inbox, every text you stare at for ten minutes straight without knowing how to respond, every reminder that you’re letting everyone in your life down makes your stomach heave and your heart twist in your chest.

And then the longer you go without reaching out to people, the harder it becomes. How, you think, can I possibly answer this e-mail now, when I’ve gone for two weeks without answering it? I can’t possibly explain this. I can’t possibly deal with this. I’ll do it tomorrow. 

The guilt overwhelms any action, and the cycle continues, while your family wonders what could possibly be so damn hard about letting people know you’re still alive every once in a while. They implore you to remember that they care, that they think you’re talented and can still do great things, and they don’t understand that their belief in you is what makes you so afraid of them.

So why write any of this down? To make the whole thing seem manageable, I suppose; put a thing in writing, name it, and you have greater control over it. I don’t want to let shame and stigmas keep me from getting help anymore, and I don’t think anyone else should either. If my patient mom or my supportive dad or my amazing sister are reading this, I love you and I will do everything I can to not hurt you anymore.

If by some miracle some stranger ends up reading this (welcome to the blog, we normally write really funny posts with cute guys in them, I swear), don’t fall into this trap. Don’t ghost out because it’s easier to pretend you don’t matter. People give a shit about you, whether you like it or not, and it’s time to start living up to that no matter how scary and impossible it is.

The Doctor believes in you, and he is very rarely wrong.

5 comments
  1. “And then the longer you go without reaching out to people, the harder it becomes. How, you think, can I possibly answer this e-mail now, when I’ve gone for two weeks without answering it? I can’t possibly explain this. I can’t possibly deal with this. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

    Thank you for reading my mind.

    • The Pumpkin said:

      I’ve only recently learned that other people feel this way too; it’s been a revelation, let me tell you :) I see that you’re a New Yorker (as per your little Gravatar profile), and I was wondering if you had any advice on finding a psychiatrist in town? I’m still pretty new here and I don’t even have a GP yet, so I’m flying blind.

      • Do you have insurance? If do, my best recommendation is using ZocDoc – I found the patient reviews to be helpful. You can also ask your GP for recommendations once you fond them.

        I only use my psychiatrist for meds. Found my therapist through a friend of a friend’s recommdendation. That search was really tough – I’m lucky that I like her.

        If you don’t have insurance I recommend getting in touch with local Med schools: BUY, Columbia

  2. Sorry – NYU – autocorrect.

    Also if you have no insurance – You can also get in touch with the New York State Psychiatric Institute (http://nyspi.org/). I know they have a clinic or sorts where people see trainees, but I don’t know if it’s free.

    I’m new to WordPress – if there’s a way to PM on here then I’m happy to recommend doctors I’ve seen.

    • The Pumpkin said:

      If you could email me actually, that would be awesome! j.m.bogen@gmail.com (so few people read this blog that I really have no qualms about putting that out there, haha)

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