I’ve heard stories of being ghosted and knew of people who had gone through it; a friend’s boyfriend suddenly disappeared, a family friend just ceased to exist. I assumed there was an underlying reason for these strange stories. Perhaps my friend was in a secretly toxic relationship and maybe there was fight that led to a swift end between my family member and their friend. The scientist in me wanted an explanation for this weirdly erratic human behaviour. Unfortunately, as I recently learned through my own ghosting, people are incredibly unpredictable and there isn’t always an obvious reason for it.
My ghosting experience occurred at a bad time in my life, I had just come through treatment and I was very, very angry. Angry with every person in the world but particularly with healthy people, pregnant women, and happy couples with babies. The anger thing is a whole other post but the gist is that I was not in a good place, emotionally.
One angry day I found a website that matched up cancer survivors. I was matched with a woman who had gone through a very similar experience. We shared the same diagnosis, the same treatment, and had experienced cancer during the same phase of life. Within our first email exchange I felt an immediate bond. We discussed our medical traumas, the treatment side effects, and the experience of being a (relatively) young cancer survivor. After her treatment ended she too was angry with the world, pissed at all the pregnant women, and she even refused to attend baby showers, a stance I have since adopted. We instantly connected on a level only possible because of our unique histories.
I so looked forward to opening her emails and reading her insightful words until one day… she stopped writing. Initially I was not alarmed, clearly she was busy that week, no problem! Then another week went by and still nothing. Maybe I had offended her with my last letter but after re-reading it and showing it to my husband we couldn’t find anything that may have triggered an offence.
Another week went by and I started to get worried that maybe her health status had changed. I wrote asking for reassurance that she was ok… Nothing.
I wrote again (ignoring the blaring alarm in my head, “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING CREEPY STALKER TERRITORY”)… Nothing.
Weeks had gone by and still no replies. Then I got an email asking for feedback from the cancer survivor matching website. My feedback was a simple request: “I like my mentor but she hasn’t replied in a while, could you check-in with her and just let me know if she’s ok? No need for her to write me.” To the website’s credit they did contact my mentor and followed up with me. She was alive and well and looking forward to writing me again, at least that’s what she told them. She never did write me.
Now that I wasn’t scared she was ill I fully devoted myself to being pissed off. Did she really just drop me? After we divulged our feelings? She left a fellow cancer buddy when I needed her? Wow! Ouch! While wondering how any mentor could leave their mentee in the middle of an intimate conversation, I realized, I’d been ghosted! It was a classic ghosting, happening when I least expected it. It was almost impressive. Way to go, you got me!
Regardless of her commitment to me I did find comfort in her first few letters. She acknowledged my experience, normalized my reactions, and made me feel connected. It was through reading those letters that I decided to share my experience in an effort to lessen someone else’s feelings of isolation. I am very grateful to the woman who ghosted me and I hold no anger, ok that’s a lie, maybe just a little bit. While I am still totally confused and a bit embarrassed by the whole ghosting thing I decided to accept the relationship as a short lived but helpful reminder that sharing is caring.