ghosting fury
February 27, 2022 4:17 PM   Subscribe

I am being ghosted by a friend I have known since I was 14 years old. I don't know why. I am angry. What should I do?

"Laura" and I met in high school and remained best friends for the following 22 years. We shared a bond through writing, commiserating over bad boyfriends, protesting injustice, and a desire for authentic connection. We have lived on different coasts since college but always found time to visit each other (pre-pandemic), frequent phone calls, and near-daily texting. She and I know every detail of each others' lives even with the distance. We used to workshop each others' writing, and we joked that our best work came after we had had the benefit of "seeing through the other's eyes" - that because of all we had been through even while a continent apart we knew the contours of each others' lives intimately but had enough distance to be able to see how to make our work better. We also enjoyed the same TV, the same restaurants, and our parents were/are friends too.

She works in higher ed and just got married last August. She hates her job (her institution hasn't given educators any support with managing teaching loads during COVID). She loves her husband. They COVID-eloped. I was so happy for her.

Last November she stopped responding to me or acknowledging me when I reached out. In fact, I know exactly when it happened, because I have the receipts: she stopped responding to me when I texted her to say I'd been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for one of my short stories. She never replied. Since then, I reached out a couple of times just to check in, or to send her an article I thought she'd enjoy reading that we could talk about. Crickets.

I don't understand what happened. My boyfriend says she's probably super busy with teaching and to not worry but she has literally been ignoring me since November. She didn't respond to my holiday well wishes. She didn't acknowledge the Xmas gift I sent her in December or the bday gift I sent her in January.

She has NOT stopped following me on social media. Most of her social media posting is Instagram photos of her and her dog taken by her husband. I released an album of original music end of January and there was a three month promotional campaign leading up to the release, starting ironically not long after she began ignoring me. If she follows my feed, she's seen the promos, the music videos, the single releases, the reviews, the interviews, the photos from our rehearsals and live shows, and everything. One of my songs just got radio play on a local indie station which was promoted. One of my other songs has been shortlisted for a TV licensing deal.

I'm not expecting her to hit me with CONGRATULATIONS YOU ARE SO WONDERFUL with every Instagram post but given the length of our friendship and the way we historically have celebrated each other's achievements (and she has achieved so much, she's the smartest person I know, her academic writing has won awards, her creative writing was published when she was in college, a decade before anyone started publishing me, she is a marathon runner, and she landed a prestigious and nearly impossible to get fellowship to work in her state government for a state senator right out of grad school, I have been so goddamn proud of her for all of this and told her so many times and threw her a frikken party when she got her PhD) the lack of ANY acknowledgement of any of this feels conspicuous.

So, I figured I must have done something wrong.

So a month ago I emailed her and asked if I had done something to piss her off, insult her, or hurt her feelings somehow, because if I did I would like the opportunity to talk it out with her and apologize, because I missed her. Because I had lots of good things going in my life and it felt wrong not to share it with her. Because I wanted to know what was happening in her life, how things are going with her now-husband, if she had gotten the better job she was applying for last fall, if they are still planning on trying for a baby this spring. But mostly because, if I have done something hurtful, I want to know so I can try to make it right.

She hasn't responded.

And now I'm getting angry. Because this is some petty ass high school mean girls BULLSHIT now, and we are pushing 40, and I don't have time for this shit. She hates this mean girls behavior as much as I do, she's been scarred by ostracization from peers, she knows this is shitty and she's out here in the world giving me the silent treatment. I don't have time for this. I am going through a period of serious depression, I am struggling, I am trying to find a new therapist, I am having meltdowns that are affecting my relationship, I am in training in a new job, and I don't have time to sit here and try to figure out what I may have done in November to deserve the silent treatment from someone I have known for over two decades. This is childish crap and she's better than this. I have always been in her corner. If she pissed me off, I'd have the decency to talk it out with her and give her a chance to explain her side and try to repair what went wrong. This ghosting shit is so fucking childish and mean and is making me furious. Furious to the point where I want to email her again and say "Ok, message received, have a nice life" and block her on EVERYTHING.

22 years of friendship. I'm supposed to write off 22 years of friendship without even knowing what I did? Even if it's not reparable JUST TELL ME WHAT I DID FOR FUCKS SAKE.

Is my anger justified? Is there anything else I can do? Do I really write this off and move on? Am I just super ragey because I'm having a depression relapse and I'm not thinking straight? Why would an intelligent mid-30s human being ghost their best friend of two decades? I am just so goddamn angry right now.
posted by nayantara to Human Relations (61 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: posters request -- frimble

Do you think it's just a coincidence that she stopped responding when you were nominated for a prestigious award? She may be having difficult feelings -- and not handling them well. Not to excuse this -- ugh I hate the very idea of ghosting without talking first -- but to maybe help you feel a tiny bit less hurt. Her life might seem great from the outside, but maybe she longs for what you have (or seem to have).

Have you already tried reaching out to a mutual acquaintance?

I'd be extremely angry too. Sorry this happened to you. Good on you for posting about it.
posted by amtho at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

Abruptly ghosting friends can be a trauma response; if so, that would mean it’s more about her than it is about you.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:24 PM on February 27, 2022 [45 favorites]

Maybe she’s doing really really bad and it’s nothing to do with you. Maybe she’s not a “mean girl,” maybe she’s barely functioning and everyone’s treating her like she’s failing them. Maybe she is suffering profoundly, feeling guilt and shame and avoidance and needs low-stakes, low-pressure kind and gentle overtures so she knows you’re there instead of WHY ARE YOU MAD AT ME messages.
posted by kapers at 4:27 PM on February 27, 2022 [62 favorites]

Because this is some petty ass high school mean girls BULLSHIT now,

you don't know this.

I've been there, it's hard and painful when this sort of thing happens, and it would be nice if she would just acknowledge your feelings and let you know what's going on, but sometimes people just do not have the bandwidth. When something very much like this happened to me it turned out (years later) that the person in question was dealing with an overwhelmingly difficult career stage plus the drawn-out and extremely traumatic decline and death of her father. Don't assume this is about mean girls bullshit. Just take a step back and hope she's ok.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:27 PM on February 27, 2022 [37 favorites]

Response by poster: I mean, I sent her holiday and bday gifts and cards, and when I have reached out via text it's always been low stakes "Hey! How are you doing?" Or "hey I saw this article and I thought of you, I hope you are doing well!" I stopped doing that at the end of January. I haven't been bombarding her with "why are you mad at me?" I have been just reaching out gently the way I normally would and only sent the one email asking if we were okay because the length of the silence was concerning me. I'm not harassing her. If anything now I'm pulling away and not reaching out at all because reaching out repeatedly and being ignored hurts, and I'm already at a point where I'm trying to deal with a mental health relapse and I don't have the energy to keep reaching out with a gentle touch in case she's having a bad time, I have to put my oxygen mask on first. I am literally in the middle of a depressive crisis right now, I had two rage meltdowns at my boyfriend in the last three days and am terrified that I'm destroying my relationship and I have no support network where we live and I'm just doing my best to survive at this point. If she doesn't want to be my friend fuck it, I'm tired and sad and angry and scared and doing my best to take care of myself.
posted by nayantara at 4:38 PM on February 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

Respectfully and with much sympathy: you're not capable of thinking rationally about this right now.

No matter what sort of answers you get here, you don't sound like you're in a good place to accept them. You need to speak to a professional and unpick these feelings and terrible anger/sadness spirals you're going into, especially given your serious depression and mention of meltdowns. You've had a big loss out of nowhere -- consider this treatment for grief if nothing else.

Step up your search for a therapist. ASAP. Talk to your doctor about medication if you feel like you want to go that route (and I would honestly recommend seriously considering it). You are, by your own admission, in crisis. An email from your friend won't magically fix it. In fact, I think it would make it worse.

Unscrambling this mess in your head is clearly very important to your wellbeing, regardless of whatever is happening to your friend. Do that first, and then, in a few months, you will be able to deal with the rest. For now, accept that it's happened, and look after yourself first.
posted by fight or flight at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2022 [81 favorites]

I wish I had a better way to phrase it, but you're making this all about you. "So, I figured I must have done something wrong" is a huge assumption to make, and completely invalidates everything that might be going on in her life at the expense of yours. You don't know what's going on in her life. I know for a fact that I've personally gone through bouts of depression and 3 months is *nothing* when it comes to disconnecting (or ghosting, depending on your frame of reference) from people, especially those who are not a part of my day to day, living in other parts of the world, etc. Frankly, during those phases of my life I'm only trying to put one foot in front of another and maybe get a shower on a good day. And I know for a fact the same thing happens to my friends on the opposite coast, who I've known for decades. Over the years we've come to a realization that we don't love each other any less than we did before, but we're just trying to get by and our lives are not crossing paths at all at the moment, and thats ok.

So that said, I highly, highly doubt it's high school mean girl shit. I'm much more confident it's closer to "life's hard as fuck" shit. Perhaps give her the benefit of the doubt and check in to see if she's ok, without any expectations?
posted by cgg at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2022 [56 favorites]

Things may be going spectacularly wrong in her life at the same time they're going so well in yours... interacting with you may be just plain TOO HARD at the moment. Could be work, could be the writing, could be health, could be the husband, could be family... could be something else you haven't even mentioned or thought of.

Check on her, if possible, through a mutual friend. If not possible, don't get angry. Just send her a short, KIND message occasionally that is focused on checking on HER and being open-ended supportive, inviting her to reach out if/when she's ready to. By occasionally, I mean... maybe once every 2-3 months. Definitely no more than once a month, and try not to stretch it out to 5-6.

If you and her have strongly different opinions about politics, religion, or pandemic-related matters... or her husband or someone in her field of persuasion does... this, too, might affect things. Of all eras in a friendship, this is the time, if at all possible, to let things drift and allow people to heal if necessary.

I speak from experience here... I have found myself on the other side of an ever-widening rift from my best friend since THREE - so nearly 42.5 years now - and despite FOUR DECADES of practice in managing our vastly different upbringings and lives, this has derailed us. It HURTS. Especially when things have happen like LITERALLY being mere feet from a shooting - with my toddler granddaughter - that resulted from a road rage attack that I nearly tried to interrupt and de-escalate. I could have used someone who gave a shit that night; instead, I didn't tell her until weeks later, and she brushed it off and went back to talking about her anti-vax nonsense. (And she's an RN!)

I don't know if this has a chance to heal someday or not. I'm not sure I want it to. I DO know, though, that if I try to push - try to change what's going on with her, or do anything except allow her space - it will damage it beyond repair. If it comes to that, I want it to be a decision I actively choose, not something I resort to out of hurt, anger, fear, disgust, disrespect, or anything else.

So if this person matters to you - hell, mine is the sister I wish I'd had, instead of the cruddy one I got - if they truly matter to you, give them the space to let the world settle down, and just be willing to listen - at least once - if and when they're ready.
posted by stormyteal at 4:45 PM on February 27, 2022 [8 favorites]

Actually, looking back over your post history on AskMe I'm going to step up my suggestion: make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible, as an emergency. Are you on medication at the moment? Is your boyfriend helping you search for a therapist? You've been going through these cycles for months (I'm guessing this loss might have been the trigger), you're miserable, and it's not going to get better on its own. But life can and will be better than this, I promise.
posted by fight or flight at 4:49 PM on February 27, 2022 [16 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like this is very out of character for her, so I would assume it’s about something in her life, not about something you did. However, it also seems like you’ve reached out as much as can be expected, especially since your own bandwidth is extremely limited right now.
It’s totally understandable to be sad that she isn’t here for you when you need her, but I’d recommend trying to avoid assuming that she is being deliberately unkind since you may find out later that was not the case and it feels horrible to have been really angry at someone who turns out to have been going through something really rough.
posted by pie_seven at 4:50 PM on February 27, 2022 [23 favorites]

I’m not saying you should continue reaching out if you don’t have the capacity. In fact it sounds like a bad idea right now while it’s so raw. But try to understand she may be just as—or more!—“tired and sad and angry and scared and doing my best to take care of myself” and this is how she’s dealing with it.

Is it ideal coping behavior? No, but sometimes we have to extend friends the same grace we hope they’d extend us when we’re really struggling.
posted by kapers at 4:57 PM on February 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone saying that you are making a lot of assumptions that may or may not be true, and given your anger, I'd make a pact with yourself to not contact her at least until the school year is over.

This isn't to say I can't empathize with you, I do - if this was my friend of 22 years, I'd be miffed and hurt too. But until you communicate with her, you really cannot know. I know it's hard (I once had a best friend ghost me for three years), but the best you can, try to push her out of your mind for a bit - pretend she's on an island without wifi.

All that said:

So a month ago I emailed her and asked if I had done something to piss her off

Gently, I think this was a misstep - if she was being unresponsive due to burnout (and as someone who works in higher ed, the burnout is quite acute right now), and then she received this accusatory email - well, I can understand how she might have concluded "oof, I just don't have the energy for this right now." Also, while I realize this isn't the only way you feel ignored, keep in mind that even if she occasionally posts to social media, it's possible she isn't spending much time on it, so I really wouldn't read into that much.
posted by coffeecat at 4:57 PM on February 27, 2022 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry this has happened to you. It happened to me in 2015, in very similar circumstances. Our friendship has never been repaired. It makes me SO ANGRY still to this day, but all of my advice boils down to: take care of yourself now. Yes, an emergency meeting with your therapist. Yes, focusing on whatever small pieces of joy you have in your life. Yes, screaming it out (to yourself) or writing it out or processing in whatever ways give you personal satisfaction.

I wrote a screed, back in the day, adding a little more to it over the course of a few weeks. But I never sent it. I'm glad I never sent it; it wouldn't have changed anything. I'm extremely glad I wrote it; looking at it now reminds me that it was all her fault. Remembering that it was all her fault gives me succor now because a person like that? That person sucks, a lot, and is not somebody I want to be friends with.

This will hurt, and it will hurt for a while. But none of the resolution is going to come from her; it's all gonna come from inside you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:58 PM on February 27, 2022 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm on a lot of medication. I have a lot of mental health issues. I know I'm teetering on the edge of crisis. I'm trying to hang on. I am starting with a new therapist this Thursday after finally finding someone I felt comfortable with who has room in her schedule.
posted by nayantara at 4:59 PM on February 27, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Others have covered the possibility that something heavy is going on at her end, so I won't add to that.

You mentioned her early successes and you throwing her a celebratory party; has she celebrated your successes before, or has she always been the shining star? It did jump out to me that you've won a prestigious award and are having creative success while it sounds like she's in a bit of a slump. Of course it may be that she's just overwhelmed as people have mentioned, but I did wonder what the give and take was like before.

In any case, I'm so sorry. It hurts to not have your friend when you need her, and even if it's not personal I get how it can feel so very personal. It's such a rough time right now and this situation calls for being extra gentle with yourself. Sending internet hugs if that helps.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 5:01 PM on February 27, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm trying to hang on.

Seriously, that's the goal right now, and you are dong great. I'm not your therapist, but you are doing the right stuff and showing so many strengths: you are asking for feedback, accepting it, and thinking things over.

Please also think about the general trauma of 2020-2022 - so many people are hurt, lost, alienated, etc. You (and your BFF) may both be subject to this shit - it sucks, but you both have more in common than you would think.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:03 PM on February 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

So glad to hear you have an appointment. You're taking the right steps and moving in the right direction. Keep on hanging on. It fucking sucks to be in the middle of a storm inside of your own head, especially right now in the Longest Year Ever, but when you're here we're all here with you.
posted by fight or flight at 5:08 PM on February 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

You said she just got married. I wonder if the new husband might be abusive/controlling, and that’s why it’s crickets. I agree that it’s almost certainly not you.
posted by shadygrove at 5:16 PM on February 27, 2022 [27 favorites]

Best answer: I'm puzzled by the idea that you're making assumptions or centering yourself. Going from near-daily communication to silence is significant, whether or not you've correctly identified the trigger as being your award nomination, whether or not she's in a tough position career-wise, whether or not she's dealing with some sort of mental health crisis of her own. All you know is that you went from having a best friend to having, for all intents and purposes, a former best friend who won't talk to you. If a friend of mine did that, I'd be worried and also angry. I'd contact their spouse to say, "I don't know if there's something I did, or if she's going through stuff more generally and is withdrawing from everyone, but I'm worried about her. I'm telling you so that if she won't talk to me, at least I'll know someone in her daily life is aware and can support her." (Of course I wouldn't do that if I didn't trust the spouse to handle it thoughtfully.)

It's ok to be angry even if it turns out she's having a depressive episode, dealing with burnout, or otherwise has non-malicious reasons for her choices. It's ok to want to know why she stopped communicating with you. It's shitty behavior, even if it's the best she can do right now. Shitty behavior that stems from a mental health crisis is still shitty behavior. You can have compassion for her and be pissed at her. You don't need to be "right" and she doesn't need to be "wrong" for this to genuinely hurt, and it's ok if taking care of yourself and dealing with your hurt requires you to stop reaching out to her.
posted by theotherdurassister at 5:18 PM on February 27, 2022 [23 favorites]

Whoa, agree with all others. "She hates her job (her institution hasn't given educators any support with managing teaching loads during COVID)." Also planning a baby? Just give it time.. it actually seems doubtful if everything you incorporated had happened, this is the finish. There is a lot* happening right now.
posted by firstdaffodils at 5:23 PM on February 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

I’m not saying this is definitely what’s going on, but it is extremely common for domestic abusers to make their victim cut off all contact with friends and family. It’s also extremely common for victims to continue posting on social media as if nothing was wrong. And however well you (and she!) may think you know her husband, it’s entirely possible that he is nothing like she thought. Abusers are often incredibly charming and fun to be around for everyone but their victim.

Could your parents contact her parents, not to ask questions, but just to say hi and ask how their daughter is doing? If they tell your parents that she’s been being distant lately, or has cut off contact, then that’s a really strong sign.

And you might consider emailing/texting her again, and telling her that while you’re not really sure what’s going on, you want her to know that you're here for her, matter what and no matter when. Do not ask if she’s being abused, because if she is, there’s a good chance he’s monitoring her communications, and will assume that she told you something, and will likely take it out on her.

I realize this may sound completely crazy to you, but it’s so very common for the outside world to have no clue at all what’s going on in an abusive relationship. And victims are often too embarrassed to tell anyone.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:24 PM on February 27, 2022 [20 favorites]

Might seem like a basic thing, but could it be possible she somehow lost access to her emails/texts? Or, some kind of technical issue?

I mean, yes, I would expect that if she lost access or got a new text number/email, she'd reach out to you. But maybe she was busy in the last few months and just didn't get a chance to do so, or needed time to herself. November-February was pretty chaotic for me, personally, and many other people I know.

Have you tried reaching out to her on social media to see if she responds, or was it only on text/email? Not minimizing everything you're going through at all, just suggesting that this could possibly be a technical issue or hiccup, and she genuinely is unaware you were trying to reach out. You could also try contacting a mutual friend and/or her husband if you feel comfortable to do so, and go from there.

I know I'd be concerned and upset if I were in your shoes, and if anything, I would at least want closure—if she needs space or time, fine, at least you know where you stand.
posted by dubious_dude at 5:25 PM on February 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds absolutely horrible for you, a real nightmare for most anyone, but there is nothing you can do. You have to let it be. She may get back in touch, she may not. She may have a good reason, she may have a lousy reason, she may actually have broken it off with you--it doesn't matter. You can't do anything to change that, more than you've done. And you could very easily make matters worse.

Go ahead and grieve the relationship. It's a real loss. Ask your therapist for coping techniques.
posted by praemunire at 5:26 PM on February 27, 2022 [20 favorites]

Is there anything else I can do?

Expend the anger. Do hard exercise, have a plate-smashing ritual in the backyard, dig up a big new bed in the garden, build a snow fort and then take it down, write angry letters/songs/paint angry pictures (but don't send or share any of them yet.) Tear up paper, or fabric. Swim hard and fast. Take boxing or martial arts. Do one of these things every day if possible (if not, that's ok) before the anger cycles.

Am I just super ragey because I'm having a depression relapse and I'm not thinking straight?

I wouldn't contact her until you feel you have an answer to this question. Sounds like you are on the right track there.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:27 PM on February 27, 2022 [8 favorites]

You've put a lot of potentially identifying information about your friend in the post. Someone in the field could probably identify her based on it. I'd suggest removing most of your 7th and 9th paragraphs. I would be upset if someone posted that kind of info about me.
posted by melamakarona at 5:34 PM on February 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Appreciate your concern melamakarona but the content in those paragraphs regarding this person's accomplishments and current life has been purposely obscured and scrambled and altered enough for anonymity purposes (while getting the point across) that I highly doubt anyone would be able to suss out who this person is. I'll leave it at that as I already am thread sitting too much here.
posted by nayantara at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2022

Best answer: I am so sorry, and I know I am being this friend for a couple people right now and I feel AWFUL about it. I am just now starting to respond to messages from October last year and I know some of those people feel furious and hurt. It had absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. They’ve got every right to be upset with me, and I don’t begrudge their feelings. But I also can’t explain my absence in a way that will help. So I keep … not reaching out. I have tried to not go full ghost and keep sending like memes and stuff like that about once a month. But I can not explain what’s happened to me or why I can’t talk to anyone. I understand myself what happened but there is an unbridgeable divide that springs up when I try to explain to someone else.

I would give the world for someone who said “hey, I don’t know what happened and we don’t have to talk about it but I miss you and can we just pick up from here? I thought you would like this picture of my cat.”

My therapist has let me know that she has seen more people in complete shut down / nervous breakdown over the last six months than she has in her 45 year career.
posted by Bottlecap at 7:33 PM on February 27, 2022 [92 favorites]

Last comment for the win.

Hard-core burnout is happening.
posted by firstdaffodils at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2022 [7 favorites]

I have, at times, been the person on the other side of this, typically in situations related to immediate circumstances and/or mental health where it felt paralysingly hard to come up with any kind of response. Couldn't do small replies because it felt too little. Couldn't do big replies because it felt too much. At times I just muted or filtered away attempts to reach out because that space of friendship felt impossibly far away and it would hurt to confront it. Silence breeds silence.

So like others upthread, I don't think it's good to get stuck at "tell me what I did." Maybe what you did was be her friend for 22 years and it's as much of a lot for her right now as it is for you.
posted by holgate at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2022 [7 favorites]

Personally, if your parents and her parents have tact/discretion, I would ask them if they know what is going on with her, or if her parents know. It's very reasonable to want to know if you should be grieving the relationship or waiting for her to be able to emerge from shutdown or something else. It sounds like you have tried to be really gentle and cautious when contacting her. If they're willing to have a conversation that is "nayantara mentioned they haven't heard from your daughter in a few months and sounded worried - anything we can do to help?" rather than "nayantara asked us to ask" you may end up with some information.

I'm sorry you're missing your friend. Congratulations on all of your excellent news!
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:43 PM on February 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

A brief word about jealousy because my eyes also stopped on mention of the award and, much later in your post, the radical change in your description of your circumstances. You both sound like high achievers. WIth that comes jealousy, and jealousy can cause very unpleasant behavior. I've had more than one friend who was jealous of me. It's not that they wanted what I had, it's that they didn't want me to have what I had because that was a reminder that they had not made the choices that I had, and maybe they should have, which was patently ridiculous in all cases because they didn't want what I had, and frequently had different taste in partners, living preferences, jobs. It's about ego and self-esteem, and is petty, but it's also reasonably common, especially, yes, if the person is already a little depressed.

My other comment relates to the radical shift in tone in your post: What you say you said to her, and what you say to us. Are you good at talking at showing weakness to a friend like her, or do you cover it up? If you cover it up, it could be another cause of jealousy, especially if she's debating her choices at the moment (marriage, maybe kid), and now has to compromise on them with someone else.

Anyway, I don't know her, and I may be wrong. I expect you'll know, at whatever level, if I am or not.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:24 PM on February 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Most of her social media posting is Instagram photos of her and her dog taken by her husband.

This jumped out at me.

Are you certain that she's even in control of her own social media, texts, emails, etc. anymore?

If the pictures are being taken by her husband (because she's in them) but are then posted to social media by "her" then he seems to have his hands on her phone a lot because it's a pain in the butt to have someone take a pic with their own phone, send it to you, you download it to your phone, then post it to your social media every time. Like maybe she's handing him her phone and asking him to take a picture of her but if it's all pics of her and never any of him then that seems like weird keeping up appearances behavior. Most married people I know tend to post as many or more pics of their spouses, kids, pets as they do pictures of themselves.

If you have a mutual friend who is local to her and able to see her in person I think it would be appropriate to ask that friend to check in person and find out if she's actually okay.

He might not be letting her talk to her friends, including you.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:18 PM on February 27, 2022 [11 favorites]

I second praemunire. Whatever the reason, she's fucking gone and odds are at least somewhat high that you will never know why. If she ever wants to come back, she can make a move and do that. If it makes you feel like shit to keep reaching out and being ignored, then stop trying with her. Write her a goodbye letter, send it or not (I dunno) and just write her off as a human being unless she ever changes and resurfaces again, because that's all you can do for you.

My therapist has explained to me over and over what the "I can't say anything shutdown" feels like (she told me a friend of hers said "if you don't call me back within 24 hours, I WILL CALL THE POLICE"), but at heart I just don't get why people do it because I would never do it. And it pisses me off too. I know, everyone's depressed and burned out (me too), and some folks just can't cope, and blah blah blah...but at heart I just get mad at the cutoff out of nowhere too. I'm sorry this happened :(
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:45 PM on February 27, 2022 [8 favorites]

This is really painful for you and I'm glad you have resources and support around you for this and are getting more help.
There are so many reasons this person may have "ghosted" you, and briefly, if I needed space from a close friend and they continually attempted to contact me in spite of my attempt at putting distance between us for my own sake, and they kept reaching out, sending gifts, asking why I'm mad at them or why I'm not happy enough for them or whatever and then learned that they described my need for space as petty mean girl shit for high schoolers, which is also somehow not petty enough to not send them spiralling into a mental health crisis...Well, honestly, I'd probably feel justified in having taken space for myself. I'd probably be like wow this person who I love really really needs me and my approval and doesn't feel secure in our relationship which we've had for two decades and quite frankly I'm trying to get pregnant and live my life gracefully as I turn 40 and they just need so much from me, I can't give them what they need because constant every other day contact is just too much and this person still doesn't feel securely attached to me when I need some personal time and... yeah. But that's just my read on it. If I knew that someone was *furious* with me for having boundaries, I'd be absolutely terrified.
Loss is hard and you are tough. I think if you respect her need for space (and maybe don't make assumptions as to why she's taking it) she might come back around. But I think you should work on shoring up your own needs and boundaries, you'll be an infinitely better friend to her and yourself if you do.
posted by erattacorrige at 11:20 PM on February 27, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I just wanted to add a message to say your feelings are valid, no matter what is actually going on with her. This sounds like a very frustrating and hurtful experience to have with someone you care for deeply. How you act on your feelings is another question I guess, but I'd really at this point just try to focus on yourself and with whatever else is going on in your life. This internet stranger gives you permission to feel hurt, angry, whatever you feel in the meantime.
posted by knownfossils at 11:54 PM on February 27, 2022 [16 favorites]

Honestly, I also got a "domestic violence" feeling from what you said about her suddenly disappearing and her husband being in control of her social media. It might be that she isn't doing well and he is managing things but why not let people know? It could be the case that she isn't even receiving those messages at all. I am alarmed because of how close you were and for such a long period of time. It sounds as if her communications are being blocked. The jealousy people speak of might actually be her husband's.

and our parents were/are friends too.

Can you get the two sets of parents to communicate with each other? This seems like the easiest way of finding out whether or not she is okay.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 12:30 AM on February 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

Do you know your friend's parents or siblings? Can you check that she is okay?
Do you know her new husband? Could he be jealous of your previous close relationship?
posted by Cranberry at 12:57 AM on February 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

When I've gone through long periods of not responding to people, it was because of crippling depression. Then the weight of all those failures to respond snowballs, as does the weight of the apology I feel like I'll have to make, and it takes a long time until I'm finally able to do it, even after I start getting better. It's not pretty and I always feel terrible (and even more depressed) because of it.
posted by trig at 1:59 AM on February 28, 2022 [14 favorites]

I agree with others that it may be something to do with her recent marriage, combined with the job stuff. It doesn't necessarily have to be any big surprises, like the person being abusive. Marriage can be a shock to the system on a number of levels and it may feel difficult to engage with people you knew long before that relationship.
posted by BibiRose at 4:51 AM on February 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Cranberry has my take on this.

Also, do you know how to contact her employer?

This is giving me a bad vibe. Long term good friends don't disappear unless something drastic has happened.
I hope this works out ok.
posted by james33 at 5:09 AM on February 28, 2022

When I ghosted a longtime friend, it was because our relationship changed. Years change people. By the last third of our relationship, they were taking and taking and talking and talking and barely took a breath to acknowledge me or what was going on in my life. When I did get to speak, it was used as a springboard to bring them to their next topic of how they were wronged this week. If I didn't answer a text or return a call quickly enough, they could try every 20 minutes until I answered.

When I got married they didn't text me, call me, or send a card (second marriage, courthouse, no party, but still!). I blocked the number and didn't look back. Because I realized that in the guise of keeping a friend, I ended up keeping a bully.

I am not saying you are overly needy or a bully but I wanted to put this here as a counterpoint to the friends ghost because of DV narrative. That is true, but it's definitely not always the case.
posted by kimberussell at 5:44 AM on February 28, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry. This is so hard. I had a long-time friend I'd know since high school ghost me and it hurts and is so confusing. I still miss her and still wonder how she's doing and if we'll reconnect and why she stopped responding, but I've stopped reaching out. I don't know why, though looking back I think she was pulling away even before she ghosted me -- not initiating hangouts and slowly no longer being the one to initiate any communication, then eventually not responding at all for more than a year. It sucks and I completely empathize.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:02 AM on February 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I agree that going from daily communication to nothing is jarring and likely more than just life being busy or burnout. I’d be similarly hurt and I don’t think your take on that it is unreasonable or making it all about you. I would absolutely be concerned I had done something and furious at her for just disappearing. I also got domestic violence vibes from this though, honestly. I don’t know what you do with that. Maybe contact a family member if you’re able? I don’t know. But I just want to say that this seems like more than life being busy and your feelings of shock and anger and worry about what you’ve done are valid and to be expected.
posted by Amy93 at 6:29 AM on February 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

You've had some real success, which, oddly enough, generates stress, and you have mental health issues, so, this is especially difficult. For any action that delves into her life, you can check 1 time to see if a person is okay, but more than that is not okay.

To the extent that you're just plain worried about her being okay, it sounds like she's a teacher and you may be able to tell if she's at work. If she has a 2nd email, you can send 1 message saying, Obviously I miss you, but I'm also concerned that something might be wrong. I would be super-appreciative if you'd let me know if you're okay. you can tell my spouse/ family member if you don't want to contact me directly.

This happened pretty soon after she got married; her spouse may have disallowed or otherwise affected the relationship, and there's nothing you can do about that except send occasional messages to let her know you are there for her if she needs you.

You could contact a family member, and just say you haven't been hearing from her and want to be sure she's okay; this is invasive, use judgement.

She could be having her own mental health crisis. You could start sending a monthly email or text with messages of support and humor, plus news from you. It's nayantara again. This thing happened in my life. I saw this silly meme and thought you might like it. I saw this article that you might like. I hope you're well.

Have you sent *just 1* message saying I'm not hearing from you. I would be so grateful if you'd let me know if you're okay. I would love to know why you aren't communicating and if there's anything I can do about that. I miss you and hope you are well and happy.

She hasn't asked you to stop contacting her. It's impossible to know what that means. You can't know what happened. This is a painful experience, made worse by not knowing. You have to recognize that people are allowed to simply leave, and that you have no control. You miss her, but you also had many years of having a really close loving friendship, and that's a huge and wonderful thing.
posted by theora55 at 6:37 AM on February 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I understand how painful this is and it sounds like you two were extremely close and connected. I don't think it's necessarily related to you bit I have a feeling it's more then burnout on her part. I don't have a solution but I just wanted to validate that you're not crazy, it's very painful to be ghosted and you're picking up that there's something awry. You know her and her patterns better than any of us.
posted by bearette at 6:39 AM on February 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just a data point that people may have no idea what’s wrong with her.

Something traumatic happened to me. I ghosted all my friends and my husband didn’t even know I had ghosted them, but also knew if I hadn’t told them what was wrong, I certainly didn’t want him to - so when one friend called him to ask, he gave her a noncommittal “everything’s fine” answer, which I know infuriated her because she then blocked me.

Certainly my parents had no idea, nor did my employer, and my social media looked fine too.

My avoiding her was partly because of her behaviour but I was just taking a break without the energy to explain, I wasn’t planning to end the friendship.

But everything wasn’t fine with me, and I was a bit annoyed at her. But her overreaction and blocking me actually blocked her from ever finding out what actually happened or resolving it.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:52 AM on February 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I hope this isn't considered thread sitting - I woke up this morning surprised to see how many more comments came through overnight and some of what you are saying has been resonating with me:

1) Burnout. She doesn't like her job. She wants to do something else. I can see how that could make someone overwhelmed and not able to respond. If this is the case, I would be fine with that, but it would be nice to get a one line response saying "I am burned out right now, so I'm going underground." I have done this (am doing it now in fact) but I let people who check on me know that so they don't worry, especially since many know I have mental health issues.

2) I actually wondered for a while whether I was a version of the Bad Art Friend for having told her about the Pushcart nomination and getting three pieces published in one year in top of the album. Not because I plagiarized her, but because maybe it was rubbing salt in a wound? She maybe wishes she had more time to write and submit and just doesn't have that time? But I don't know.

3) I have not reached out to her ever since I sent the email asking if I had hurt her in some way. No text no call no email. I'm not harassing her about this. It's been a month of no contact. I felt my email sufficiently conveyed my concern/desire to make something right if I had wronged her and now I am leaving her alone. I'm getting the feeling that some of you think I'm still bombarding there with Whyyyyyyyy are you mad at meeeeeeee but I'm not at all, period, end of story. If she wants to respond the door is open but I'm not going to reach out further and I haven't.

4) Abuse. Though no one knows exactly what goes on in a relationship/marriage behind closed doors, I think I know her husband well enough that this is an unlikely scenario. I've never gotten the sense that he doesn't like me. I also don't know that all of the Instagram photos are being taken by him; she has local friends with whom she does leisure activities so it might be someone else behind the camera.

5) While I have learned on her in the past when my mental health issues have reared their ugly heads, I would say that on this particular issue it has been reciprocal, as I have been supportive of her through some pretty fucked up shit that has happened in her life in the past that I will not elaborate on here further.

6) The poster above who asked if she had been equally celebratory of my achievements as I have been of hers: when I think about it, no. She has congratulated me when good things happen, but she's never been that effusive. I never took it personally. I still don't take it personally, but this particular thought had never occurred to me before and now I'm kind of mulling it over. The dynamic of our friendship has kind of always been she's the brilliant one and I'm the hapless but loyal fuck up. That was actually accurate when we were in school but things have changed. That said it is hard for me to believe that jealousy could be a factor here because it feels out of character in our relationship.

7) Being ghosted has been a significant trigger for her since before been met. This is another reason why being ghosted is tipping name out of the empathy zone and into the anger zone. She knows very well how hurtful this is. 22 years of constant contact followed by nothing is extreme behavior.

8) My dad is a drama llama and getting him involved to contact her parents with concern will lead to epic chaos.

Having slept on it, though, I am going to choose to let myself be angry because it feels cruel but also am going to assume that this is burnout on her end and not active malice, and see what happens. I'm also going to proceed as if this friendship may be done and work with my new therapist on coping tools. I don't have ADHD but I do show symptoms in line with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which is a problem in my relationship with my partner, so I think I need to unpack this a bit.

Thanks to all for your input.
posted by nayantara at 6:54 AM on February 28, 2022 [19 favorites]

For what it's worth, when my personal life fell apart a few years ago I had about a year, year and a half when I couldn't muster the will to be in touch with my close friends and family (it's in my AskMe history). WIthout knowing what's happening in her personal life it's impossible to know what's up. But I would put out there the idea that you may not know what's happened so dial back the rush to anger for now.

Things got better for me. I slowly started reconnecting with folks. Some of those folks I asked for support from. If she knows you're there, she knows you're there.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:58 AM on February 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Is infertility and/or miscarriage a possibility?

I ask because putting a good face on things, while avoiding people who could puncture my careful facade or soak up bandwidth, was my exact M.O. back in my IVF days.
posted by champers at 7:24 AM on February 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

If this is the case, I would be fine with that, but it would be nice to get a one line response saying "I am burned out right now, so I'm going underground."

Totally, but like Bottlecap, I have been in a place before where there are some emails I am several months late responding to, and every passing day I think about how I should respond to them, but I feel such guilt over how long I haven't responded yet that I put it off another day, and the cycle continues. This is particularly true for emails from good friends as I feel obligated to write them a really heartfelt long email in apologies for the long lag time - which makes the task more daunting, and hence, harder to get done. That you are able to tell friends you need to go underground is really healthy on your part, not everyone is good at that!

Anyway, I just remembered that the Invisibilia podcast recently did an episode on friendship ghosting, in case that will be cathartic to listen to.
posted by coffeecat at 7:25 AM on February 28, 2022 [13 favorites]

Nayantara, can you just go visit her for a weekend? If you have been as close as you have for 22 years, it's worth the price of a plane ticket to see for yourself what's going on. Book a hotel so you're not inconveniencing her, but go find out what's going on with your friend. If it turns out she no longer wants to be friends with you, so be it - at least you'll know. But if by chance something else is going on, you can be there for her and figure out a way forward together.

I have 2 close friends who have been in my life over 25 years each, and this is what I'd do if your situation happened to me. Best of luck to you.
posted by widdershins at 7:35 AM on February 28, 2022

Best answer: Nayantara, can you just go visit her for a weekend? If you have been as close as you have for 22 years, it's worth the price of a plane ticket to see for yourself what's going on. Book a hotel so you're not inconveniencing her, but go find out what's going on with your friend.

I would strongly, strongly advise against this. If someone who I ghosted showed up at my house after flying from their state to mine and after I had explicitly ignored all attempts at contact, I would be terrified, horrified, livid, and deeply worried that my boundaries (silence IS a boundary, we don't always have to pathologize it) were completely unimportant to this person and I would refuse to see them and it would only make the OP feel much worse.

It IS cruel, even if not done out of malice. It makes sense to me to grieve this however you do, and also, to not act on the emotions beyond working stuff out for yourself. Which it seems you are resolved to do. We are rooting for your continued resilience and growth and peace.
posted by erattacorrige at 8:55 AM on February 28, 2022 [28 favorites]

I hesitated to comment because this one hit very, very close to home. One day, it was hundreds of texts in group chats daily, planning online gaming, setting up upcoming events... and the next was silence. No response to anything. No request for space, no 'hey, we need to talk about x' or even a fight. In public? Nothing was the matter, we stayed friends on social media & they would occasionally like my posts or replies. But any messages were ignored. It was torture, and I felt like I was losing my mind.

It sounds like you're going through something similar, and I really want to stress that you need to take care of yourself, find other outlets for the energy you were giving them, and work with a therapist. Reading your comments, you're on the right track , and I hope your therapist search is a fruitful one with someone who understands that friendship break ups can sometimes hit harder than the romantic ones.

What helped me was taking back some of the control of the situation, and reframing it for myself. I was torturing myself looking at their social media looking for clues about what I did wrong, so I unfriended them after 6 months of silence. I hated seeing their comments on mutual friends' posts, so I blocked them after 9 months. They still had my phone number and e-mail, but by blocking them on my usual internet doomscrolls I freed up my time for healing. I also tried to replace activities that would have included them with other alternatives- I missed our group chats, so I joined a discord group for fans of a specific TV show. I missed gaming, so I found a new group online.

You may never know what happened, or why. In my particular circumstance, all their anxiety about the pandemic, what's happening in the world, lack of in-person time and need to fixate on something turned me into the villain of their life. They had an echochamber in their partners, and everything I'd ever done in 20+ years of friendship was under a microscope and being used as evidence for how horrible I am. I'm not saying that's what happened to you, but what I've seen in people- including myself!- is that it's really easy to ignore things in a pandemic, or make monsters out of molehills.
posted by Torosaurus at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2022 [5 favorites]

I really agree with trig and bottlecap.
When I've gone through long periods of not responding to people, it was because of crippling depression. Then the weight of all those failures to respond snowballs, as does the weight of the apology I feel like I'll have to make, and it takes a long time until I'm finally able to do it, even after I start getting better. It's not pretty and I always feel terrible (and even more depressed) because of it.
posted by trig at 1:59 AM on February 28

I have ghosted people close to me during the last 3 years. It had literally nothing to do with them, and all to do with me. I went into a dark place and the closer the person is/was the less i was/am able to communicate. Everytime they contact me it pushes me down further and deeper. It does not matter what they say or write. If i see the name i don't open the message. Because i feel so guilty and bad, and yet cannot reply.
I am able to communicate with people i don't know or here in Ask... But IRL impossible.

My advice is to leave her be.
posted by 15L06 at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2022 [9 favorites]

I am literally in the middle of a depressive crisis right now, I had two rage meltdowns at my boyfriend in the last three days and am terrified that I'm destroying my relationship and I have no support network where we live and I'm just doing my best to survive at this point. If she doesn't want to be my friend fuck it, I'm tired and sad and angry and scared and doing my best to take care of myself.

OK, so, gently...then why are you trying to solve this unsolvable problem on AskMe instead? It kind of seems like you want to be mad at something because you're feeling so shitty, and this is a thing that is potentially WRONG and DONE TO YOU so you can latch onto it, unlike your perfectly kind husband and good job and successful career which fly in the face of how you internally feel.

Let this lie; there's nothing you can do about it anyway, and if you let yourself spin up into an Olympian rage at this person now, you may find that you have salted the earth of an incredibly valuable friendship all because you were trying to find a landing place for your spin-out.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Trying to solve this particular short-term ghosting problem (truly! I know it's uncharacteristic but it's still only been a couple months) while you're in active crisis is like trying to get a repair person in to fix your washing machine while your house is on fire. It's not like a broken washing machine isn't a problem, but it's not THE problem for right now.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2022 [23 favorites]

I have "disappeared" on a couple people and it had nothing to do with them - it had everything to do with me. A deep depression, a real underwater depression, and when I surfaced I was so ashamed that I disappeared on someone that it caused me distress to even consider reaching out and trying to "fix" it. There's one person that I still think about almost every day, but I cannot bring myself to pick up the phone. It has NOTHING to do with that person. At least for me.
posted by ersatzkat at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2022 [9 favorites]

I think about the people I've disappeared on every day, but the collective weight of it was too much then and it's way too much now. It was me, not them. Literally nothing about them, though I think about them now because I am such a complete shit (which is also why I pull away from everyone). I did it because I was depressed, afraid of disappointing them, afraid of being rejected, I did this for people I'd known for 10+ years in many cases! I did it repeatedly throughout my life! It's called being avoidant, it's an actual thing.

If they hate me like you hate your friend now, then my eternal anguish is justified. Win-win! (Or lose-lose, really.)

Not everything can be about you, you know.

7) Being ghosted has been a significant trigger for her since before been met. This is another reason why being ghosted is tipping name out of the empathy zone and into the anger zone. She knows very well how hurtful this is. 22 years of constant contact followed by nothing is extreme behavior.

Yeah, I walk away because I'm afraid of being hurt. It's my own trauma from some things in my past, maybe.

edit: this post right above me 100%, 1000000%

I have "disappeared" on a couple people and it had nothing to do with them - it had everything to do with me. A deep depression, a real underwater depression, and when I surfaced I was so ashamed that I disappeared on someone that it caused me distress to even consider reaching out and trying to "fix" it. There's one person that I still think about almost every day, but I cannot bring myself to pick up the phone. It has NOTHING to do with that person. At least for me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:22 PM on February 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

When I've had a rupturous conflict in a loving relationship, I've found the best thing to do is:

1. Leave the door open for the future. Resist the urge to blow it up for the sake of clarity. You never know, especially in a long relationship.
2. Work on myself. Therapy, meditation, journaling, etc. Take care of myself, love and nourish myself, learn and grow.
posted by spindrifter at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'm going to be honest, I am this person right now for a lot of people.

I am on twitter and things and I bet people are wondering 'why is winna not texting me back when she can tweet' or whatnot but the answer is that I am the human equivalent of a phone that has 1% battery life and I have to save that power for things like trying not to get fired and feeding myself.

I know it is hard and hurtful and it sounds like you are doing the right things to cope but I would be a significant sum that this is not about you.

I would definitely not email or show up at her house, whether it is right or not I would immediately retreat from someone who did that demanding answers, even if I were not doing it on purpose before.

I'm so sorry.
posted by winna at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2022 [9 favorites]

Edit: honestly. If you're not bitter about it, and become less rigid, it has the best chance of surprising you or at the very least, not harming you. Anger can be a tool but it doesn't seem to serve this now..

Human beings are fallible, I see them messing up left and right, at the moment.

Anecdotally, I just put my faith in hard blast cheese. Those responses are good.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:26 PM on March 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

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