Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I had a wonderful best friend for years. She moved across the country after college, we stayed close for a long while, then started to drift. She moved back four years ago. We tried to hang out a couple of times. It never happened.
While complex, the biggest problem was me. Always shy, I was dealing at the time with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, my life plans had imploded, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, I put on a ton of weight, and I lost my grandmother and uncle close together. It was the lowest point of my life. Feeling sad and worthless, I withdrew into a small and lonely existence.
I didn’t share any of this with my friend because we were reconnecting, and I didn’t know how to share bad things. I was certain I would feel better tomorrow or next week, but I didn’t, resulting in ghosting from a lot of relationships.
My biggest regret was the lousy way I handled things with my once-best friend. Ironically, what I really needed was a friend, and I missed being there for her, too.
Today, I am in a much better place, and I’d like to reach out. I accept the bridge is likely torched, but I believe she deserves an explanation and apology. However, I worry I’m being selfish and, given the amount of time that has gone by, it might be that nothing good can come from it. Should I leave it be?
Carolyn says: It’s not selfish. You’re not blaming her or asking for anything that wouldn’t be freely given — you’re just explaining. “I ghosted you when I really wanted nothing more than to spend time with you. I was dealing with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, my life plans had imploded, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, put on a ton of weight and lost my grandmother and uncle close together. It was the lowest point of my life, and I withdrew into a small and lonely existence.”
Then say your absence was never about her and you’re sorry for treating her poorly and for what must have seemed, from her perspective, to be rejection. Which, of course, it wasn’t.
Then say you don’t expect a response, you just wanted her to know it wasn’t anything she did, but you do miss her and would love to see her if she’s open to it.
Good for you, by the way, for digging yourself out. That must have taken everything you had.
Re: Burned Bridges:
PLEASE contact your friend. Isn’t it better to know one way or another if something can be saved? Don’t have further regrets. My best friend ghosted me over a year ago and it is devastating. I reached out after her kids told me she was depressed, but I can’t make her see me.
I am really sad about this. Even if she just told me she needed another year, I’d be happy. Ignoring or ghosting is cruel, it just is (outside exceptional circumstances). “I need time and I can’t talk about it” is a better choice.
Carolyn says: I don’t disagree. Do keep in mind, though, that depression is the cruel actor here — not the depressed person herself.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.