Welcome to part 7 of our Talking Things Through series! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out last week’s post about self-harm and some of the alternatives to it, though do be advised that it contains potential triggers. In today’s post, however, we’re going to look at what happens when people disappear. Let’st jump in!
Disappearance is something that has plagued me on both sides of the coin during the last few years. Through my own experiences, I’ve seen the reasons why people will disappear but I’ve also been around someone who has needed to disappear and done so. Because of this, it’s one of those topics that I’ve wanted to cover for some time. After all, what do you do when someone disappears? Is it always a bad thing? Well…no, not really.
For many who struggle with depression or anxiety, the simple ability to disappear is a gift or a blessing. Being able to just hide yourself away and struggle with your problems alone, in isolation, can be a great thing. It allows us to recover without the watchful eyes of people. That, in itself, can be a comfort.
But why do people do it? Other than that isolation factor, what reasons could they have? Given that it makes their loved ones or friends worry, why would they do it? There a couple of reasons. The first that I’d like to mention is simply a matter of energy.
Disappearance and the Mask
In Masks and Masquerades, I told you all about how depressed people will frequently put on a mask to hide their feelings from the outside world. As mentioned in that post, maintaining these masks can take a lot of energy. Whether we’re around friends or around strangers, we still maintain some modicum of control through that mask, shutting everyone out. If we can convince you that we’re OK, perhaps we can convince ourselves.
On those days where the energy reserves are running low, however, things start to drop off one by one. For me, communication is one of the biggest ones. I will steadily stop replying to things as I shut myself away, trying to conserve what little energy I have left. It’s one of those things I do to try and channel more energy into pushing myself through my spiral.
Communication with the outside world stops being guaranteed. When I used to work at the bank, as soon as I left the building for the day I could stop putting energy into things. Everything else became surplus. Suddenly I wasn’t having to use energy for things, so I stopped. I withdrew. I disappeared.
All because of a lack of energy.
Disappearing and Demons
I follow The Mighty, a collection of blog posts surrounding mental health and physical health struggles like cancer. Recently they posted an article written by Laura Coward about her depression and disappearance and things that she would want friends and family to know. You can check the article out here. One thing that she mentions is how our minds can sometimes go into fight or flight mode.
As I read it, I found myself agreeing with what she was saying. Our fight or flight response trips and we find ourselves retreated further and further into ourselves in order to conserve energy. The problem with that is that we then start to feel bad or angry at ourselves for not retaining that communication with the outside world. That anger jettisons us into a vicious cycle of blaming ourselves, then feeling worse, then retreating further into ourselves, then blaming ourselves more and so on.
Our own inner demons can play a big part in our disappearances. Unfortunately that’s one problem that we have to tackle ourselves, it’s difficult for people to tackle it for us.
A Little Bit of Quiet
Sometimes the only reason for disappearing is to get a little bit of quiet time. When thoughts are running wild and anxiety levels are running high, sometimes the only option we have is to remove ourselves from the situation. It’s something that I’ve done frequently. When things start to get overwhelming, I simply walk away. Unfortunately it’s not always an option but if it’s possible, it’s something I will turn to.
Removing myself from the situation is a great way of getting that little bit of quiet. Occasionally that’s all it takes to remove some of the nagging demons in your head, or simply quieten them. During many of my anxious moments – and some of my depressive ones too – a little bit of quiet is all I’ve needed and it starts to help.
My example from this comes from New Year when I was home with my entire family. Things started to get a bit loud for me and a bit overwhelming and so I went and hid in my room for the rest of the evening. It was the easiest thing to do and it worked.
When I Disappear
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why I would disappear. If you’ve read Laura Coward’s article then you’ll know that sometimes following up those texts or calls isn’t the best option. Sometimes it’s just a case of leaving them to it instead of trying to get in touch.
Don’t take that as a rule of thumb because, as I’ve mentioned frequently in the Talking Things Through series, the pivotal point of these suggestions is how well you know the person involved. If you know they are suicidal then you should have something in place for if they do disappear so that you know whether to contact them or not. It’s all about your relationship with that person, knowing how their conditions affect them and whether or not their disappearance is anything to worry about. It’s not always for suicidal tendencies, though there is that possibility.
My challenge for you is to try and talk to your friend or relative, whoever it is that you support, to try and find out why they would disappear. Sometimes it’s just for some quiet time, sometimes it’s to remove themselves from the situation to allow their inner demons to quieten. It’s not always dangerous.
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