What is it like to be ostracized?
Silent treatment, social exclusion, social death, etc., are all “soft” terms which refer to ostracism. But most people only get a brief taste of ostracism before their distress leads them to seek to alleviate the experience. When truly ostracized, there is no one to contact, no ear to bend, no hand to seek. No solace, no understanding, no healing – just ceaseless nothing.
I have no emergency contact to list. I can’t “express my end of life wishes” because in this state, only a healthcare proxy is recognized. I have no one to serve as my representative, and so only have a living will form on file which will be ignored should I become unable to express my wishes directly.
I speak to no one on a daily basis. The extent of my interactions with people is to say please and thank you to clerks and bus drivers. No one voluntarily speaks to me – ever. When my landlord responds to a rare request of maintenance with a surly, “if you don’t like it here, leave”, I have nowhere to go TO. I have no reason for staying, either. Permanent limbo.
No one calls or mails. The only reason for my phone is to be able to call 911. I also receive the rare robot call to verify an appointment. I have no references, no network and no way back IN. Permanent impermanence.
It means that I only go to places which tolerate me, as I am not welcome anywhere. No one ever returned my calls or responded to invitations to meet socially. I learned to stop initiating contact because it was – and always will be – unwanted. Permanent undesirable OTHER.
The first time someone turned their back and hurried away from me so as not to be seen with me was confusing, hurtful and humiliating. I learned to get used to it and to avoid anyone familiar because to be seen with me might be harmful to them in terms of their job security or their own risk of social exclusion. Now there is no one who recognizes me at all due to time, aging and general forgetfulness – I have no meaning for anyone to remember. I am already dead and forgotten to everyone I knew.
Ostracism is lethal, but it is clean, bloodless, non-violent. It is the absence of action, the withholding of affection, the denial of another’s very existence.
I am untouchable, unlikeable and unlovable. This is my place – no place. And my life – no life. There is no comfort, no compassion, no companionship, no humanity. It is a complete void. To be deliberately untethered from the world is to experience a form of death, but one with eyes wide open and all sense unfortunately registering during every waking moment and throughout dream sleep.
It is inhuman, and it is my present and my future.
My voice is unwelcome. I have been rendered worthless, purposeless and without meaning. Predictably, there will be no comments here or discussion anywhere, not because of moderation, but because as soon as the reader gets the gist of this, they (you) will hurry away. It is repulsive and dreadful to confront this, and the reaction is the same as if happening upon someone obviously infected with an untreatable fatal disease.
That is what it is like to be ostracized. No one to contact on 9/11, and no one who contacted me.
Never forget, indeed. As if I could.