A day after my 20th birthday I 'ghosted' my best friend Gemma*. Feeling particularly hungover after a night clubbing we had our very first fight, where eight years of toxic resentment surfaced. I then deleted her off all social media sites, blocked her number and never spoke to her again. I never told her the real reason why either.
I met Gemma on the first day of secondary school in an art class where we made cards for each other, with messages of lifelong friendship within.
I was nervous about starting a big school and meeting new people but Gemma seemed so familiar yet exciting, and we were inseparable from that day forward. Gemma had a peculiar sense of humour and looked at the world in a different way to anyone I had ever met. We went through our teenage years together, with all those binding experiences that come with it; boys, first periods, drinking in parks, holidays without parents and the odd bit of marijuana.
But friendships, particularly female friendships, are incredibly complex. What developed in our years of intense friendship were unwritten rules, unsaid resentments, co-dependency and emotional control. "Cutting all ties and disappearing suddenly is the cowardice answer to anything," says Leila Collins, a psychotherapist based in North London.
"Disappearing doesn't help anybody. It's a case of the person who is feeling victimised becoming the person who does something wrong - it's a bad thing to do." But why couldn't I tell Gemma honestly how I felt? Our peers at school often branded me a sheep, as I did usually did what Gemma said and it was obvious she 'wore the trousers' in our friendship.
There were a few incidents which happened over the years, starting from the very beginning of our friendship; Gemma spending my pocket money on my twelfth birthday, slapping me in the face in-front of our friends when I joined in with a light-hearted joke about her fancying a teacher, dating the first boy I was infatuated with when I was on holiday, and then again six years later sleeping with a different boy I had dated (they subsequently went out with each other). And that's just to name a few.
But these events didn't result in arguments, which would have been a more normal reaction. These things sometimes happen in friendships but it was the fact I often didn't even question it - 'I had a dream you gave your approval about me dating him, that's why I knew you'd be fine with it'. 'You shouldn't have made fun of me about fancying that teacher, that's why I hit you.' I accepted all the excuses with no objection, which is why I believe we are both equally to blame for our septic friendship.
I never let myself even think it, but resentment was rooting down inside me, all be it very deep within. Don't get me wrong, there were good times too, Gemma had a wildness and imagination to her, which made everyone else pale in comparison at the time. I didn't consciously think 'I no longer want to be her friend' but part of me wished I had the freedom to make my own friends and have some sort of independence - something that wasn't included in our bizarre friendship package.
Dr Melanie Phelps, chartered counselling psychologist from Psychology Experts, explains why someone might be pushed to the extreme measures of 'ghosting', "It would happen when it feels as if there is no other comfortable or do-able option. The other party may shout, get annoyed, argue with them, and the "ghoster" cannot handle conflict or feel comfortable entering in to a conversation or situation where they do not know what the outcome will be (or they cannot guarantee they will be right or feel good) so they avoid it altogether.
"It's a one-way communication. It is important to remember that no communication and silence is a form of communication. The ghoster is choosing not to talk to you."
When I speak to people about dropping friends, it becomes apparent that most people have done it at some point. Just because you might have known someone for a long time doesn't mean they can abuse the guarantee of your friendship. People change, values change and sometimes cutting friends out can be really liberating.
Is our 'throwaway' attitude towards friendship more prevalent in society now? Madeleine Mason, relationship expert from PassionSmiths thinks so, "We are more frivolous about our ties, which in one way can be fine as it means one is better able to break ties with people who pull you down or are in any way toxic, however on the whole, we risk as a society that we become more lonely.
"There can be [benefits], if someone has hurt or disappointed you to such a degree that you feel hostile, dread or some variant toward them, cutting them out of your life would reduce these relatively uncomfortable feelings."
At the time I felt there was no other way to get away from Gemma, and when I stopped being her friend I felt relief. I'm sure she's a good friend to her other acquaintances but sometimes two certain people together just doesn't work.
Dr Melanie believes that 'ghosting' is perhaps a way of taking back control in extreme cases but should really be a last resort, "It is still respectful to explain what you are doing and why. Even if you feel the person deserves no respect it is a respectful way of behaving as a human being yourself."
I don't regret not being her friend; I do regret not having enough balls to speak up for myself. If I could go back in time and tell her why I was dropping her as a friend, I would. But if we could go back in time I probably wouldn't have let the friendship get as co-dependent as it did in the first place. My advice to anyone who's in a friendship that's weighing them down, or causing them more angst than enjoyment, is to not hang around for the sake of it. Of course wherever possible try to negotiate, or at least tell the person why you no longer want to be friends, but ultimately friendship should be supportive and make you feel good - and life is too short to spend time with anyone who doesn't.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.