Saturday 14 December 2019

Dear Mary: 'I stalked my ex online and sent anonymous messages for months'

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Conor

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.

Question: I met a man a couple of  years ago and fell in love. He ended our relationship in a callous and detached way, which completely destroyed my self-esteem and dignity. I became angry, bitter and consumed by what had happened. As I was in my late teens, I had no concept of how relationships can end quickly without closure. I couldn't cope with seeing him moving on quickly and being able to have other relationships. I began stalking him online. 

Read more: Dear Mary: 'My ex wants me back but still sneaks off to someone else

I vomited everyday from seeing his relationship unfold online, I was distraught that I could not move on yet he could. He was in his mid 20s and had more life experience than me. I focused on his capacity to move on rather than my own. I blamed myself and felt worthless because he told me he didn't want a relationship, yet proceeded to have one with someone else. The online stalking became harassment - I started sending anonymous messages to his account and that of the person he was involved with.

My anger, pain and resentment manifested itself into these negative online outbursts because they were easier to focus on than the pain I felt from the rejection. This version of me is too warped for me to even understand. These messages continued for months. I tried hard to stop, but every time I did I would see something online that upset me about him.

While I never made threats, I left messages designed to anger him. I wanted a response, I wanted him to feel something for me, instead of the indifference he'd shown towards the end of our relationship. I never got any pleasure from this experience. It made me feel isolated, ashamed and undignified. Despite my actions, I never wanted to hurt him or anyone else. I wanted him to be reminded of me, to be aware that I was hurting. It was completely sick, twisted, and I don't believe that I can ever forgive myself.

Read more: Dear Mary: How can I help my wife recover from her terrible childhood?

Months have passed since he discovered that I was the person behind the harassment. I have since been diagnosed with depression and Borderline Personality Disorder, which he knows nothing about. I have been seeing a counsellor, but my guilt is too great for it to be beneficial. All I want to do is apologise to this man, to tell him I love him and that I did a horrible thing because I did not know how to handle my anger and pain.

I genuinely care for him, and despite my actions, I know this to be true. I am afraid that he will never know how sorry I am. He thinks I am crazy, which devastates me. I can't contact him again because he has told me not to, but I don't know if I can live with what I have done anymore. I have dragged someone I love into my pain and anger. I have lost all hope.

Mary replies: I am so sorry that your very first experience of falling in love was such a negative one and that you appear to have been suffering ever since. It is always heartbreaking when the first love is over, as it is a very special time in anybody's life. Whereas most people eventually move on from this, and in time can look back and smile, you appear to have become totally obsessed with this man.

I believe you when you say you never wanted to hurt him, rather you just wanted him to know that he had hurt you. All of your pain was made worse by the fact that he seemed to have moved on effortlessly having finished with you. But this is part of life - the person ending the relationship usually has a much easier time because they are the one who decides that it is over, and are therefore in control of the situation.

Read more: Dear Mary: 'Four years on, I can't forget my ex-boyfriend

You have to realise that what you are doing now is only making yourself more and more unhappy, whereas he is getting on with his life. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by you dragging it all up again and apologising to him. All that would do would be to remind him of all your stalking and harassment.

What you need to do is to let it go and stop being so hard on yourself. Give yourself absolution for past behaviour and realise that it was part of your growing up and maturing, and promise yourself that you will never again behave in such an immature way.

I'm sure your counsellor has suggested that you write to him telling him everything that you feel, but instead of posting or emailing the letter you tear it into a million little pieces and put it into the fire. Then, as you watch it burn, tell yourself that now that you have finally told him how sorry you are, and how ashamed you feel, you are giving yourself permission to move on from this unfortunate period in your life.

Read more: Dear Mary: 'My husband and I haven't had sex for a year

You have a wonderful way with words and I am sure that you will be able to unleash a lot of your anguish onto the written page without passing it on directly to him. I am suggesting this in case somebody else in your situation has not been to counselling and is at a loss as to what to do.

Try to remember that you are still the same girl that fell in love with this guy a few years ago - you just made some bad choices which you cannot change, but you cannot keep on blaming yourself forever. There are a few lines that are very applicable to you in the song Let it Go, from Frozen. 'I'm never going back, the past is in the past, let it go, let it go, And I'll rise like the break of dawn' So let this be your motto as you move on and learn to like yourself again.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

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