“When loneliness is a constant state of being, it harkens back to a childhood wherein neglect and abandonment were the landscape of life. ” –
When I was about 5, my father walked out on us.
He just up and left his family and moved to another state.
My father was someone I admired.
He was playful.
I felt happy and comfortable in his presence.
One day, after an argument with my Mom, he packed all of his things and left.
I came home from school and my Dad was gone.
And I knew not to ask any questions.
I kept it inside.
I was devastated.
My parents divorced when I was about 7.
My brother and I were raised by my Mom.
My mother hustled, worked hard and made sure that things were taken care of.
My mother had a lot on her plate.
She was preoccupied with a difficult divorce, young kids and life.
She was unable to really engage with me.
I have my father’s personality.
I used to think I reminded her of my Dad and I got on her nerves for that reason only.
I still think that she thinks that.
My father turned to drugs to self medicate.
My existence took a backseat to the marriage/divorce/self issues my parents were fighting through.
I never felt supported.
I never felt important.
My feelings did not matter.
No hugs and embraces.
I was not allowed to really express myself.
Frustrations were taken out on me.
I was blamed for most things.
No one ever asked me about myself.
My hopes and dreams lived only in my head.
I became a quiet, timid child which manifested into an angry, frustrated, rebellious teenager.
As a teenager, my Dad would make promises to come pick us up and spend time with us.
Despite many let downs, I’d still be excited to spend time with him.
I’d wait all week, all day, down to the last hour.
At times, he never showed up.
The neglect was REAL.
Numbness set in.
Abandonment/neglect issues became the forefront of my life
The reality is.
I lacked the emotional conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development.
Emotional abandonment in childhood can happen if the primary caretaker(s) is unable to be present emotionally for her child. It’s often because she’s replicating her childhood experience, but it may also be due to stress. It’s important for a child’s emotional development that the mother attune to her child’s feelings and needs and reflect them back. She may be preoccupied, cold, or unable to empathize with her child’s success or upsetting emotions. He or she then ends up feeling alone, rejected, or deflated. The reverse is also true – where a parent gives a child a lot of attention, but isn’t attuned to what the child actually needs. The child’s needs hence go unmet, which is a form of abandonment.
Abandonment happens later, too, when children are criticized, controlled, unfairly treated, or otherwise given a message that they or their experience is unimportant or wrong. Children are vulnerable, and it doesn’t take much for a child to feel hurt and “abandoned.” Abandonment can occur when a parent confides in his or her child or expects a child to take on age-inappropriate responsibilities. At those times, the child must suppress his or her feelings and needs in order to meet the needs of the adult.
A few incidents of emotional abandonment don’t harm a child’s healthy development, but when they’re common occurrences, they reflect deficits in the parent, which affect the child’s sense of self and security that often lead to intimacy issues and codependency in adult relationships.
I was once at a gas station pumping gas and my back was turned to input my credit card information. During that time, two guys pulled up alongside the passenger side of my car and opened the door and stole my purse clean off the seat. I was alerted of the offense by someone standing nearby who witnessed the whole thing.
Immediately, I was scared, angry, frustrated, hurt and ALONE.
Why was I feeling alone?
I should’ve been raging with fury and ready to sprint after that car like Wonder Woman.
I felt a need to protect myself from those I once trusted and I felt a sense of anger, hurt, and rejection.
I felt lost, alone, and bereft.
Abandonment issues come from being wounded when an important person in your life unexpectedly leaves you. Your abandonment wound must be acknowledged and addressed, or it will sit beneath the surface of your life, waiting to be triggered.
The traumatic event of my purse being stolen was that trigger.
It triggered my childhood abandonment.
Issues that were never resolved.
They became a core part of my worldview.
My belief was that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that I did not deserve positive attention and adequate care.
After I drove my husband up the wall with my dysfunction, I decided to take some time to separate myself and get to the root causes of my abandonment/neglect issues and figure out how to resolve them and finally heal.
Through extensive therapy, I’ve been able to face my abandonment issues.
If you have been hurt deeply by abandonment, you will usually deal with your pain in one of two ways: You might become overly needy and require constant attention and reassurance, or you might go to the opposite extreme and resolve to never allow yourself to become deeply invested in anyone ever again.
I am a combination of both.
My symptoms include:
- Cycling through relationships. Some may engage in numerous shallow relationships. They may fear intimacy and find a reason to leave a relationship before the other person can.
- Sabotaging relationships. Some may act irrationally to get out of relationships. For example, you may knowingly push away a partner so you won’t feel hurt if they leave
- Commitment issues. Someone who is a serial dater can possibly have commitment issues, which is a sign of a greater abandonment issue. The honeymoon phase of a new relationship is appealing to someone like this, and they will often leave a relationship or sabotage it before the newness can wear off, or before the other person can, in their mind, get bored of them. People with abandonment issues often invent reasons to end the relationship, once more justifying their reasons with circular, self-sabotaging thought processes.
- Needing constant reassurance. Some may constantly seek out a friend or partner, and demand emotional guarantees. They may regularly urge friends or partners to make broad statements, such as “I’ll always be here,” and then say they’re lying.
- Criticizing my partner: Rather than focusing on the positives, you look for the negative aspects of your partner and the relationship. Your abandonment issues make you dwell on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. If your relationship does end, you console yourself by telling yourself that the relationship was not right in the first place. This habit would probably affect your other relationships as well.
- Low self-esteem: When you have abandonment issues, you feel you are the real reason behind people leaving you. This results in your self-esteem going for a toss. You doubt every action you take or every decision you make. You feel your partner cannot possibly love you, leading you to withdraw from the relationship. You struggle to believe good things that your partner says about you and rebut them most times, which then distances them from you.
- Social anxiety: Lower self-esteem can end in social anxiety. Fear of rejection from other people can make you shy and nervous around crowds and hamper your social life.
- Repressing anger: Fear of abandonment can make you suppress your anger and frustrations over small things that can accumulate over time. You feel if you let your dissatisfaction known to your partner, he or she will leave you. This leads to the buildup of resentment over the years making your relationship toxic.
- Excessive controlling: Most of the abandonment issues stem from previous relationships where there was a probable lack of control. Hence you end up trying to control every aspect of your relationship so that it does not go south. However, this can diminish your partner’s self-worth and bring problems in your relationship.
- Self-judgment: setting unrealistic expectations, perfectionism.
- Extreme reactions: reacting too much or not at all to difficult situations.
- Borderline personality disease: Borderline personality disease or BPD presents itself as the last stage of unresolved abandonment issues. People with severe abandonment issues over the time develop extremely low self-esteem, become defensive to criticism and sensitive to negative emotions
And my WORST symptom of all:
- A tendency to choose unavailable partners: You always tend to choose partners who are emotionally unavailable or incompatible with you. This tendency arises from your need to avoid emotional intimacy. You can justify not investing sufficiently in the relationship if your partner is unavailable.
A marriage separation, a host of unavailable toxic relationships, 2 years of on/off therapy, 10 pounds and 400 glasses of wine later; I’m finally taking accountability and action towards recovery.
My recovery includes:
- Acknowledging my feelings: The first step towards solving any problem is an acknowledgment of the problem. Acknowledge that you have negative feelings in you. Try to categorize how you are feeling; are you feeling low, insecure, jealous of your friends, etc. Reflect and meditate on what kind of thoughts these feelings bring in your mind.
- Letting my partner in: Once you have determined your feelings, talk to your partner about them. If trusting your partner with the more significant issues is a hurdle at first, start with the smaller ones. Eventually, open up about the more complex ones like what makes you insecure and how you would like your partner to phrase their criticisms. Keep doing what you can and make your spouse your confidant. You will be surprised how helpful it can prove to be!
- Creating an action plan: Make a step-by-step action plan and checklists. Assign yourself at least one task out of your comfort zone and mark it off the list once done. This will boost the sense of achievement in you, and you will be less likely to fall off the wagon. Besides, it will do wonders for your self-esteem on a task fulfilled.
- Finding an outlet for my anxiety and frustrations: Abandonment issues bring a lot of frustration, jealousy, or insecurity as discussed earlier. The best way to counter these negative emotions would be to do something productive. Pick up a new hobby or a sport or a group activity like soccer, badminton, Zumba, or arts and crafts classes. That way the people with you can become your support group, which reduces your depression and loneliness.
- Maintaining a journal: Journaling is an effective method of dealing with frustrations. Chronicling your thoughts and feelings will not only help you in categorizing them but also act as an outlet for the negative energy to flow out. Writing down positive things and small victories will help in reinforcing your self-worth. Your journal can become the shoulder to cry on when you need to vent.
- Rekindling old friendships and forming new ones: When you have abandonment issues, you feel nobody would want to be friends with you, and even if they do, they will leave you. Making new friends and going on dates with your partner will make your fears look baseless, thus reducing the fear of abandonment.
- Consider therapy or counseling: If you are unable to make any progress using the above tips, it’s okay to seek help. There are trained psychologists and counselors who will try different therapies to help you let go of your fears. You can also try attending counseling so they can help you out when you get overwhelmed. The sooner you seek help, the better your treatment will be!
I love my parents.
Yeah they were emotionally unavailable at crucial times in my life.
Yeah, they could have done much better.
They are human.
They made mistakes.
They are still here.
They are still alive.
I still have chances to get to know them as people.
And hear them out.
To understand the choices they made.
We all can benefit from that.
One day soon, I will read this post to them and interview them about their thoughts about it.
That should be interesting.
Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes. -Victor Hugo