Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Saturday, September 11, 2010


When you’re wrapped up in a lifelong depressive dysfunctional mess, it’s very hard to focus on any particular problem. There’s so much swirling crazy noise that you can’t hear yourself think.

As you work through grief and start to heal, some of the noise subsides, and you can hear other parts of it more clearly.

Lately, I've found that the noise of inadequacy and inferiority has settled to a low hum, allowing me to hear less pressing issues more clearly. And the one that’s shouting the loudest is abandonment.

I’ve been reluctant to call anything in my life experience “abandonment” until now – that good old feeling of inferiority tells me that my problems are not bad enough to warrant attention – but the fact is that my reactions scream “abandonment issues”, so regardless of whether I deserve them, I've got them.

I don’t know exactly what in my past has caused me to freak out when I think someone is physically or emotionally deserting me. There are some strong candidates: my mother going back to work when I was 4; mother’s decision to leave the marriage when I was 13; my father’s crazy-cakes behaviour with his first post-marriage girlfriend the same year; my whole family’s tendency to emotionally ‘check out’ and withdraw love during conflict. I suspect it’s all of these things together.

The only time I remember having an abandonment-specific reaction is during my father’s tumultuous relationship, when he did literally abandon my brother and I by disappearing to go and see the girlfriend in the middle of the night, and ultimately by handing custody of us over to my mother because he couldn’t cope with both the girlfriend and us. That abandonment stung, and I still get upset thinking of one night when I had the ‘flu and woke up vomiting and alone because my father had gone off again. However, although that had a powerful effect on me, the way I react to perceived abandonment now bears more resemblance to how I react to my mother’s withdrawal tactics during arguments.

The way I want to react to perceived abandonment is pretty flaily and crazy-making. If I feel like someone has pulled away from me, or is shutting me out, or has gone non-responsive, I feel panicky. I want to get their attention and reassurance as fast as possible. I want to talk to them, message them, email them, hound them to get reassurance that they’re not abandoning me. If it goes on too long I start to get angry… I want to provoke them, annoy them, get them to argue with me: anything to get them to notice me. If it becomes too emotionally charged I start to want to do dramatic things. I have never self-harmed but I’ve fantasized about it, or wished I could be severely injured or sick so that people would “be sorry”. These thoughts were rife in my teenage years (I think that’s not uncommon) but I still occasionally find them cropping up when I feel abandoned.

As you can see, the whole thing is a pretty crazy reaction that can lead to a sharp downwards spiral.

I’ve become very conscious and critical of these abandonment reactions lately. I don’t want to be someone who drives friends and loved ones crazy with constant pestering for reassurance. I know I’ve pestered people in the past. I also know that some people (probably unconsciously) have used my need for reassurance to deliberately keep me off-balance or to ‘punish’ me. Both of those are good reasons to get the reactions sorted out.

I can control the reaction – several times lately I’ve had to sit on my hands and not flail to deal with a person’s apparent (or in a couple of cases, actual) withdrawal. I’m proud that I haven’t gone off the deep end on any of these occasions, and have only outwardly reacted by mentioning one or two of these events on this blog. But inside – there’s a weepy, flaily abandonment-fearing crazyperson wanting to get out. There have been tears when no one is looking, and a lot of hand-sitting and attempts at self-soothing to stop myself from going nuts.

That’s what I’d like to try to do next – get those internal reactions under control. To feel okay about people pulling away, and accept the comings and goings (whether actual or imagined) calmly without feeling like my world will fall apart if I can’t get a person to acknowledge me right away. I’m not quite sure where to start, but it’s something I’ll be doing a lot of thinking about over the next few weeks.


I have a lot of the same issues. I applaud you for getting a handle of them.

While neither of us had a terrible upbringing neither of our upbringings were that great. I was actually told by most people that nothing terrible had ever happened to me. Then I got married and my husband started having to deal with having with childhood abuse issues. We're currently in couple's therapy learning how to deal with these issues and what it brings to the marriage.

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