I don’t remember large chunks of my childhood. My sister used to rib me for this. ‘How can you not remember what happened that year?’ She’d ask in complete astonishment. No I don’t forget small things like what colour teddy I used to cuddle when I felt lonely. Or those pens my Grandad would use to fill out his betting slips on an afternoon out. I don’t forget details such as the pattern of the tablecloth my Aunty Debbie would serve up chicken dippers and potato waffles on or the smell of the blanket I used to drag everywhere with me like a trusted friend. I tend to forget big things. Big things like the periods of time that my parents weren’t there.
Don’t panic! Luckily, they never left me down a Tesco aisle for too long or ditched me on the roadside after a particularly stressful road trip. Neither of them walked out or intentionally neglected me. However, there certainly were times, in my formative years, where attachments were trying to be made but were unfortunately being broken. Because of this, I fear abandonment.
It’s only as I’ve gotten older and I’ve become more reflective that I’ve been able to understand when and why the fear of being abandoned takes over. I can feel it manifest in many ways.
Don’t leave me because I’ve been an absolute bitch to you. I know I push. I have an acidic tongue. I’m testing you. I’m testing your patience. I’m testing your loyalty. I’m testing to see if you will leave me.
Don’t leave me because I don’t care. I feign disinterest as a way of putting a front up. I’ll make you feel like you’re not important to me. That I don’t need you. But that’s only because I fear you’ll leave me.
Don’t leave me when I need space. I need space from my own head. I need space from my thoughts. I need space from stress. I need space from life. If you give me space from you, it’ll feel like you’re leaving me.
Don’t leave me because I’ve pissed you off. I may have forgotten to do the washing up. Or I may have told you what I really think of your friends, but don’t leave me for a moment because even though it’s not a big deal, it’ll feel like you’re never coming back.
The problem with abandonment issues is that you can’t regulate what is normal distance and ‘never going to see that person ever again’ distance.
The fear of abandonment is felt in the closest of relationships. The funny thing about relationships is that when you’re close to someone, you mould together. You entwine your lives. You operate as one. So whenever space is needed for whatever reason, you feel it. Perhaps if you aren’t hyper sensitive to abandonment you take it in your stride. You accept that space is needed and you use the opportunity to inhale more deeply. But for me, for me it’s overwhelming. Hyper sensitive is the key phrase here. In fact, I’d say you become hyper vigilant. Your senses are so tuned into feeling that someone is distancing from you, that you can sense it the millisecond it begins to happen. The same feelings of looming devastation and gut wrenching loss are immediately there, whether the other person is just taking a breather or whether they are actually leaving.
This makes any relationship tricky. It used to make me needy. A full on Stage 5 clinger. If my first boyfriend wanted to spend the day at the football, I’d wonder what I did wrong. If my next boyfriend had to work overtime, I’d wonder why he’d rather do that, than spend time with me. If I opened up about my past to anyone and then sensed a slight change in their behaviour towards me, I’d immediately assume they were gearing up to walk away.
But not any more. Now I speak it out loud. Now I don’t let me fear control my relationships. Instead, I will tell people straight…
I am scared of people leaving me.
Because I can do that, because I am aware of it, I can regulate myself better. Not perfectly, but better. I can sense when I’m pushing someone away and instead of turning into myself, I turn to them and tell them what is happening. I can sense when I feel that someone is distancing and if they’re not someone important to me, I can just cut the tie instead of wondering and anticipating it happening. I can sense when I’m feeling needy and I can remind myself that, more than likely, I’m being irrational and that actually everything is fine.
The fear of abandonment will always be there. But with a strong network of support round me, ways to regulate my thoughts and the knowledge that I’m bleeding incredible and no one in their right mind would want to leave me, the fear will continue to subside.