This is what my grief counselor would say when we would come up against something deep-rooted that I clearly struggle with. During my dark time I saw him weekly for two months. I have said before that the right counselor can change your whole life. Together we did a lot of unpacking. I stopped seeing him when we had come to a good place and everything surrounding my acute depression had been worked through. The plan of action at that point was to unpack some of my bigger, older boxes. The ones in the back of your mind that you have tucked away and do not open. I wasn’t ready. Maybe one day.
I had an epiphany about one of these boxes recently after reading an article that relates to it. I had/have abandonment issues. Honestly I don’t know where I stand with it now. I know my fear of being left and being devastated has surfaced in my current relationship because I used to have repetitive dreams about it. I would dream that I did something awful and Todd left me and I could not fix it (similar to my most recent break up before him except in that relationship I did the leaving). I would dream that Todd became ill or was in a terrible accident and left my life that way. There were multiple themes that all lead up to the same thing, me waking up in a panic in his arms saying “you left me again”.
There is a song by City and Colour, a band I relate to so well because the singer struggles with anxiety, called Fragile Bird. This song, like many of his songs, is one I easily relate to. Or I did at least. My nightmares stopped when we became engaged. It’s like my subconscious finally relented.
When discussing my issues with abandonment my counselor and I determined with a degree of certainty they do not come from my childhood or family. I have no sad story to tell about an absent parent etc, I am fortunate to come from a close-knit family that has always been a shining example of love. We didn’t delve much deeper into it as other things would come up.
It all kind of hit me not long ago. My abandonment issues surface exclusively in my relationships with men, boyfriends to be more specific.
My first exposure to a strong emotional bond with a boy came at age 14, just a few months before my car accident. After the accident I clung to that relationship with ferocity. I looked damaged for a while due to all the stitches in my face and the laser surgery treatments that followed. When I returned to school some people were cruel or just curious, either way I felt singled out for the wrong reasons at times. My boyfriend made me feel better about all of it. My emotional state was stable because of him, I was completely dependent. That first dose of “love” is strong anyway, especially when you are younger and maturity hasn’t caught up with you, add a life altering event and forget about it.
He is the only boy who has ever left me. I was devastated. We had been together for 3 years, that is a huge chunk of life at that age. When he left it was to be with one of my best friends, even more devastating. Although a lot was said at the end the words that were burned into my brain were him saying, “the only reason I stayed as long as I did is because if I had broken up with you right after the accident like I wanted to everyone at school would have thought I was an asshole.” Well he was probably right. So he stuck it out and faked it with me for 3 years, a much better alternative. Then there were my friend’s kind words, “it’s not my fault he likes me better than you.” I am sure she was right, she too was just a blameless victim.
The thing is, that was a very long time ago and I did not date for a while after that. When I sat down and really thought this all through after reading this article I just could not believe that something that happened when I was 14-17 could impact every relationship after in the way that it did. I am seeing this to be true though.
In every other relationship I have had I have always been the one leaving rather than the one being left. I never once thought about how hurtful my actions on the way out the door may have been to the other person. My problem (on top of this hang up that I was unaware I had) is that I avoid conflict and I am a feeler. If I am being forced to deal with the conflict of a break up along with my extreme fear of being left alone and then you throw the negative feeling of a broken heart on top of that, I am consumed. The emotions that come along with such changes, as moving on from a relationship, are so intense for me that rational thought escapes me. I am become a tornado of emotions.
Looking back I wish I had understood this side of myself sooner. The relationships that ended needed to end and I was always better on the other side. I did better with my most recent break up before I started dating Todd. I was in counseling at the time and my then boyfriend and I were such good friends that we navigated it slightly better than I have in the past. I am glad I ended up where I am at. I am glad I left everything else I just wish I had done it sooner in most cases and with more grace. If you know there is a personality conflict that cannot be changed and will not work, why stay? If you know you are being lied to on the daily, why stay? If you know you do not love the person and see a future with them, why stay?
The funny thing is, I do single really well. Some of the best times I had in my teens and twenties was just me, no guy. I liked the freedom, a lot. What was I so afraid of? With Todd my fear has never truly been that we wouldn’t work out. We have never had issues that would give me such a fear. I think it’s just that once you find something that really works and that you can love with your whole heart there is a piece of you that is afraid that it will be taken away.
I do feel that this fear is finally dying. It won’t be mourned and certainly will not be missed.