Abandonment Issues

In response to the upstart of this blog, a friend wrote to me about how all of her OCD issues ultimately stem from her abandonment issues. I can relate! As a child, my obsessive fears began with a fear of being left by my parents. My parents had their flaws, but they weren’t the sort one sees on the five o’clock news, having left their car full of kids in some isolated parking lot while they fled the scene. Nevertheless, my abandonment issues ran so deep that I structured my young life in such a way as to be surrounded by responsible adults as often as possible. Being left with a random friend’s parents or a baseball coach sent me over the edge. The fear went like this: My parents won’t come to pick me up from baseball practice; the coach will wait awhile and then tell me he has to leave but he’s sure I’ll be fine; I’ll wait until dark when I will begin wandering the streets, alone and in danger; the rest of my life will be a homeless, friendless existence. The end.  To a rational mind, this is absurd. Any number of people would help a stranded kid, and my parents weren’t likely to jump ship on me.

Today during a counseling session, I was sharing this fear with my counselor but I worded it differently. I told her that I had a “feeling of abandonment” moreso than a “fear” of it. This was an aha moment for me; there’s a big difference between a fear and a feeling of abandonment. My parents never abandoned me in the physical sense of the word, but there were countless emotional abandonments. I was one of five kids, and during my obsession-filled child, my parents were going through a very rough time in their personal lives and marriage. Even then admit that I got the brunt of their turmoil. To cope, I became a reader of people and a people pleaser. I would (and still do) read people as best I could in order to figure out how to get them to accept me and like me. Anxiously, I would (and still do) look for little clues as to how well I was doing in my efforts to be accepted…in my attempts to ensure that I wouldn’t be abandoned by this new friend.

I suppose this post is related as much to anxiety and childhood psychology as it is to OCD, but for me, as one with OCD, my feelings of abandonment have led to many, many obsessions that center around a quest to be accepted – truly accepted with no hope for rejection. I’ve found it in my marriage, yet ironically, I obsess about my marriage more than anything else these days. I still don’t sense it from my family of origin…while I may be wrong, it feels more like a “be like us or you’re out!” family.

So, friends, I’d like to hear from you…how has the idea of abandonment played a role in your mental health?

One thought on “Abandonment Issues

  1. Tim, I feel exactly what you are saying. My parents got divorced when I was 2, how could that possibly effect my life now. I don’t even remember. I visited my father on the weekends and that is how it always was. My father and I had a fantastic relationship, we did everything together. The first time I really addressed abandonment was at 12 years old when my father got remarried. His new wife was very controlling of him and jealous of mine and his relationship. She could of tried to integrate herself into the relationship in a healthy way but this was not the case. She wanted all or nothing, enough to be mentally and physically abusive to me. Constantly putting me down and telling me I wasn’t good enough. When the physical abuse happened my father did not defend me or protect me. He didn’t say a fucking word. That was the first time I really felt abandoned. He was taken to court by my Mother about the abuse. We did not speak for about 12 years after that. Looking back I could have reached out but so could he. It was a very confusing time for both of us, I regret not stepping up, but I was just a kid. Ever since my relentless desire for perfection overwhelmed me. The fact that the perfection was never achieved sewed the seeds of anxiety and depression. Always striving for the impossible, striving to be perfect all the time. This manifested later in my life as a serious mental illness. What did I do, nothing I wore the mask for almost 20 years. That is exhausting, personally this i think is the root of my issues. Thanks for listening.

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