When You Don't Remember a Time You Didn't Fear Abandonment
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I have been walking on eggshells as far back as my memory goes. So much so that if they aren’t there, it draws me outside my comfort zone to the point that I believe I subconsciously create them, not only in regards to others but for me as well.
Silence your words, mind your actions and be engrossed with the fear of failure. One that is so great, it inhibits your ability to start things from simple projects to relationships, which brings me to my point; a close friend of mine suggested instead of editing my blogs the 50 times I do, to write about what scares me, and just go off the cuff and hit publish without as much as a second glance. Sounds easy, it comes naturally to her. But for me the fear of failure, the fear of a poor reaction or offending someone is so intense that what she writes in 20 minutes may take me a week. I take the phrase “your own worst critic” to a whole new level. So, as much as it is against every grain of my being, I am open to trying most things once.
Most people are afraid of death or disease; fire, heights or perhaps something even more tangible like spiders or snakes. I will admit I am terrified of fire, and not fond of heights, however neither of those fears compare with the one terror that consumes me: abandonment. Simply put, seared in my mind is the fact that has proven true time and time again; attachment leads to abandonment which gives rise to feelings so intense, just writing this is causing anxiety. I understand no one likes to be left, maybe due to the lack of control over the situation, or the fact that it makes you question both yourself and your sense of self-judgment. Perhaps it simply is because it hurts, but for me this pain and fear extends far beyond what the average person deals with. It is debilitating.
My birth mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. She was given six months after my birth to clean up and get me back, however her illness proved too much for her and the worker would tell me years later that she had showed up for visitation drunk or high one too many times. As an adoptee, I have questioned for years why she couldn’t try harder, why I just wasn’t enough and why she, in my eyes, abandoned me.
Decades later, I understand the depth of her mental illness and realize that she just did not have the coping techniques required, however, nothing fills the space that holds those thoughts and feelings of being relinquished. I mean, who doesn’t like babies?
I was bounced around in foster care until I was adopted at 18 months. Every therapist I have seen, and there have been a few, says my attachment issues are a result of not having the nurturing and comfort that babies require. Everyone will argue with me saying it is not possible or very rare to have memories at 18 months, but I specifically remember being dropped off by a worker to my adoptive home and out of sheer terror, went and stood in the corner by the stairs for what seemed like an eternity. My mom would tell me later it was almost 36 hours before I left that spot. I was scared… scared I would be given back again, or have to go to another home where I would experience multiple forms of abuse.
My father openly admits he hated children back then and only adopted me because my mom couldn’t have kids, and by him I was treated accordingly. Walking on eggshells was the norm and the situation became more precarious when the domestic violence started. My mom loved me, I do not doubt that, but for me the bond of blood simply does not register in my heart or soul. There was always the fear, the threat of being sent back to foster care, which enhanced the fear of attachment. The only thing I knew as very young child is that if you become attached to something, it will be taken away. It was not a matter of it might, it was in my heart a matter of when.
Throughout my childhood, this pattern of what I saw as abandonment was quite consistent. I suffered numerous losses before I was 12, including three deaths, another foster child coming to my home and being brought back to be claimed by the system. From then on, I started to build a wall, brick by brick I constructed it as high and strong as I could, and I tried my best to live safely behind it as often as possible. Try not to care too much; fight off any feelings of love and trust; and most importantly, do not allow yourself to be loved. Those were the mantras I tried desperately to live by as a kid, as a teen and for most of my adult life. If you don’t let anyone in, they certainly can’t leave and that leaves me in control of the situation thereby effectively avoiding being abandoned again.
My mom died when I was 19, after a six year battle with breast cancer that spread and ravaged her body while I sat beside her watching and doing all I could knowing it would never be enough and that no matter how desperately I wanted it to be me instead, fate did not choose that path for me. I had six years to prepare, but no amount of time can ready you for such an incalculable pain. For me, not only had I lost my mom, but the one person I had let in my wall; the one person who no matter what I did or said did not leave me until it was time for her last breathe. It will be 26 years since she passed, yet as I write this I wipe away the tears.
There are numerous scars on my heart and a voice in my mind that tells me daily it is not safe to venture outside the fortress I have built. That if I do, the past will continue to repeat itself, resulting in more people leaving and the consequent pain from the loss, which in my mind, to this day, is an abandonment of sorts. My brain turns it instantly into self-blame. Maybe it was something I said, or didn’t say; something I did or didn’t do; maybe I showed them too much of myself. Whatever the reason, the pain with each loss for me is amplified and relentless.
Living with very few attachments is safer for me, but at the same time shuts me down from new possibilities. Over the years, I have started a slow deconstruction, brick by brick and allowed a few more people in than I am comfortable with, but the intensity of the fear has not changed one little bit, and at any moment I have a construction crew at my disposal. There is no life without loss.
Can you relate? Let Jody know in the comments below.
Getty image via ElenaNichizhenova