I have to start with a disclaimer and say that if you’ve landed here looking for a magic bullet answer on how to overcome and conquer feelings of rejection, abandonment and uselessness, you may or may not find it here. But I’ll be outlining my own experiences with rejection and abandonment and how I’ve “tried” to cope with it over the years or at least from when I realised those were the issues I’ve had most of my life. And that realisation only came a few years ago during counselling. I still suffer with them on and off and there are good days and bad. As usual with these semi regular, existential posts of mine, I’m not looking for a medal or sympathy, my hope is that some of it may strike a chord with someone or help them in some way. And of course it also helps me heal to write down my thoughts..
Types of Abandonment & Rejection
Rejection doesn’t just happen when you don’t get passed the interview stage for a job you really wanted, when someone loses contact with you or when you get dumped from a relationship. You can feel the associated feelings with everything from the above to the loss of a friendship, lack of family, bereavement, lack of support, parents divorce, a sibling moving away, physical and emotional neglect, loneliness etc..
The official definition of “Abandonment Issues” is this:
“Abandonment issues arise when an individual has a strong fear of losing loved ones. A fear of abandonment is a form of anxiety. It often begins in childhood when a child experiences a traumatic loss. Children who go through this experience may then begin to fear losing other important people in their lives.” – MedicalNewsToday.com
I believe that most people’s greatest fear is the fear of abandonment, the fear of being rejected, of not being enough or the fear of being alone. It’s certainly mine..
Unfortunately, I’ve suffered most of the above throughout my life and as usual it started in childhood. Sometimes I feel as though the law of averages has pardoned me for some special reason because luck has conspired against me so many times. For example, how many people in their mid 40’s have no Mother, no Father, no brothers, no Sisters, no Nephews, no Nieces, very little extended family and a tiny, almost non-existent circle of close friends!? Not to sound too fatalistic or paranoid but that’s damn unlucky I think!? My first real abandonment was a missing Father. He didn’t leave, he was just never there to begin with and I’m not even 100% sure he knew about me so I can hardly blame him but the feeling of abandonment stays sadly. Everyone’s supposed to have a father right? They are the ones who were meant to toughen you up and give you direction and ambition and I badly lacked that growing up.
Then there was a peculiar sort of abandonment where the people that raised me, My Mother, Granny & Grandad, failed to provide me with the stable, happy environment child carers are supposed to provide children in their care. They didn’t do anything wrong intentionally, they just weren’t equipped with the best tools and knowledge to do the best job and they weren’t well themselves so there’s no hard feelings there on my part but again, sadly, their emotional neglect and abandonment caused me massive problems in childhood and adulthood. I’ve been through this many times in counselling and I no longer blame them or use it as an excuse but I can’t help feeling I wouldn’t have half the problems I’ve had if the environment I’d been born into was a bit more positive and stable..
My school years were some of the worst of my life when they were supposed to be the best. I often “boast” that I went through about 16 years of education without making a single, lasting friend. No one ever believes me but I managed it. I’m almost proud because that’s damn hard to do! I was a very shy kid and it was mostly my own fault for not getting involved more but I just didn’t have the skills or confidence. The abandonment here comes from the teachers and other students not realising the extent of my shyness and just leaving me standing there on my own day after day, year after year. Schools nowadays have policies to support and include shy kids thankfully.
When I was 17 I suffered my first death, my Grandfather. He was old and sick so death is natural in that case but he was the closest thing I had to a father figure so I took it fairly badly. To this date it’s the worst I’ve taken a death. Next to go was my mother to a long, slow painful death of soul first then body after a long mental illness. Abandonment here happened before she actually died physically. I wasn’t ready to have my only parent require parenting and care from me and I was so out of my depth it hurt. My Granny, the last of the close family that raised me died next and even though I didn’t rely on her for anything, I remember feeling a strong sense of abandonment with the loss of my final family member. I felt very alone then..
More Recent Times
Most of my recent rejections have been romantic or work related. Again, I think I may have broken records for the amount of relationship dumpings Vs time, 3 in a row in 1.5 years very recently! For me, there’s probably no worse abandonment than a bad relationship breakup, they can be a lot like deaths, in fact I think I’ve probably dealt better with deaths. For someone who doesn’t do well with rejections and has suffered serious depression in the past, having close friendship withdrawn, being dropped for very little reason and with no notice, kindness or closure by people who you had a deep connection and understanding with and who were the custodians of your heart is reckless and dangerous on their part and on each occasion, it’s taken me an inordinate amount of time to get over the loss. I have also abandoned people though and have accepted the punishment, guilt and “time in jail” for it. To be honest I’d rather be rejected than reject someone else. It’s damn hard hurting people. I’ll leave that to the experts in future..
On the work front, I’ve been self employed for nearly 20 years now, mostly successfully but a few times in recent years, work has been very slow and I found myself struggling to keep a roof over mine and my kids heads. On each occasion I sent out tons of CVs and rarely did I even get an acknowledgement never mind an interview or job offer and that’s very upsetting as I’m quite capable and very good at most things I do and expert in many fields..
How I deal
I’m not sure I do deal very well still. I regularly have massive self doubts. This blog was prompted by a rough few days this week filled with self-doubt, past dwelling and general existentialist angst which resulted in tears a few times, but… The best advice I can probably give is, whenever you’re feeling useless, rejected or abandoned, look for the positives and what you actually do have and focus heavily on them. For me the positives were my kids, my ex wife, the few friends and family I did have and random Facebook friends I’d never met! I am also very lucky at the minute to be in a lovely, stable relationship with a beautiful person who has proper empathy, patience and understanding. Look hard for people like that and don’t let them go when you find them. If you dont have someone like that, lean on whoever you can and just get through each day at a time. Seek out counselling, read books, distract yourself and just let time pass. Things always get better and always change, especially if you really want them to..
I’ve published this blog on the 2 year anniversary of me leaving St Columbas mental hospital in Sligo after my second visit there in as many years. There were 2 years in between each visit so I’m now due another! Hopefully I can stay ahead of the game. I think my recovery after each crisis is getting shorter and better each time so fingers crossed. Also, I’m still alive and a functioning adult, father and partner and that’s saying a lot..
Thanks for listening and please get in touch if you want to talk about anything..