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PTSD, Trauma, & Themes - Abandonment

Friday

Moderator
The longer intro here, below

I’ve got themes of several different kinds on my mind a lot, recently. So I thought I might create a couple few threads to kick around some of those topics with others. None of these are things that can cause PTSD, but they’re often part of the complicated as hell side of trauma itself, or the fallout from trauma (like trust issues, abandonment issues, helplessness, etc.).

We see them come up, time and time again, as we read through threads round these parts. I’m sure most of us could bust out a list of half a dozen or more without blinking an eye, just from our own lived experience, and twice that from kicking it here with PTSD peeps.

(On that note? Please feel free to start a new thread : PTSD, Trauma, & Themes - ABCXYZ123, to get the conversation going, if there’s something you’re interested in. No need to wait for me to get there!)

As this is less about asking for help with my own stuff, or keeping the focus on the OP’s unique situation? And more wanting to start a fireside discussion with diverse experience? I’ll come back and post my own thoughts/challenges/work-arounds/vexations/experience/decisions/etc. in a bit.

My own abandonment issues tend to be the reverse/opposite of what I mostly read on here… so I don’t really know any Q’s to get the conversation started. With my own, I know we’re in core belief territory, so it’s …probably… something I’ll just need to be living with and countering on the long term? Again, so I don’t know if that’s normal for the other side of abandonment (fear of being abandoned), or if it falls under other headings. Still. I’ll write more about mine, in a bit, if you’d like to write some on yours. Maybe we can be of use to each other.
 
Heh. We all know what I'm gonna say, here. 🤪 I have the "opposite" of an abandonment issue as well. You can't be abandoned by people you never formed primary attachments to! *Finger guns.* I learned in infancy that the only person I can truly rely on and truly trust is myself - and even that is often variable. I don't form trust bonds to other people && I do not know what "trust" as an emotion even feels like.

So I never have the fear that people will leave me or betray me. It's something that is always a possibility in my mind. This isn't to say that I'm even particularly jaded - for the most part I am an optimist, and I believe that people on the whole do the best they can with what resources they have. And that external factors play a huge role in people's harmful behavior - but I have thick insulation all the same.

I'm very rarely shocked by anything as a result. When friends come and go I tuck them away in my heart and move on, easily - almost like a parasocial relationship where I still tend to our relationship in my mind even in their absence, considering us still close despite years without speaking (absent any actual conflict). I don't miss people when they're gone, but hold them fondly (if it applies).
 
I shall probably ramble a bit, because abandonment, trust and attachment are sort of subjects I don’t really ‘get’.

I think I very rarely get attached enough to fear abandonment, and the people I do have in my life I think are pretty damn special, and so if something were to happen in order for our relationship to change, I would have to be a complete arsehole, which means I would have throughly earnt my ‘abandonment’.

It’s just not something I fear, I don’t rely on other people to the extent my life would fall apart without them? Sure I absolutely prefer them in my life, but I just totally don’t get the fear of being abandoned?
 
I have to repeat to myself fairly often…

‘You can only abandon kids & pets. Everyone else can take care of themselves.’ (They may not want to, but they can.).

Because in my head/heart? Anyone I leave behind, is someone I’m leaving to die. Because I’ve done that. More times than I care to think about.

… Technically I’ve also been left for dead, a couple times, and didn’t die? (That falls under my betrayal architecture, rather than abandonment, as -the first time- we were NOT cut off, they just decided to cut their losses and left us. So it took a few months on foot, but we made our own way out of country. And the other time isn’t relevant at the moment.) But Everyone I’ve left for dead? Has died. It’s made transition into “normal” life, a bit challenging…

Because in normal life? Not having eyes-on a person is part of daily life. It’s normal. Nothing bad is even expected, much less does, happen. 99.999% of the time. You don’t have to get okay with the idea that someone going to school/work that morning? Has a 50/50 chance of not returning that night. And you won’t know what happened. Because? There’s no war, on. And they’re not actively participating in it. Their greatest risk is a traffic accident, or being pick pocketed, or tripping over their own feet. Not people actively trying to kill them. Or the wildlife being better armed than we are. Instead? It’s a one in a zillion chance, rather than even, or better than even, odds. Normal-Normal-Normal… (…is so f*cking subjective.).

I fell ill a few months ago (Faaaaawked up my back, still not sure how, or how to fix it. The original DX of post-Covid chest & back spasms? Not correct. The chest spasms went away. The back spasms have gotten worse. To the point of dislocating ribs off my spine, bad. And 15 minutes worth of work taking 10 hours. It’s incredibly annoying. Appointments for new patients are running 6 months out with specialists, and my insurance won’t authorize payment for more than one specialist at a time. So it’s been 13mo at this point, and 7 since I’ve been off work, and I’ve only seen 1 specialist so far (on the upside? The MRI of my spine is beautiful. The downside? Obvious. FFS. We just need to FIX this. Whatever the hell it is.), & the next not until the autumn.

KidFriday? (20, now, for those of you here with me when he was 12!) Is convinced I’m dying. I. Am. Not. But he’s pulled a “me” and has stopped the world (quitting school/work/play) to damn near sit shiva at home with me. >.< It’s driving me crazy. I’m not dead! Quit trying to stick me in the ground, already! (There’s a Monty Python sketch I’ve taken to keeping queued up.)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the impulse.

He’s afraid of not being here when I die, or his not being here being the reason that I DO die, that he’s abandoning me to my death.

He’s NOT. Or at least? He wouldn’t be, if he would just go live his life. But he won’t. Because he’s terrified of abandoning me.

I do NOT understand how I’ve managed to infect my kid with this. (Or if it’s a byproduct of something else, entirely). All the things you TRY and teach, as a parent, and kids reject outright; meanwhile the stuff you try not to f*ck up your own life with, they jump on fullsail? WTFO?!?

So, Cha.

I know it’s far more common in PTSD-Land to have a fear of BEING abandoned, rather than a fear/belief of abandoning others. But the second is what I deal with. And? I seem to have somehow conferred, to my great regret.
 
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I learned in infancy that the only person I can truly rely on and truly trust is myself
I was listening to a podcast today which was an interview with celebrity Matthew McConaughey. He said that when he was in his 20s and just starting his Hollywood career his dad died, and that was the first time he realized he was actually alone in the world. Before that he felt like if there was any problem he could rely on his dad. And he said it was kind sad but also kind of liberating to feel strong enough.

And it made me realize that everyone figures out that they can only depend on themselves but that in an “ideal” development that happens when a person is an adult and has experienced unconditional support and validation from at least one caregiver. Maybe when it happens before a certain age that’s called trauma.

I actually thought of you, and me, and others on here, when I heard him say that.
to have a fear of BEING abandoned, rather than a fear/belief of abandoning others. But the second is what I deal with
I hope this doesn’t come across as patronizing but this is is quite endearing! It seems outside of PTSD land to me so I’m curious who else deals with it. I’m especially curious about people with complex or developmental PTSD who might have it.

I did know someone who had something similar to you, but it was kind of like a blend of both—she was terrified to be separated from her kids or partner because either she or they might have something happen that would prevent them from being together again. So fear of abandoning and being abandoned at the same time.
 
This is not a subject I've ever really explored. I'm not sure I *fear* abandonment; I simply expect it. And that's more related to loss. Like, in 2008, 12 (very) close friends and family members died. Add the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2009, and that makes 14. Two were suicides, one an accident that killed the whole family (and my best friend), but the rest were natural or due to illness. Still, I definitely felt abandoned.

I think maybe I worry sometimes that this therapist will just up and leave--and I've had that concern for a long time--and I think that when my mom dies, the family that I am in touch with won't be anymore. But I think if I "feared" it, there would be an expectation that it wouldn't happen, and I don't have that.
 
I just assume people will abandon me. So I'm always prepared for it, then it's not a surprise. Even people like hubby and bestie, who have been around for ever.
But at the same time, I'll ghost in a heartbeat even if I really don't want to, so I guess the fear of abandoning others is a bigger deal? Or maybe they are symbiotic.

Are they really bailing on me or am I bailing on them?
Good grief it's a head hurter!
 
I’m curious (lol, me - curious! Red letter day 🤣) about what exactly people mean when they fear abandonment by their therapist?

For me, like we’re all adults here, if my therapist doesn’t want to work with me anymore/feel they can’t help/I spectacularly f up - that’s totally fine, the loss of the person / relationship doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
It would however, be an almighty pain in the butt trying to find someone as convenient & competent, as good knowledgeable therapists are hard to come by. But again, I’d whinge a bit and have a hunt around.

So is the fear the loss of the person/relationship/space or like me, the fact that replacing them would be a bit of a nuisance?
 
@No More I’m sure there are many reasons but for clients who have transference (especially the positive kind) the relationship becomes something akin to life support or breathing clean air. Which I know sounds terrifying/annoying/distasteful for people who are avoidant or don’t work with transference, but it’s a temporary phenomenon that helps rewire the brain to attach and trust humans again, so worth the discomfort when it pays off in improved relation to self and others. Losing that prematurely before the work is done can feel like losing the self and a caregiver/partner at the same time—uncomfortable/painful/scary!
 
@OliveJewel i see, thank you for taking the time to explain to me 😊

The concept of that level of relationship is totally foreign to me. So I can see how that would feel like being abandoned. I tend to work on the basis that I have assessed my therapist as competent and knowledgeable, and can cope with my stuff. Therefore, I pay them for their time and skills, and in return, they help me unravel my brain. Perhaps in order to be abandoned, you have to be considerably more emotionally invested into relationships than I seem capable of?

Maybe I need to reassess my thoughts that adults cannot be abandoned?
 
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