It’s crazy to think, that even in my mid to late thirties, I still struggle with abandonment issues. Normally that’s something you relate to kids and even pets. But rarely if ever a fully grown adult. The sad truth is that not only do I struggle with abandonment issues, but I’m also often on the losing end. And it sucks.
My abandonment issues don’t come from the loss of a parent or caretaker. At least not in the traditional, my parents died and I’m an orphan sense. It’s more the willful neglect of a mother who didn’t want me and the world that seemed to forget me.
For as long as I can remember I felt like I was an unwelcomed accident. It became crystal clear on my 11th or 12th birthday when my mother drunkenly shared her recount of my conception and birth. Thankfully I don’t remember much of the details aside from Cliff’s Notes version.
- Your father isn’t your father
- Your real father doesn’t want you
- You have 2 other brothers you’ll never know
- I tried to get money for an abortion
- I wanted to leave you at the firehouse
- You ruined my life
- I hate you
Happy Birthday to me.
The best thing that came of that day was learning the man I knew as my father and I didn’t share DNA. This was the person who beat me almost regularly like I was a grown man. Closed fist, steel-toe boots, and no remorse. The man who put cigarettes out on my arm for kicks and the man who scrubbed my hands with steel bristles when I had dirt under my nails. The man who was smart enough to not leave marks where people could see, and to keep me home when he did.
Hearing those words, “He’s not your dad“, was the most joyous noise in my history as I finally felt like I had some sense of power or control. He and my mother had already split up at that point and he wasn’t living in the house anymore, but that didn’t stop me from feeling relief.
It wasn’t just relief I was feeling, though. There was so much more and it all led to pain. All of that hurt and betrayal and blame landed on me like an anvil. Why would she let him do those things to me knowing he wasn’t my father? Why did she blame me for everything? What did I do that was so bad I deserved the things she was saying to me?
By that point in my life, I knew how to hide my emotions. I had to or else things would have been much worse. When I cried I was beaten. When I smiled too much I was beaten. When I made eye contact I was beaten. I knew better than to confront her with any of my feelings or questions so I just sat there as she broke me down into what felt like absolute nothingness. After an hour or so she finally left my room and we never talked about it again.
I think that was the first time I felt abandoned. By my mother, by my real father, by the world. That feeling has stuck with me into adulthood and it’s a hard one to shake.
There are things in my life now that I can only attribute to those abandonment issues.
Like not being able to go anywhere by myself without having a panic attack.
Like holding on to bad relationships because I’m terrified of not feeling wanted.
Like not wanting to meet anyone new because if I lose them I may break all over again.
Like apologizing for every single thing that isn’t perfect because I’m so scared of people being disappointed with me.
It’s near impossible to explain those feelings to someone who hasn’t felt what I’ve felt or lived what I’ve lived. It’s even harder to push through life pretending things are okay when they’re not. I don’t like to pretend and I don’t want to. I don’t want to have to. I want it to all go away and be normal.
But I don’t know how to do that.
Not yet at least.
For now, I’ll have to settle on sharing my stories and how I got to be what and who I am today.
Who knows, maybe that’s the beginning of my healing story.