By Mo Treat Yo Brain
As someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I have a lot of abandonment issues. One of my earliest memories involves three year old me crying into my dad’s chest about a nightmare I had in which my parents packed me up in a cardboard box and left me on the side of a road–like I was nothing more than useless junk to get rid of. That feeling of being unimportant to anyone stuck around as I tried my best to cultivate a personality that would gain acceptance and love from those around me. Every time I lost a friend, it only magnified these feelings of “I’ll never be good enough” or “Everyone leaves me in the end.”
As I’ve grown older and learned of my diagnosis, I began identifying these toxic thoughts of mine throughout different instances of my life. During my recovery journey, I have learned to deal with these sorts of fears in a more healthy and effective way. I’m not perfect, and every now and then I fear that my boyfriend will leave me one day for someone “better” than me, but the skills I’ve developed in order to combat these feelings have definitely lessened the load that BPD insists I bear.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to use a fictional (but all too common) scenario that you may find yourself in and how these techniques would come into play.
You are texting someone you care about and it’s been going great! But what’s this?? It’s been about ten minutes since your last text. And you had already double-texted. Oh no. What happened? Did you do something wrong? Did you say something offensive? Have they lost interest? Are they ghosting you and will never ever respond to you ever again? What should you do???
- DO NOT JUMP THE GUN AND ASSUME THEY’RE IGNORING YOU. The first skill involves not giving in to your impulses and assumptions. Take a breath. Give it some time, and distract yourself. Watch some TV. Read a book. Clean your room. Do something that will take your mind off the person in question.
Alright, alright, so you finished an episode of your favorite TV show and just remembered your entire dilemma with so-and-so not responding to your text! Your senses are starting to heighten, your heart’s palpitating, and your brain’s screaming “PANIC PANIC PANIC.”
Chill, my man. You can always repeat technique numero uno until they respond back or you can do technique number 2.
- Get a sheet of paper and write out the list of things the person you’re speaking to can realistically be doing at this moment. Maybe they’re at work? Maybe they’re speaking to a relative? Maybe something important has come up that you aren’t aware about? Doing this gave me loads of comfort when my boyfriend took a while to respond to me in the past. We were in a long-distance relationship at the time, and I always seemed to forget that we had a five hour time difference. Sometimes, he was just asleep. Maybe the person you’re talking to just happened to take a nap and forgot to let you know!
So I see you’ve done techniques 1 and 2 and you still aren’t at ease. It’s okay. It’s totally normal (for us BPD folk) to be anxious in this way. Our emotions are hard to calm down and it feels like our brains have a mind of its own. Here’s my last technique to offer you. Brace yourself because it’s not an easy one.
- Accept the fact that maybe your worst fears are true. Maybe you did say something to offend them. Reread the conversation again and decide whether that was the case and apologize accordingly if so. Maybe they did lose interest in the conversation. So what? That’s right. I said it. SO WHAT. Maybe they are ghosting you and will never respond to you again. So. what. You can’t allow your fear of abandonment to run your life and take over your thoughts. Dismiss the worst-case scenario with “so what.” There are people out there that will stay by your side and those are the people that matter anyway.
I hope this article helps! A fear of abandonment is not an easy one to deal with, but it is possible to manage with time and practice. Good luck.
Mo was a mental health advocate. She had her own blog Treatyobrain.com.