Mental Health Blogs

Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness

When people realize they have a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the first feelings they have is fear. And there’s a lot to be afraid of. There’s the treatment, doctors, symptoms, side effects and then there’s the illness itself. It’s completely reasonable to scared in that situation.

And in that moment, or possibly in a moment shortly thereafter, the fear of abandonment becomes a reality. A very reasonable and realistic fear is that people will abandon you because of the mental illness.

Fear of Abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a real, human fear that happens to just about everybody. If you think about your current partner, right now, leaving you, you’ll feel a fear that is deep-seeded and almost instinctual. The same goes for family members. Just think about your mother or brother turning their back on you. Shivers up the spine.

Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness

And people with a mental illness have a real reason to worry. People do, in fact, leave others because of a mental illness. Sometimes it’s reasonable – the mental illness is out of control and the loved one has no choice but to save themselves – but many times it isn’t reasonable in the least. A person with a mental illness is just left because of the pain and stigma of dealing with a mental illness. Sometimes people just can’t last through the stress of illness and treatment. Sometimes people really are abandoned by those they thought loved them unconditionally.

Self-Sabotage Because of the Fear of Abandonment

And so, this can lead people with mental illnesses to sabotage their own relationships. They would rather push other people away than wait for them to leave. It’s easier to walk than to be abandoned.

This isn’t necessarily a conscious choice it’s just the reaction of a person who is really scared and who likely has been through abandonment before.

Abandonment is Real, But Not Always a Reality

But I think it’s important to remember that while, yes, there is always the possibility that a person might abandon you because of your mental illness, there is a better chance that they will not. Of course, the numbers vary from person to person and from disorder to disorder but I really believe that more people will remain in your life than will abandon you. But you’ll never find that out if you’re too busy pushing them away.

So you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. You have to give a person the benefit of believing in them just as you wish for them to believe in you. Yes, you’re trusting them with something huge, but many people are worth that trust. We all have issues that we have to trust people with and mental illness is just one of them. And while I can’t promise everyone can handle big issues, I can promise you that some people can. And those are people worth having in your life.

When the fear of abandonment strikes, be open about it. Because it’s amazing how much smaller fears look in the light.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

This entry was posted in Bipolar Diagnosis, Coping, How Others See Bipolar, Impact of Bipolar, Loneliness, Losing Friends, Talking About Bipolar, Understanding Mental Illness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness

  1. jenni says:

    i feel this x

  2. Thom Slavin says:

    The tendency to provoke fear and abandonment is very acute in the beginning of the illness. People are frightened of your behavior. They take steps to protect themselves. I will never fault my daughter’s mother for changing the locks; I had burned her altar to Yamayah (a particularly evil East African goddess) in the bathtub because I thought it was the source of my torment. The separation that ensued, the rounds of court procedures to secure visitation, the loss of the woman and family I thought I would marry, were all a form of sadness and perhaps, abandonment. The ensuing years were perhaps worse, because I in turn withdrew from my daughter’s life, as she grew through her Elementary years and Junior High. I still showed for her performances, though, and sought reunification in 2008.
    If abandonment is about withdrawal of support, compassion and courage lead back to Love. I’ve also had to find Unconditional Self-Forgiveness somewhere in there. It’s not easy. She hasn’t written me yet this year,
    but I have to believe it’s not from my absence and abandonment.
    I still have faith that both my daughters will one day come back to me.

  3. I have strong memories of being abandoned 11 years ago because of my illness. I still strive for some external validation that is unlikely to occur, no matter how successful I continue to be.

  4. Caroline says:

    This is the biggest issue in my life aside from my ADD. Because I have the less apparent slow processing skills and other problems associated, people often don’t notice I’m different until something glaring happens. And then they’re out of there at the speed of a bullet. I try not to take it personally, and just let them go, but sometimes the rage of rejection builds and gets
    displaced. I am working on not getting stuck in such thoughts and having some success with ACT and eastern religion, meditation. But mostly I just have to have work in gratitude with what and who I still have in my life. Thanks, and sorry I got carried away here.

  5. Hi Caroline,

    I can understand it being the biggest issue, it is for many and I can understand that the rejection might get displaced. But at least you have that awareness about yourself which means you have the best chance at curbing it. Moreover, you are correct that it’s not about you, it’s about the (weak) people who would leave.

    And you do have the right idea, in my opinion, we need to be grateful for those who are there. Focus on the positive, because there are always people who are strong and will be there.

    - Natasha

  6. Michael Puck says:

    My girlfriend of only a month or so broke up with me when I was in hospital with mania. It felt like a mutual decision at the time, and certainly she was justified in doing so, given my behaviour. Shortly after that, she fell pregnant to a guy she’d recently met through me. When he proved himself less than honorable (to say the least), she asked to reconcile. Now we are planning the rest of our lives together, with a beautiful baby girl. We are happy and strong together.

    And yet, 18 months after all that went down, I am developing deeply painful abandonment and betrayal issues. It’s like I have unforgiven her. I am completely committed to this relationship – for life – and yet I know that if I felt this way when she asked to get back together, there’s no way known I would. I do not understand this.

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