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.

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14 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.

  7. Malinda Phenix says:

    I have cousin with a mental illness and I also have have a mental illness I can related on so many level but family think ,I’m crazy if I talk to him I want just to give him the support that he need cause he don’t need hear word to discourage due to his mental illness or be put down for his mental illness . He just trying to support his family but his income not allowing him . I Love my family but they so judge mental they can accept us for we are.

  8. carmen says:

    This morning i told my daughter that she better look for a back up babysitter she immediately started yelling at me because she didn’t even wait for me to explain why or ask why. i was going to be the reason she would not have money left because she would have to pay someone else . the whole reason i told her to get a back up sitter is i can tell when i may need to be hospitalized and her only concefn was money not that i am overwelmed at fear i won’t be able to handle.

  9. Nancy says:

    I have that with Borderline personality and GAD never been diag with Bipolar

  10. Caz says:

    I am trying to be there for my man (PTSD and BP2 – medicated 3 years) – we knew each other only 1 month prior to an episode which has been very severe this time. He was kind to me throughout but this past 10 days when at his worst, he has pushed me away and by all accounts his ill mind has decided to loathe me, when I am the only person who has stood by him. So what do you do then to stand by? It could be months and months if med side effects are there or he’s not taking his meds as prescribed, He’s on lithium 3 years now plus anti depressants and some other I am not aware of; these days, each text ignored; each logical plea a waste of breath so many people with experience say. He may also never come back to being how he was when we met. I have read books, joined forums,even seen a pdoc to ask questions. I want to be committed to see this through til level however there is obviously fear and abandonment issues but when the ill mind turns it in to a blame game and wants you gone, how do you suggest you fight this to prove you are committed to stay?

  11. Jonathan Ashton says:

    I’ve been mental ill all my life, I’m 46 and am only now getting the right help and understanding.
    I live a solitary life as I was mentally physically and sexually abused as a child
    I also live with a very severe stammer, I was very violent and feared in my 20 and 30 due to anger and frustration of. My childhood abuse which was disgusting what I had to endure , I was married and had a successful business for 13 years, I did disclose my childhood abuse to my ex wife and family and friends, I was offered no help or understanding and was treated as though I was a liar and humiliated and ridiculed, I did not like close effection off my wife her friends and my children,
    I have never harmed my children or my ex wife and the my wife would bring her friends round asking me about my childhood abuse when I was drunk and on cocaine to escape the torment .
    I was made to feel like a piece of shit.
    I spend my days now painting and living a quiet peaceful solitary life which I donate my paintings to charity.
    I don’t like human contact as I feel people are playing games and laughing at me or conspiring or trying to poison me.
    I am under a good mental health team and I have been abandoned by every one else.but I feel safe on my own.
    I have tried a to have therapy for my childhood abuse but felt the guy was a two faced bastard asking my ex girlfriend if I had ever raped her and was happy when I got jailed for 18 months after I had a nervous breakdown due to little help or understanding and missing my 3 kids who I have not seen for 8 years.
    I just can’t wait till I’m dead and out of this world, I’m not suicidal but do not fear death and if they told me I had a month to live id be happy.
    My worst regret was disclosing my childhood abuse and being nailed to the cross for it .

  12. Michael says:

    I know how you feel, I got beat for anything anyone did, got sexually abused at six, had mywholefamily treat me like a slave, and try to murder me since I was seven to Corbett up what they did to me, three spine placed you shouldn’t go with anyone. You dont do everything can to destroy someone’s confidence then expect them to constantly defends themselves, I have records of foster care . Peipke that dont even know me try to tell me what happened. It’s ridiculous. I have severe mdd and severe ptsd.

  13. Amber says:

    I was kicked out of my house at age 14 for drinking and basically being unruly. I have never felt a pain of separation from my loved ones in all my life while in foster care. My mom never called while I was there and I think I was allowed to talk to my sister and best friend one time. It wasn’t a real long time but I remember feeling suicidal with no one to talk to. I did end up going home.I was put in a mental hospital 2 years later and have been on medication for a majority of the since. Anyway I’m 39 married and trust my husband with all of my heart but have problems with fears of abandonment with friendships. This keeps me from making new friends. I let friends know right away I have mental problems but the fear they are going to say goodbye never leaves me. I am going to try to find a counselor to help me with this it is ruining my sense of self.

  14. Reject says:

    I understand the fear of abandonment all too well

    I’ve felt like a reject my whole life. Given up for adoption – reject
    Adopted but physically, emotionally, & sexually abused – reject
    Unpopular in school – reject
    No boyfriend/husband/children – reject
    Labelled with a mental illness and stigmatized – reject,
    and on and on… It chips away at your self esteem after a while until you have none left. I get very anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, in large part because I have come to expect abandonment or abuse that’s why I have few friends and I live alone. They say God puts us all here on this planet for a reason but I have yet to fully realize my God given purpose. I’m always immersed in self help books wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Why can’t I seem to get it together and act like normal people. Nothing I try ever seems to work because I feel innately flawed to my core. I wish I could somehow learn to get over that and move on with my life. Therapy doesn’t help and medication only masks the problem.

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