Thursday 25 May 2017

Over-attaching and Fears of Abandonment

Fiona shares her experience of over-attaching to people in her life, and gives advice on how to deal with this in a healthy way.
- Fiona Perriss

“Don’t leave me”

“Everyone always abandons me; they all leave eventually”

“People always get sick of me, it must be my fault”

“I need you”

These thoughts go round in my head on a daily basis. I don’t know why. All I know is that I seem to have this intense fear that everyone around me will leave and I’ll be abandoned.

Believe me, I wish I didn’t become so attached to people to the point where I pin all my self-worth on them. It’s exhausting. I wind up idolising one specific individual, I want to be their favourite, I get jealous when I see them talking to other people. If I message them and they don’t reply instantly, I start thinking that I’m annoying them and that they’re ignoring me on purpose. Of course, this is probably not the case, but I still take it personally. I obsess and I cling on to them. They become my go-to person for when I’m upset, or when I’m having a panic attack. I don’t go to my friends or family and I can’t seem to self-soothe, even after having built up a list of coping strategies through countless therapy sessions. It has to be this one person.

I can’t figure out why this only happens with certain people. I just feel it happening and warn myself “oh, be careful now, it’s happening again, you’re getting too attached”. I cling to anyone that shows any inkling of kindness towards me - teachers, guidance counsellors, tutors, doctors, therapists. I know how much pressure I put on the other person. Then the guilt, the depression and the anxiety come in. It’s like a never-ending spiral. And then I become too much for that person. I put all my problems onto them. I can feel it building up, and then I ultimately explode and spit out all my problems and fears and insecurities. Then they leave and I’m alone and I’m left with all my problems and fears and insecurities, but worse. Their leaving hits me like a train. Deep down, I know they don’t mean to hurt me. But I do take it to heart and the abandonment thoughts start to creep in. It hurts. It really hurts.

What suggestions do I have for anyone who recognises these things in themselves or in people around them? Well, if you know someone who has similar behaviours, please be patient with them. Choose your words carefully, because a throwaway comment that might not mean much to you can cause a lot of damage. Be consistent; if you’ve said you will meet them or call them at a certain time, stick to it.  People like me can be very sensitive to sudden changes of plans. Please don’t make fun of or belittle the situation, and don’t turn around and say “why are you so obsessed with that person?” Chances are we know we are being irrational/clingy/obsessive, but we can’t always help it.

If you’ve put someone on a pedestal, I strongly believe that honesty is the best policy. Tell them you sometimes feel you get too attached, and encourage them to talk about their feelings about the situation. If they’re a genuinely nice person, they will hopefully have some level of understanding and empathy. From my experience, those who freak out and leave aren’t the sort of people you want in your life anyway.

Also, it doesn’t have to be such a negative thing! You feel a connection with that person because you think they’re awesome! Another key point to remember is that people leave: they move away, get new jobs and may not stay in your life forever, however much you want them to. You are not a bad person, and they are not leaving because of you, despite what you may feel. Yes, attachment and feelings of abandonment are hard. But you WILL get through it (cheesy as it sounds!)

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