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November 18, 2014

A Dozen Ways to Survive Abandonment.

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I don’t like to identify with the word “abandonment.”

In fact, I have spent my entire life sweeping it under the rug like it’s a piece of lint I’d rather not deal with.

Typically, I have been caught up in asserting my independent woman image or lying to myself saying that I really don’t need intimacy to survive.

This may sound like someone you know or the person you see in the mirror daily.

When I was five months old I was surrendered for adoption and put into an orphanage for six months before I arrived at my new home with my loving family.

I had already learned during my first year that intimacy meant loss, separation and grief. As a baby I did not smile at anyone ’till I could trust that I was safe.

Over the years I found it hard to communicate what I needed and I wasn’t sure why.

It was easier to shut down my emotions and not express my fear of losing someone because then maybe, it would not be so painful when it happened.

I have been incapable of knowing any real intimacy because I held it at bay whenever possible.

What nobody really tells you is that abandonment is a tricky son of b*tch.

It lodges itself deeply into your subconscious and can creep up on you like you’re being attacked by the scariest ghosts.

In these moments, I have felt terror as my fight or flight response kicks into gear.

A loved one can tell me 50 times over how much they love me and are there for me but I still feel I am in danger of being left. My family and friends have always been there for me yet my fear of abandonment is so primal I feel caged by it.

Now, well into my 30s, I recently started dating a guy who travels quite a bit. While he is amazing and kind, he is sometimes unavailable physically and emotionally for days at a time.

Each time he leaves for the airport, I feel my heart being ripped from my chest—a big invisible hole in it bleeds.

It sounds rather dramatic but that’s how it feels.

My anxiety level is at its highest point and I immediately want to break up with him. Breaking up with him means I will be “safe” and protected from the pain of his temporary departure. On a logical level I know that he will return. On a physical level my body is stressed and I feel quite embarrassed and ashamed by my reactions.

I understand that I have chosen this person who leaves all the time, because the pain feels so familiar and reflects my deepest fear.

As I go into survival mode, I have slowly been learning the following methods to deal with the feelings of loss and abandonment. It starts with compassion for myself and acknowledging the pain is very real. It is nothing to be ashamed of or denied.

In addition to the traditional routes of therapy, I have found the following things work well for me.

How to deal with fear of abandonment.

1. I sometimes sleep at night with a warm heating pad on my chest. It regulates my heartbeat and calms me.

2. I take a hot bath which helps to ease my mind.

3. I meditate and give thanks for the moments when I feel safe and at peace.

4. I call friends and share my fears and find stability in our connection.

5. I go dancing or get my body moving.

6. I find something to laugh a lot about.

7. I wrap myself in warm blankets like a burrito and nap.

8. I breathe deeply.

9. I listen to soothing music.

10. I cuddle with friends—a warm embrace change everything.

11. I spend time with animals, they have a healing presence and energy.

12. I express my feelings of fear with my partner and open a caring dialogue of curiosity for the fear. This is the hardest one because it requires vulnerability.

The most important thing that I have learned about surviving abandonment is that we need human touch.

Our bodies carry the memory of old trauma.

Being held in loving present arms is deeply healing and is better than any medication, therapy or book I’ve read.

I have done everrything, including search for my birth family to find out whether a biological connection could heal the wound. When I did find them fouryears ago, the wound was still open and I still experienced the pain despite a very warm reunion.

Heat, touch, the sound of a heartbeat and any environment that feels like the safety of the womb is soothing.

None of this is to be confused with sexual intimacy.

Those who care for you and your well being can be readily available for hugs.

The baby within you still needs to be reassured and loved and the need for physical connection is natural.

Be open to retraining your mind and your body to accept these needs and learn to honor them.

I wish I could have identified this at an earlier age to allow more intimacy into my life but I just did not know how.

I wish for those, who battle the fear of abandonment in secret, to find their way into loving arms and start healing.

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Author: Maya Katherine

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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