Reflections: Thinking About Abandonment
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
I have been feeling blank as of late. This is not to say that I do not feel spurts of real excitement, or cannot shed a tear. I suppose that if somebody asked me how I was at this point, the only appropriate word that would come to mind is – “blank”. I had a conversation recently with an old friend, and the predominant thought was that maybe sometimes at this point in our lives (my bipolar depression aside), feeling blank is inevitable. You either love the decisions you make with family, career and your path; you tolerate those same decisions; or finally, you feel blank and maybe a bit lost and throw your hands up in the air. You maybe have a bit of regret with every choice you made. I cannot say to anyone that I resonate with the first, but I feel like I am stuck in the crossfires of the second and the third scenarios. Basically, I am still perpetually stuck in the same position I have been in for awhile – lost and unhappy, and all too regretful. This is not new; it is actually all too familiar. It’s almost as if you could transport me back to the summer of 2016, and the last two years absolutely had no effect or contribution, which is sad for my recovery.
I had a panic attack on Sunday. I get panic attacks sometimes at work in conjunction with accumulating anxiety, but I have not had one in awhile. I didn’t want to think very carefully about what triggered it, but I felt hot, sweaty, light-headed, breathless, jittery and I could not stop crying. What worries me is that I think the panic attacks will continue, as I feel uncertain about anything and everything in my life. I have been slowly doing some self-help reading though in addition to seeing my psychiatrist and psychologist. What resonates with me is reading about the idea of time. I have to focus on the now, and how to fix myself in the present. I cannot think about the past because it will just drag up old, painful memories. I should try my very best not to think about the future because I might blow up my brain creating unrealistic expectations for myself. This type of focus is what I strive for, but it’s difficult. I always think in terms of a muddle of the past, present and future. I always also think too negatively, predominantly from the perspective of the past. And well, daily negative thoughts of the past, present and future in combination can definitely break a person into pieces.
I still also have 1 or 2 residual suicidal ideations now and then. I walk past my bathtub and feel chills. I also have images of myself keeling over whenever I take my pills. One pill in particular - Lithium - has started to make me gag. The frightening aspect of this past month is still somewhat within me in many ways. I expressed in some of the conversations I have had with friends lately that every time I have tried to commit suicide, something inevitably has held me back, and I have created loopholes unconsciously to save myself. So, somewhere within my plan – a friend will find me, or JH will find me just in time to save me. But, I also know in the back of my end the exact plan that will actually, most definitively kill me, and the exact timings where nobody will find me until it’s too late. The exact plan is in my head, but I have not had the will to execute it as of yet. For now, I need to see how the next months will play out, especially out of care for those who love me most. I should at least try this recommended suicide support group from St. Mike’s as well. It sounds like right now I do not want to try getting to recovery, and I want to give into the pain, but I know at the very core of me I do.
Last summer I went through a period of hypomania. I didn’t do anything crazy, but I had strong urges to talk to people – most of which were strangers at work, Uber drivers and the odd person in an elevator. I am usually introverted, and I tend to stick to people I know. So, that period for me was markedly different, and I didn’t feel like myself. The psychiatrist ended up increasing my anti-psychotic medication, which calmed me down. It ultimately ended up throwing me back into a depressive cycle. I feel bits and pieces of those feelings again this summer. I feel antsy, like I do not want to stay at home. I have had serious urges to speak to people – which is why I have been receptive to 50 coffee date reunions. I think partially, the house horrifies me, with all the ghost memories of trying to kill myself, so I hate being there. I think partially, some part of me might be hypomanic again too. I can’t quite explain it because hypomania is marked by elevated mood. I do feel elevated in conversations, but when it comes to deciding how I feel how my current life and what do, I feel absolutely blank.
Anyways, that’s the psychological update. I actually wanted to write about abandonment today. Abandonment is a tough subject for me, and definitely a trigger when I feel suicidal and quite depressive. It's not the only trigger, but impacts from abandonment have definitely left me in a saddened, broken state. It has lead the doctors to think that in some ways I have not only Bipolar Depression but also some form of personality disorder. A while ago, on my other blog, I wrote about a couple lost friends - meaningful friendships. I think in some way these lost friendships have always been a form of abandonment for me. I will not repeat those stories, but I will talk about abandonment in the form of a family relationship, and one difficult previous relationship (likely in a second part because this will get long).
I want to talk about my mother. I will not downplay this because every time I have been suicidal, a partial trigger associated with her has struck up because of the last real words she ever said to me. First world problems, but I take words very literally, and they still sting now whenever I hear them. I was born in Etobicoke, and my siblings and I grew up literally with my mom. She was a stay-at-home mom at first, and my dad worked a lot. Even when she started working again when we moved to Mississauga, she was razor focussed on my grades, my after-school activities and me in general. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t. But I am surprised I only developed anxiety as an adult, because being around her always made me sweat profusely. Not winning first or getting a high grade always resulted in a dumping on my self-esteem. I know this is all too common with other families (especially Asian ones), but I felt sometimes like I was stuck in a bubble, with a crazy person who was always somewhat kind of angry and judgmental (and sad because she had her own problems growing up). My brother and my sister in their own ways, had better control around dealing with her. I allowed her to puppet me pretty much my entire life until I moved away to university. She was very protective, and sometimes I was truthfully scared of her, and her saying no to me going to normal things like prom and after school activities. I did run to my dad often for solace. She was extra intimidating when boys started to call my house. She would lecture me especially about this one boy in grade 8 who called everyday (ended up being my first real boyfriend; there was another first, but he didn’t feel as real - long story).
The negativity aside, I was very close to my mother. I wouldn’t call her my best friend, but she was someone I almost needed to breathe with to live sometimes. She taught me piano until she felt I needed to learn from someone else. She drove me to lessons every week. On our “days off”, we would go to the mall, and she would buy me a toy or clothes. She let me eat anything and everything I wanted without restraint. And so, I ended up gaining a lot of weight and became a bit of an obese child. I ate a lot especially when I did not succeed in something. Then, because it happened so often, I ended up just using food as a coping method. I still use food as a coping method today. This definitely did not help with my self-esteem issues. By the time I reached university, there was one period where I had significant self-esteem issues, and I dealt with those issues by purging until I was sick and unhealthy. During those times, I had to fit into the “skinny little dress” and I spent too much time crying into the mirror about how much I hated my body.
This was around the time my parents divorced. And you know what, no matter what they say about divorce being harder on kids when they are little, the truth is divorce affects anyone at any age. I was so angry at my mother for wanting to leave my dad because he was literally to me – the nicest and most hard-working man in the world. Yes, he was a workaholic, but he always tried his hardest to make sure my mom could drive a fancy car, we could go to Hong Kong to visit grandma, or we could go for dim sum or brunch on Sundays. Literally to this day, my dad is my fucking hero, and even more so because my mom fucked him over. Even now, when she visits to see my niece, she has the audacity to stay at my dad’s house. Okay, I am just getting angry now.
Going back to long story, my mom left – she was unhappy, she bought a house in Edmonton, she wanted to move on. This was all so abrupt though, pretty much a blindside at least to me. I remember the day she told me, we had just gotten back from the mall, and were having tea together. I felt like she was dumping me. I asked so many questions with no real answers. I cried, and she stayed calm. The day she left, it was weird. After going to the airport, the entire rest of the family went to Niagara Falls for no apparent reason. It was stoic but depressing. I hate Niagara Falls now as a result. I spent the rest of the day, and most of that month on-and-off crying. So, in hindsight, speaking with my doctors, I experienced a bit of a depression then. I dealt with everything primarily by being excessive. I drank and partied a lot with little substance to my life. I became friends with people who were nice, but who clearly left once I was done partying. In the meantime, I had to go out all the time. I dated without commitment, and I was just fucking angry or sad all the time when nobody was around. Call it teenage angst or depression – I was feeling something. My next relationship after the divorce received the brunt of it, but we had our differences anyways.
Time passed. I never stopped speaking to mom. However, I did not visit her ever, and I was more polite versus loving or interested if anything when she returned in the summers or Christmas. The promise that she made to me when she left was that when a grandchild was born, she would come back. I took those words literally, as literally as you could take any set of words. My brother and sister-in-law were due for my niece. She came back for the baby shower. Before we went to the shower, my husband, my dad, my mom and I went out for lunch. At the lunch, I bluntly asked when she would come back. She said she was never coming home. Edmonton was now her home, and there was “nothing left for her in Toronto”. I think when I heard those words – “wow fuck” ran through my brain (sorry for all the profanity, but this topic makes me livid still). I thought about myself, about my brother’s family, the new grandchild, my sister (albeit was still in California then), and looked at her as if she had just spit on me. We had a public shouting match, and pretty much, aside from seeing her at the baby shower, and forcibly once a year at Christmas (for my brother, niece and dad), that was the last time we spoke.
I have told my psychiatrist that I cannot forgive her. This literally was full straight-on abandonment, and it had deep psychological impacts on me especially since we were so close. Her over-protectiveness made us feel tied at the hip. Someone I had spoken to everyday in my life in person just wanted to get up and leave. I could not trust someone who did not want to be there for her new grandchild, and who could group that grandchild and myself into the words “nothing left”. What if I had children? Would they be included in “nothing left?” Probably. I was so angry that day for my family – for my brother. I could not comprehend someone so selfish, who would choose anything and everything over her family (Question to self – choosing suicide Robyn is not the same?). And so, all I could do was associate this person with ‘walking away and giving up’. In retaliation, I walked away from her too. Was I being unreasonable? I felt - no. Her words and choices created inexplicable pain for me; a pain that felt like a number of people were beating me until my ribs broke in. Sometimes I doubt I'll ever be a good mom because I feel her engrained in me. I feel in some ways that she is such a demon for me. I know it sounds disrespectful, but the way in which we parted makes me thing of her as a monster. Because I have her genes, I'm scared every time I act like her, or something with my husband plays out exactly like a scene between her and my dad. I'm afraid that in some ways I am becoming like her. And really, someone in my position does not want to be like the person that walked away from her.
Working through this with my doctors, maybe one day I will forgive her and we will reach reconciliation, especially as time passes (and she is my mom). The doctors say that because I still allow her to be a trigger, and she still brings up angry feelings for me, that I care. If I did not care, I would be completely passive. I would not care if she was in the room. I just feel too unstable right now to figure out that part of my life. Last I spoke to my sister about my mom, it appears that she was still pretty indignant and stubborn. So, at this point in time, I do not want to test my anxiety with the possibility of being stepped all over again. I just do not have the trust or the strength to want to try. I think sometimes that I am unfair. We were all grown up - she needed to find her happiness elsewhere. It was just those damn words.
The unfortunate piece of this story is that I am perpetually afraid of abandonment now. The aforementioned lost friendships are a prime example of how abandonment has also affected me. I also experienced one relationship in the past where the abandonment was almost eerily parallel to the story with my mom. That relationship just broke me, especially since the person on the other hand chose some else and was completely apathetic for screwing me over. But that’s a story for another day.
So I have ranted for a while, but I guess the point of the story was to tell my story. As I continue to unfold my story with bipolar depression, there will be more and more stories about my triggers and how I got to this place. My first story was just a starting point.