Healing Abandonment Issues
The last few months have brought a series of epiphanies which, when I finally connected the dots made me realize I had abandonment issues. Yet, a thorough review of my last 60-odd years revealed no particular incident when someone abandoned me—or so I thought.
Further review of my personal time line told another story. Sure, I haven’t been physically abandoned in the literal sense. The abandonment issues in my personal history are something I hadn’t even considered. They all occurred on an emotional level. It could explain why I found them so easy to stuff down inside—to deny their existence.
My mother, who had a history of being emotionally abandoned herself, always told me I was the more difficult child. In retrospect, of course I was. I was the first child who lived (her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage), and I’m not sure she was emotionally prepared to be a mother in the first place. At 21, she’d never lived alone. She went from her mother’s house to her husband’s apartment, but only after the ring was on her finger.
History Repeats Itself if You Let It
Sure, it was a different time, but I know from experience there’s a lot to learn about living on your own, and having kids right away doesn’t make it easier. In my mom’s case, she didn’t even know how to cook, and learned on her own rather than asking for her mother’s help. Barely 2 years and one miscarriage later, she had me to deal with as well; a helpless baby who demanded more of her time than she knew how to give.
By the time my sister came along 2 1/2 years later, she’d made her share of mistakes, but learned a lot too. Of course my sister was an easier child! She was born to an experienced mother!
It didn’t help when I contracted Scarlatina which led to a penicillin allergy before I was 5. Add to that, a blindness scare at 10 before they realized I was susceptible to ocular migraines, a legacy from my dad and his mom. So if my mother shut down emotionally to protect her own shaky sanity, I can see now she did it for good reason, if not in my best interests.
Searching for the Love I Needed
Lacking my mother’s love, I spent years trying to earn the love and affection from a man who, quite frankly, hadn’t been trained to give it. Until my grandmother died when I was 12, she and my grandfather were deeply immersed in each other. Their kids, my dad and his sister, got whatever was left. Affection was typically communicated with sarcasm and ridicule.
As I look back, no matter how hard I tried to measure up to my dad’s expectations so I could earn a love which should have been given simply because I was his child, he’d always set the bar a little higher than I could reach. In the end, he loved me as best he could, but for a shy, introverted, little girl with zero self-confidence, it wasn’t enough.
I grew up imitating my dad. But I wasn’t nearly as good at it as he, and made a lot of poor choices in my desperation to be loved and accepted. I vacillated between hardening my outer shell and playing chameleon for decades until the shell started breaking down and I began making drastic changes.
Learning the Difference Between Seeking and Allowing
The first was to divorce my alcoholic and emotionally abusive husband. Yes, I’m another statistic; a woman who marries a man similar to her most damaged parent; in this case, my mom, in hopes of fixing what’s broken and earning the love she was denied. Trust me, it’s a battle that can’t be won.
What followed was a series of fits and starts. I hid inside my self-made cave, pretending I needed no one for several years. I had a couple of emotionally bankrupt relationships before giving up dating for what would ultimately last more than 20 years. Still, I knew I wasn’t meant to live without love. But experience hadn’t taught me what it really looked like, much less, how to go about finding it.
Connecting With My Spirituality and Self-Love
When I was introduced to “The Secret” I felt an almost physical shift. At first, it affected my own self-image and drove me to read more and more about fixing myself. I now have a shelf full of books ranging from “Laws of Attraction” to Kabbalah. Some have helped me more than others, but I’m not done learning.
The walls came down, the shell shattered. I’ve opened up to people and changed my social circle a time or seven. The most significant change I’ve seen is people opening up to me. Therein lies the biggest hole in my earlier years.
Breaking the Legacy and Removing My Masks
My parents, and everyone around me were a series of constantly smiling masks. No one shared their true self, and everyone was damaged in some way; some far more than others. It was a world where you either pretended your world was perfect, or faced ridicule and disgust from those around you. Broken was considered ugly. Vulnerable was weak.
By the time I figured it out, I’d seen first-hand what it cost to keep those masks in place. I’d had a few melt-downs myself, in the privacy of my own home. My mother had had the ultimate meltdown, swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills and laid her masks down for good. A few years later, my dad made a similar choice, using a gun instead of pills. He, too put down the masks and lowered the walls after a lifetime of holding them in place, sometimes out of sheer stubbornness. I have to wonder if there were times when the hold was tenuous, and his mood bordered on desperation.
Building on a Strong, Supportive Foundation At Last
Lest you think this is an excuse for a pity party, let me assure you, it’s quite the opposite. Lacking a strong emotional foundation, I had to figure out how to erect one of my own. I learned in the process it’s not something you do in a vacuum.
I’ve learned to gather around me strong, supportive friends who are able to share their own times of need, and reach out to me. The foundation I’ve built is not just my own strengths shoring up internal weaknesses. It’s built on what I’ve been able to offer my friends, but more important; what they’ve been able to offer me.
We are stronger for the people we’re able to give to and accept from. None of us have everything we need to build our foundation, any more than we have every skill, or all the knowledge we need to live a successful, fulfilled life. My parents never figured that out, nor did theirs. I was given the opportunity to change the pattern. I was also given a daughter who, like me, wanted to see it change.
We’ve each made changes in our own ways, but have also built our own communities, both together and separate. It may have begun with unrecognized emotional abandonment, but if you ask me, what it’s grown into was (almost) worth the tough lessons I had to learn alone.
Making Gratitude a Daily Practice
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the life I was given; all the hills and valleys, smooth roads, and potholes. I’ve learned and I’ve grown from the challenges.
- I’m grateful for the friends who even now are patient with me when I knee-jerk and crawl back into my hole. They know when to push and when to let me be to figure it out.
- I’m grateful for dancing which, in it’s own way, forces me to get out of my shell and out from behind the walls.
- I’m grateful for the writing which has allowed me to safely express things until I was ready to share more openly. And for the people it’s brought to me for the sharing.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, sharing, vulnerability, joy, dancing, motivation, inspiration, support, community, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats, and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward