On Feelings Of Abandonment (BPD Awareness Month 2022)

I’d hoped to write and post more for Borderline Personality Awareness Month but between my depression and changing medications, I’ve been struggling to write; I’ve started a handful of posts but been unable to finish them. But, of the symptoms of BPD, my fears around abandonment have been particularly oppressive recently and so I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I thought I’d write done some of my thoughts; it’s the best I can do right now.


Fear of abandonment is a significant aspect of Borderline Personality Disorder and it’s something that I’ve personally struggled with for most of my life. I was diagnosed with BPD when I was twenty and the consensus was – and still is – that it was due to the difficult and frustrating process of being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where I was repeatedly ignored and invalidated by medical professionals when I expressed how much I was struggling. I guess those could be interpreted as abandonments. But I’d been abandoned in the more traditional sense multiple times before that, so the ‘foundation’ – I guess you could call it – for a fear of abandonment was already there (I’m not sure if it works like that but I noticed the pattern as I thought back): most of my friends stopped hanging out with me when I was eleven and then my one remaining friend moved abroad about a year later so I started secondary school with basically no friends; my Dad died suddenly when I was thirteen; and then, when I was nineteen, a very important figure in my life just cut me off without warning. Each one reinforced the fear and the fear just kept building exponentially. So I think it’s fair to say that I was well on my way to developing a complex about being abandoned by the time I was diagnosed with BPD.

It didn’t stop there – and there were a couple of painful ones – but, on the whole, life has been relatively stable until recently. Over the last few months though, I’ve been dealing with a lot of feelings of abandonment. Some of the actions that have caused these feelings were intentional, some not; some of these feelings are based in reality and some are based on anxiety. People who’d been consistent in my life for a long time left suddenly for work or family stuff, people not being who I thought they were, people drifting away… I don’t want to write about them specifically because the point of this is not to ‘name and shame’ – it’s just felt like one after another after another lately and it’s been really tough. And, again, I’m not trying to say that these people are deliberately, intentionally abandoning me; BPD has just made me particularly sensitive to situations that could be perceived as abandonments, especially when they seem to be happening a lot. Sometimes it’s on me for overthinking or overreacting, sometimes it’s on them for doing or not doing something, and sometimes nobody did anything but it still feels awful. We’re all human beings just doing our best (most of the time, at least). I guess the point I’m making here is that it’s a feature of BPD that I have to live with and have to navigate on a daily basis and this is a part of that.

I don’t think it’s a great leap to assume there’s a link to low self esteem. I find it hard to see why other people would want to be friends with me, which has only been exacerbated by all of my health problems: I feel like a burden (something I wrote about in this year’s MHAW post).

I remember seeing this on Instagram and relating to it to a painful degree…

Now I don’t even feel capable of being useful.

I feel like I’m always the one who can’t keep up, the one letting people down. I feel like, between me and my problems, I’m just too much for most people. Both too much and not enough at the same. And I can’t help but feel that if someone doesn’t think that yet, then it’s just a matter of time until they realise it. I know that these are my thoughts and not necessarily what other people think but it’s a hard thought pattern to shift; it’s pretty deeply ingrained at this point. It’s something I need to work on in therapy but I haven’t had access to therapy recently. Hopefully soon, although there’s a lot that’s happened over the last year that I need to work though.


I don’t know what I think about this post. I find writing about anything BPD related very difficult. It always feels much more personal and revealing to write about, compared to writing about Autism, for example. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because a lot of the symptoms of BPD correspond with issues that we’re conditioned to feel shame for and around: fear of abandonment can be portrayed as ‘clingy’ or ‘manipulative’; an unstable sense of self sounds scary to a casual ear; self-destructive behaviour can be interpreted as not wanting to be helped; and so on and so forth. Plus there’s a lot of stigma around BPD, even amongst the people who should really know better.

To learn more about BPD, you can find good information here and here, and here is a post I wrote about my experience with BPD in 2019. I hope this has been helpful or thought-provoking or something along those lines. I do want to write more about BPD because there needs to be more understanding around it as a disorder; it was just unfortunate that BPD Awareness Month – when I had planned to write a handful of posts about it – coincided with a period where writing felt really difficult. Combine that with a topic that I find hard to write about anyway and I’m kind of surprised that I even managed this, given how I’ve been feeling recently.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

I have to admit that I often struggle with Mental Health Awareness Week, particularly the flooding of social media with “it’s okay not to be okay” and “reach out to someone if you need help”; it makes me want to scream in frustration because we are so far past that. If we’re going to create better support for mental health, we need more than that. This year, the theme is loneliness, which is an apt one, two years and change into this pandemic. I’m certainly seeing a lot of loneliness around at the moment: those with mental health issues, disabled individuals, people who are still shielding and feeling abandoned by society because of the dropped mandates… I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in or from Ukraine right now…

All of these situations need to be talked about and since the Mental Health Foundation is encouraging everyone to share their experiences with loneliness for Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d write about my experience, as a disabled person with mental health issues.


This is something I find kind of hard to talk about. I guess talking about it – and writing about it – makes me feel a little guilty because I’m not alone. I know I’m not alone. I have a great family and some really wonderful friends who have been there for me through some really tough stuff. They try so hard to make sure that I don’t feel alone. Fortunately, we – as people – don’t need to understand each other’s experiences point for point to find friendship and create those important, supportive bonds: I have a friend who has experienced very different trauma to me but there have been a lot of similarities throughout both of our journeys that have made it possible for us to relate to each other. I’m grateful for that, more than I can say.

But it’s also true that I do, often and increasingly, feel alone, feel lonely. And I think that that’s because no one – no one I’ve found at least – really understands what it’s like to be in my head, in my body, in my life, dealing with the problems that I have and the ripple effect that they can create. I’ve had multiple doctors and medical services simply stop helping me (or refuse to help me at all) because my case is “too complicated.” These are the professionals – the people who are supposed to really know and understand this stuff – and even they don’t know what to do with me (and those abandonments, plus other abandonments in my life, have left me with a lot of issues and fears that I have to work on every day). I think the issue is compounded by the fact that I have multiple diagnoses so, even though I may fit into the autistic community, I still don’t feel like I fit in because I also have OCD and BPD and so on; I can’t imagine there are many people who fit into the same community as me when the criteria is so narrow. I’m also not entirely convinced by the idea of community based on diagnosis either, to be honest, especially when the diagnosis covers such a range of symptoms, behaviours, and experiences, like Autism Spectrum Disorder. Anyway, my point is that I don’t feel like I fit in, even with the people that, on paper, I would likely get along with.

As I said, I’m not alone. Even though I’ve never felt like I quite fitted in, I have some great friends and friends from all areas of my life: school, sixth form, uni, Masters, as well as stuff outside education… But I can’t always keep up with my friends, with my peers, and I can’t always do the things I wish I could and I find that so hard. I always end up feeling like there’s a gap between me and everyone else and it’s lonely. Not being able to physically keep up with those around me means that I often feel left out – even if that’s nobody’s intention. And there’s a level of embarrassment and shame about being the one who can never keep up, the one who is always asking people to wait, always having to double check or change or cancel plans. I don’t know where that comes from – I know my friends would never want me to feel like that. But still, it’s there. It widens the gap and it makes that loneliness worse.

The older I get, the more I notice it – the gap. While I spend my time trying different medications, going to appointments for my physical and mental health, and resting after doing what I can manage to do, a lot of my friends are pursuing PhDs, establishing careers, living independently, and building lasting relationships. Our life experiences are just so different. And the longer it goes on, the bigger the disconnect feels. It just feels like the future is full of loneliness and I don’t know what to do with that.


I know this is kind of a depressing post. It’s a depressing truth, although it might have come out differently if I weren’t coming off my antidepressants; if I were in a better place mentally, I might have a more hopeful outlook. I don’t know.

I don’t think it’s a bad theme – loneliness can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health – but the Mental Health Foundation’s website says that they want to “shatter the stigma around loneliness” and while I can’t say that there’s no stigma associated with loneliness, I can think of so many things that might have more impact as a theme, might make more of a difference, like access to mental health support or the impact of social media or… I don’t know, something more specific than loneliness or nature (last year’s theme). (I talked about this more in my Mass Observation Day post.) As I said at the beginning of this post, I find Mental Health Awareness Week difficult because I so often feel like the information being circulated is somewhat obvious, that we could – and should – be going deeper. I guess it all just feels a bit surface level but I don’t know how that changes, if anyone else even feels this way. It just doesn’t feel like enough. It’s one week a year and it doesn’t feel like enough.

BPD and Feeling Abandoned

Feeling abandoned is a big thing when it comes to Borderline Personality Disorder. And events as everyday as someone not immediately responding to a text can trigger that feeling. The smallest slight can be incredibly upsetting and anything bigger can feel devastating. It’s never ending and exhausting. And with the fear of being abandoned hanging over you, relationships (of any kind) can be very stressful. They can feel like a waiting game, wondering how long it will take for the other person to give up on you.

As someone with BPD, I feel emotions very strongly and when something upsetting happens, it feels like I’ve been hit by a massive wave and it’s all I can do to find my way back to the surface. The emotion overwhelms me and there’s no room for logical reasoning. It doesn’t matter what else is going on; all my energy is taken up trying to process all of that feeling. It can take weeks to recover and I feel more fragile each time.

And what makes it more difficult is the fact that it’s not completely irrational; there is ‘evidence’ to support the fear. People have abandoned me in the past, both voluntarily and involuntarily, so whenever I try and talk myself out of the panic, my BPD lays out all these examples, ‘proving’ to me that I will always be abandoned. It’s an exhausting cycle.

I’m not going to go through my history of feeling abandoned, example-by-example, but there is one experience that I want to share. I think it’s too important to leave out. A few years ago, someone really important to me cut ties when I was in the lowest place I’d ever been (something they were aware of). I felt completely abandoned and it had a massive impact on my mental health and view of the world. I was so hurt and so confused and for a long time, those emotions overwhelmed everything. I felt broken. But slowly, that weight lifted. It took two years but I’m finally free of it. And that’s amazing. But it’s not the end of it. That experience has affected me, especially when it comes to my relationships and my anxiety around them. And like I said, it’s hard to talk myself out of that fear when I feel like I’m about to go through all that again.

I’ve wanted to write about this for a while but I wasn’t sure how to frame it, if that makes any sense. But a conversation with one of my best friends brought all of this to the surface.

So let me tell you a story:

One of my best friends had just come back from a trip to the US and was desperate to go back. I was in a pretty fragile place already (dealing with another situation where I felt like I was being abandoned) and watching her plan her next trip abroad felt a lot like she was abandoning me. I didn’t want to say anything and I felt guilty for feeling the way I did: she was building her career and she was so excited and here I was, wanting her to stay. But in the end, I had to say something. We’ve always talked everything through so, even though I was terrified of sounding needy and pathetic, I reached out and told her how I was feeling. She knows a lot about my mental health difficulties so I told her how I struggle with feeling abandoned and that I might need some extra reassurance around her upcoming trip.

(I want to add that although it might sound easy, it wasn’t. Part of me – a big part of me – was convinced that expressing these feelings would be the ‘final straw’ and that she would abandon me on the spot, that I had finally become too much to deal with. This is something that I think is often misunderstood about BPD. This reaction is not because of the other person; it’s because of the BPD. The other person could be the most reliable person in the world. It doesn’t matter. It’s the BPD telling you that everyone will leave, that you’re not enough to make the other person stick around. So defying that and telling my friend how I felt was very, very scary.)

And this is the important bit: how my friend reacted. Instead of telling me I was being ridiculous or brushing off my request, she responded compassionately. She told me not to feel pathetic or guilty, that she understood why I was feeling the way I was. She asked me how she could help, and said that she would do whatever she could to make it easier for me. She said, “I am not going to leave you.”

It was such a relief that I burst into tears. It meant (and still does mean) so much to me. She validated my feelings, asked me what she could do, and gave me the reassurance I needed. I wish everyone responded this way. Perhaps ironically for a condition with such close links to invalidation, these feelings often get written off as being oversensitive or overdramatic. And in my experience, that only makes it worse. Things are better now that the important people in my life understand where these feelings come from; before the diagnosis, the only explanation was that I was very sensitive and therefore needed to ‘toughen up’. It was a fault. And that’s what I thought too. But now that we understand it, we know how to handle it, how to approach it.

I will likely need to hear this again and again to combat my fear of being abandoned but that doesn’t minimise the importance of this moment. As I’ve said, change is a series of moments like these, moments I hold very close, like charms on a charm bracelet.

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