Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My social and emotional life burned to the ground last year. I'm still trying to piece myself back together. I'm chronically anxious and lonely. I've been exercising and volunteering and journaling to try and get out of my head, but whenever I have a quiet moment all of the fears and insecurities take over.
I left an abusive situation in my early twenties, and I felt good about my new job, my new city, my new life. I made close friends. I started dating someone. I liked my job.
Five years later everything unraveled for reasons I still don't entirely understand and probably never will.
My two closest friends began dating. One of their boyfriends didn't like me, and the other one liked me WAY too much. My friends vanished seemingly overnight. Then the guy I was dating broke things off badly and abruptly not long after.
I'm alone and losing my mind. I've never had a problem meeting new people and making friends, but right now I'm terrified of getting close to anyone. I feel like everyone is eventually just going to up and leave one day without warning and I'll be left to pick up the pieces. (Yes, my childhood was chaos and my mother left and came back and left again more times than I can count. No clue where she is today.)
Do people ever recover from being abandoned?
Or is being an adult just one miserably long process of learning to deal with loss and disappointment and heartbreak?
Life looks very long and very lonely from where I'm standing right now.
– Abandonment Issues
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Dear Abandonment Issues,
I want you to know that you are not alone. So many people have experienced similar feelings. The fear of abandonment becomes an integral part of your psyche, causing anxiety and depression.
When you’re struggling with abandonment issues, the world can feel very unsafe.
To answer your questions… Yes, people recover from being abandoned. No, being an adult is not one miserably long process of learning to deal with loss and disappointment and heartbreak. However, I think you need some help to get there. You didn’t mention therapy or if you had spoken with or been treated by a mental health professional.
Accessing care is going to be your first step. Trying to muscle through this is not the way to heal.
For so long, I avoided or denied that I needed medication, even when I was in therapy. I could have saved myself years if I’d been willing to face my mental health issues.
All the journaling and exercise and volunteering in the world are not going to cure anxiety or depression.
They can help; they are useful tools. But they may not be the real solution.
I’m not a doctor and can’t diagnose you, but there is the possibility of getting some relief from the anxiety you feel. Maybe that means medication. Maybe that means talk therapy or EMDR. Maybe that means a combination of things. But I cannot stress enough the importance of having the guidance of someone trained to help you with this stuff. The bottom line is you don’t have to do this alone.
Reaching out to me is a significant first step. Please take the next step. If you need help finding a therapist or support group in your area, email me. And please remember this — you are not broken, you are not alone, and you will not feel this way forever.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Bixbite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo