As a writer, every single one of my characters has a little bit of me poured into them, and none so much as the protagonists I write. With my last published novel, The Stolen Generation, I talked about the nature of being non-binary, about addiction, and brought lesbian relationships to the forefront. I also brought something else into the story that I’ve struggled with for a lot of my own life. Abandonment issues.
Abandonment issues usually come from some form of childhood trauma. In both my case and Freddie’s case (my protagonist), the abandonment issues largely come from an abusive father. Although with Freddie I added an element with the fact her soul was grafted onto her body. That sense of disconnect that is common with abandonment issues is amplified in my protagonist. But it’s something that I felt needed to be addressed as it’s something so many of us go through and don’t want to to talk about.
Fearing abandonment can be normal. Everyone fears growing old alone at some point in their lives. It’s perfectly natural. But for those of us with abandonment issues it’s something else entirely. Some of the common symptoms/signs are:
- intrusive, debilitating anxiety
- chronic insecurity
- decreased/low self-esteem
- feelings of loss or lack of control
- constant fear of being abandoned
- pushing people away in order to make the abandonment happen
- fear of being alone
- trust issues
- feeling unworthy of love
- separation anxiety
- overanalysing everything
- hypersensitivity to criticism
- repressed anger
- needing to be in control
Like me, Freddie is wary of her own self-worth and struggles to understand why she’s in the position she’s in. She reluctantly accepts her place in the scheme of things, and she takes control, but she’s not convinced that she’s able to do the job and she overanalyses everything she does. She finds herself attaching quickly to those whom she finds herself drawn to and disliking and not trusting others.
Freddie’s lack of trust is something that echoes my own life quite well. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work to learn to begin to trust anyone in my life. But I’m getting there slowly. Freddie’s trust issues are never fully resolved but she starts to make steps too. And that in itself is a huge step in starting to heal the scars that the past has left on anyone with abandonment issues.
Abandonment issues can be caused by physical and emotional trauma. They are often part of PTSD and C-PTSD. They are insidious and constant. They create a hyper-vigilance where we are always aware of those around us and those who we think might betray us. We pull people in close only to push them away in a heartbeat. Oftentimes we prefer the company of animals because we don’t see them as capable of betrayal. Betrayal is another thing that comes into play with abandonment issues.
Once our trust, no matter how little of it we’ve put into someone, is betrayed, it’s often lost, and is rarely won back. Freddie doesn’t really have to display this as such in The Stolen Generation. But it’s coming up for Lana in the final book in the Lunegosse Tales, which I’m currently writing. She’s about to discover that all is not as it seems and it’s going to turn her world upside down. Her abandonment issues aren’t as prevalent as mine or Freddie’s because she always felt loved by her adopted family, and she’s fitted in quite well with her biological family now she’s back amongst them, but to have a blow like the one she’s about to receive, it’s going to cause some trauma for her.
We all show our abandonment issues in different ways. Some of us will actively push away people whilst we try to get close to them (raises my hand and admits that that’s my most usual way of doing things), we might get clingy to those who are around (I do that too), or we might pull ourselves into a state where we don’t let anyone get close enough to hurt us. We will build up layer upon layer of walls so that no one can break through and we can’t be hurt in the way we once were (guilty on the third count as well, my lord).
Abandonment issues cause people to act out, they cause people to become reclusive. They create divas and people pleasers. They are some of the hardest things we have to deal with. For both those who suffer with them and those who love us. They are no picnic. All you can do when we are going through them is to love us and ride through it with us.