I am blown away that I am just now learning what a huge affect attachment problems have on my everyday adult life. I had no idea what played out for me as a child is totally being re-enacted by me as an adult in many of my relationships.
Fortunately, by some miracle, I don’t think my attachment problems play out too negatively with my children, which begs the question of how I learned how to be a good parent when I had no experience or role models for it? Kind of a mystery for me.
Anyway, I hate my attachment problems. It turns me into a 2 or 3 year old, which is not so cool, and people, even the most well-intentioned therapists, don’t get how difficult this problem is for me.
It is such a primal wound for me, it is probably the leading cause of my suicidal or self-harming thoughts.
Despite the horrific child abuse I experienced, I grew up unloved and uncared for. The message was loud and clear: I did not matter in this world.
Even though I was clearly unkempt, emaciated from lack of food, and often wandering around a beach town on my own at a very young age, no one intervened to even ask me if I was ok or considered whether such a small child should be wandering around alone in a town full of transient people from many bad walks of life.
I do enough reading to know this is not an uncommon phenomenon. People know someone is being abused or have strong suspicions, but decide to stay out of it for their own reasons. Maybe because we don’t scream from the rooftops that if you see a child you think is being abused or needs help, you need to do something. At least make a phone call to DFACS. We all need to do better.
But too many of us have been treated like we don’t matter. No one helped us. No one picked up the phone or asked the questions. That is such a horrible message to have branded on to your brain. It is not a message I have been able to get rid of. I will always put myself second and take the bullet for someone else, even if that someone is a stranger. I guess I am like that because no one did it for me. On some days that makes me the good guy. Other days it leaves me broken, hurting, and almost dead.
When I was a child, I can’t ever think of a time when someone told me they loved me. I don’t remember any affection. I was treated less-than my two older siblings. I hardly received any attention unless it was the wrong kind of attention. I had no one.
When I was about 4 or 5, I begged for months for a stuffed animal. That is all I asked for. I didn’t need or want for anything else. Every day, nothing. I was so alone.
Finally, after someone in my life used me for sexual purposes, that person threw a used cheap carnival stuffed dog at me. That was one of the happiest days of my childhood. I finally had someone to hold, someone to talk to, someone who belonged to me. That grungy stuffed dog probably saved my life. I had it all the way through High School. I didn’t think much about its meaning as I got older, but I knew to hang onto it.
Interestingly, at this point in my life, my younger parts have a stuffed dog that we bought off Amazon. At the time, I didn’t see the connection. I just knew they knew with certainty that is what they wanted. Now it makes sense to me.
Today, I am a grown woman who owns a stuffed animal that resides in bed with me and my spouse. Not exactly what my spouse signed up for 20 years ago, but it is what it is at this point. Because of the way my attachment problems manifested for me, it is easier for me to say love me or leave me, I don’t really care. But, not all parts of me agree with that attitude, which is something I try to keep in mind.
In my therapy today, we talked a lot about attachment issues because my therapist is leaving us next week for surgery. It is something that gives me an instant panic attack when I think about it. Most of the parts in me who hold painful emotions are devastated by this event. I don’t expect others to understand, but it is like I am going to die without her for the week, and god forbid, what if she dies from the surgery.
I am absolutely clear this is not a normal response to what is happening, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you this is our emotional truth and predicament. It is as if the mom is leaving us in the crib with nothing to eat and may or may not come back if we were to survive that excruciatingly painful week.
You see, in therapy world, there is this belief that if you create an attachment bond with your therapist, you can have a corrective emotional experience and heal the attachment wound that doesn’t feel the least bit fixable. But yet I am willing to try because I still hold out hope.
I know for those of you who may have had secure attachments with your parents or some other caregiver, you can’t possibly conceive an adult having these feelings. Feeling like a baby or small child. But for those who have any of the dysfunctional attachment scenarios, I can imagine you know a little of what I speak.
Yet, another unacceptable feeling that we cannot express in the real world, so once again alone, or at least with each other through this blog.