Abandonment Issues and COVID-19

Coping with Borderline Personality Disorder

Abandonment Issues and COVID-19

One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder that I struggle with the most are feelings of abandonment. These feelings have mainly been connected to people in my personal life when I feel that they are drifting, leaving, or neglecting me. But something happened recently that completely knocked me off of my feet, and it was completely unexpected.

I see a psychiatrist every month for my various mental illness diagnoses and medication management. I found my psychiatrist after I was at an inpatient facility followed by partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient, and for the first time in years I felt that I had finally found a psychiatrist who understood me. As a high functioning person with mental illness I have not received the care that I needed in the past because I present so well; but with my new psychiatrist I was able to tell her my story and all of my symptoms. Not only did she validate me, but she has since worked with me to find a way to assist me through therapy and medication. I quickly grew attached to my psychiatrist, and I felt taken care of by my outpatient provider for the first time in so long.

Then came COVID-19.

My physical appointments with my provider transferred to video appointments, which was a substantial change. I was used to visiting her in her office with her therapy dog – and my physical appointments with her were a big highlight to my month. I was doing okay with video appointments, but I could feel my anxiety rising as it became apparent that they would be the only option for meeting with my psychiatrist in the foreseeable future. I have also not been able to continue trauma therapy because I haven’t been able to find a therapist who can practice this form of therapy during the pandemic, which has taken a big toll on my PTSD symptoms. For the first few weeks of the pandemic I was doing okay, but as time has gone on, I have noticed my anxiety rising and I have felt increased feelings of abandonment.

But it was a few days before my next appointment with my psychiatrist that my breaking point came. I was notified that she no longer worked at my provider’s office and that I would be seeing a new psychiatrist from then on.

Now, for some background on me. It takes me a long time to warm up to and trust my mental health providers because of my past experience with not receiving the help that I need; therefore, this shocking news completely threw me off. Since I don’t have a therapist right now either, my psychiatrist was the only mental health provider I had on my team and losing her felt like losing as loved one – someone very dear to me who I relied on. My feelings of abandonment skyrocketed, and I have since been experiencing increased panic attacks, sleep disturbances, and nightmares. I have been able to accept a lot of the changes that have occurred due to the pandemic, but this was a change I did not expect, and I was not given advanced notice to adjust to the change. I felt abandoned by my psychiatrist since I was not able to talk to her or say goodbye, and in turn, I began to shut down once again. I was also notified of my new psychiatrist’s name which was a name most commonly given to men. This amplified my anxiety because of my deep fear of and discomfort with men due to past trauma. The day following up to my appointment I was a nervous wreck and it was the first time in about a year that I was feeling the deep emotional pain of abandonment that I experience with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Come the day of my appointment, I suffered a panic attack shortly before I entered my video call. I was terrified of having to open up to a new person and I was stressed about my medication management because I was in the middle of changing medications and doses. I cried because I felt abandoned and betrayed, and I worried myself into an emotional hole. It was all I could do to go through with my appointment when all I felt like doing was curling up in a ball in my bed and ignoring the world. Sometimes the emotional pain I experience with my Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, and anxiety is so intense that it takes over my entire body and puts me in bed for days on end. But this time, instead of avoiding my feelings of anxiety and abandonment I decided to look them in the face and continue on.

I chose to feel the fear and go through with meeting my new psychiatrist anyway.

Upon meeting with my new psychiatrist, I was relieved to discover that she was an older female woman who I connected with very well. While I was not comfortable with her during our first appointment and didn’t open up to her very much, I continued to sit in the fear and abandonment emotions I was feeling and trust myself enough to embrace this change. While I wish that I would have opened up more and been more upfront about my needs to my new psychiatrist, I know that just feeling my emotions and continuing with something that caused me such emotional turmoil was a huge advancement for me.

Sitting in my emotions is something that I struggle with the most, as in the past I have looked for an escape from uncomfortable emotions – may it have been avoidance or going so far as to self-medicate with substances and self-harm. I had strong urges during this time to participate in some of my previous coping mechanisms, but I was able to take a step back mentally and remind myself that the emotions I was feeling were okay and valid in the situation. After convincing myself of this reality, I rode my emotions like a wave. During this pandemic I have struggled with using past behaviors as a coping mechanism, but I have also intercepted these behaviors and used techniques such as riding the wave of my emotions and experiencing them for what they are, rather than hiding or escaping.

Even if I had not gotten along with my new psychiatrist, this experience showed me that emotions and urges are temporary and that I have the power to sit in them and ride them knowing that they will pass, and things will get better.

If you are struggling with self-destructive behaviors and/or intense emotions due to the current times we are living in, rest assured that it is okay to experience what you are experiencing, and that it is only natural to resort to behaviors that might have brought you comfort in the past. But next time you feel an intense emotion or urge, I challenge you to take a mental step back and ride the wave of your emotions and urges. See if you are able to observe them, instead of act on them, and discover how great it feels to take back your power!

Ashley Nestler, MSW
Ashley Nestler, MSW
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Ashley Nestler, MSW

Ashley Nestler, MSW is a Bibliotherapist and a survivor of Major Depressive Disorder, OCD, Quiet Borderline Personality, Fibromyalgia, Bulimia Nervosa, and C-PTSD. Ashley has dedicated her life to advocating for mental health and illness.

See all posts by Ashley Nestler, MSW