The existential fear of rejection

The existential fear of rejection

I signed up for my second round of therapy with the goal of managing and breaking out of a depressive spiral. In the first appointment, my therapist predicted that my depression is powered by anxiety alone, and by tackling that, it would lead to much better management of my depression. The next session she made a conjecture that my anxiety was built on the fear of rejection and abandonment.

So er, turns out she was right. On both counts.

Working through feelings and my behavioural patterns and how they have come about has brought about mind-blown moments every single week. I’ve learned and developed ways of coping with the symptoms of anxiety while working on the root causes and trying to understanding and counteract the thoughts and process that perpetuate it. Like, I never realised until recently that people have emotions but they’re not normally controlled by and overwhelmed by them. Wild!

I have a crippling fear that the people around me will, in time, reject and abandon me, while I grip onto them for my own emotional and existential stability as I don’t create it for myself. It means I latch on to people and communities too fast and too strong and it means when people drift away (for whatever reason), I panic and feel like my world is falling apart. I live life afraid to say no or go against people because I don’t ever want them to feel hurt or turn their backs on me. So many decisions in my life have been made to try and make others happy and like me and stick around me, where what I’ve needed to do is to make decisions that don’t come at my own detriment.

Today my therapist explained that Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria is a common trait amongst people with ADHD. She explains that people like me (she can’t diagnose me, but we both suspect I have it), are more sensitive to rejection and fears of abandonment, and when it happens it feels so much more painful than other people may feel. The reaction and pain is extreme, visceral, and very unbearable.

Right now in my life, so much is changing. People are coming and going, big life events keep happening one after the other, and it’s hard not to feel like a fishing boat lost in a big ocean storm, being battered around by the uncontrollable waves of life. Instinctually I grasp out for anything I can try to hold on to, and to hold it tight, to try to maintain a false sense of stability.

I feel compelled to post all the time on social media for engagement and conversation because I want people to not forget about me. I’m terrified that if I stop or leave, I’ll be left and I’ll drift apart from friends. And what then? What’s left?

The tragic and difficult truth, that I have a really hard time comprehending, is that I can’t control the ebb and flow of life. People will come and go all the time, some people drifting apart, some people suddenly and heartbreakingly leaving your life. I have to, need to, enjoy the moment and the people in my life for what it is, while working on maintaining a stable sense of self. If I spend my life worrying about the people around me abandoning me, I push them away faster and I’m left with fewer good memories than if I enjoy their present and warm company.

Therapist: “What really hurts, is when you spend all this energy working on relationships where the other person is drifting apart from you.”
Me: “So what you’re saying is, I should be fighting for the people who mean a lot to me and care about me?”
Therapist: “Why do you need to fight?
You already fight for acceptance, for your place in society, people making offensive comments in the street, for building your career and for the body you want. why do you need to fight to hold relationships together too?”

I need to stop fighting. I need to appreciate what I have, and to make it known that I appreciate it all. I need to keep my heart and mind open to all the wonder that is out there.

My social media presence has been both a blessing and a curse. I think it’s genuinely helped me on the path to working out who I am and what makes me me, but also it’s meant that I chase empty engagement and vacuous connections in order to feel important and noticed. The idea of pulling away from that is really fucking terrifying. It’s existential. It feels like if I don’t announce things out to the world, people will never reach out to me just because they value my company.

I don’t want to be forgotten.

Go to the people you care about and make it known that you care, it’ll mean more to them than you’ll ever know.


Oh P.S. I’m tapering off antidepressants. The third attempt at a medicine that would help me didn’t work either, and I don’t think any antidepressant would help me. They either made things worse mentally or just gave me undesirable side effects. I’m glad to have tried them, but good god I’m glad to be getting off of them. It’s been terrifying at times.