Attachment Anxiety: Surviving A Toxic Relationship
"Ever been in or recently come out of a toxic relationship and you blame yourself and are being blamed when you’re not actually at fault? Read my mental health story, which talks about my experience."
Vishnavy Srinathan
Chief People Partner
United Kingdom
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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting lately and I’ve been battling internally as to whether I should share this or not, but I finally gathered some courage, when I thought about another person that might find some reassurance after reading this and recently I’ve had a couple of people come to me asking for advice so that pushed me to do this!

I had a pretty awful year last year. (No doubt that many of us have). I moved back home to the UK from Australia after resigning from my job, didn’t have any luck getting a job straight away which is very unlike me, my living conditions were tight, I got into a relationship that wasn’t at all healthy and then saw my confidence drop from 110% to 0% all within a space of a year. For someone that was pretty content with life, career driven, independent there was nothing worse than this. 

I kickstarted 2020 celebrating my 30th with my loved ones, thought I had it all. What seemed like a perfect relationship at the time, an amazing job offer before it went on hold, I was back home closer to my family and friends just like I wanted, after doing all the travelling and living abroad. I couldn’t think of anything else to make it more perfect. Especially because in most cultures it's so important to have it together by "30".

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Little did I know, that within just a couple of months, that would change and everything would spiral out of control. I was in a relationship where I felt like the best thing to do was to stay. One of my friends called it gaslighting (a form of emotional abuse) in its purest form. I didn’t even know what that meant prior to last year but it was true. It meant I began to question my own sanity. I was consistently being let down by the one person that I thought was in it with me forever and I kept allowing that person to keep letting me down. Even when I knew, I wasn’t the only girl anymore, I still kept trying to hold on. Even though he was a doctor, it was shocking how he had zero empathy or emotional intelligence. It went on for so long that soon it just all got ahead of me. 

What did that mean for me? I just wasn’t feeling happy within myself. Letting go was scary. I fell into this deep dark hole and I just couldn’t climb out of it. 

I guess a lot of people tend to hide their past, feel like it’s irrelevant to share, feel embarrassed or just worry what people may think. I couldn’t care less because I learned some valuable lessons and most importantly I’m a survivor!

I guess heartbreak wasn’t the only thing - it was for sure a combination of lockdown, feeling caged up and not feeling fulfilled in terms of my career at the time. I always thought I was this strong independent woman but then I started to question myself as I didn’t feel in control of anything.

During this time I started to go for counselling. I’ve never been before, but I made some very eye opening discoveries! I have something called attachment anxiety... the fear of being abandoned, the feeling of not being able to let go, the feeling that you'll never find anyone more perfect. This stems from childhood trauma and although this is in no way a reflection of how I was brought up by my amazing mother, it all made so much sense. I spent days reading up on it and 'embracing' this thing as I was told to do.

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It’s not a condition or an illness, it’s just a part of my personality. I tend to trust people too easily, I tend to get attached to people, I don’t take it very well when someone I love walks away. It was actually quite comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one that went through it. Millions of people do! It was also good to know that I don't need to be fixed, what I actually need is a partner that doesn’t trigger this attachment anxiety but someone that won’t make me feel insecure and won’t keep attacking me for feeling a certain way. Someone that wouldn’t bring that inner child trauma in me to the surface, but the problem was that I was trying to stay with someone that was the wrong person for me all along!

At the time, the worst thing I could do was stay with someone that not only activated this attachment anxiety in me, but also kept making me feel like I was crazy and that I had a serious problem when I didn’t. Not many people, including my friends, know this because of course when we really like someone we tend to only say good things about them and also no one wants to admit they were emotionally being attacked by their boyfriend especially when you want it to work so badly and you don't want anyone to try and persuade you otherwise. 

My intention isn’t to throw anyone under the bus, but I do want to raise awareness to this sort of behaviour. We women grow up with so much pressure in society with the added complexity of being brown. We are told, we should or shouldn’t act a certain way so we stay quiet but why? No human should feel that they can’t openly voice things just because it will damage their reputation or they won’t be likeable. If you’re sexually harassed, we’re telling people to speak up. So why shouldn’t we speak up if we’re treated poorly in relationships?

Moving on, around October 2020, it was scary to say the least! I remember just not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I remember feeling like I wanted to just quit. I didn't want to live in this nasty world anymore and I was so close to closing my chapter. I remember feeling paralysed to a point where I had zero energy to move from my bed. I never felt so helpless, never felt so much in pain. A million things went through my head. I’m sure I was hallucinating at one point too. There were voices in my head, most saying quit, very few saying stay. I felt very anxious, I was so frightened. I needed help but I didn’t know what kind and I didn’t know how to voice it.

I had an angel of a cousin that lived with me at the time so he sat by me and not only is he a great doctor but he’s so freakin emotionally intelligent, and honestly I don’t think I could have made it through without him. And of course, I had some amazing friends that also stayed with me in the last couple of days and supported me throughout, before I got some medical help to help me push through. Not to forget my family that were also there for me and my mum that I’ve never seen shed a tear, shed many for me during that time and dragged me home with her so that I could be showered with love. However, at the end of the day, it was on me to call and get the help I needed to get me through this. It was on me to be the fighter I had to be to make it through the other end. 

After just a couple of weeks off work and of me feeling helpless, I slowly started picking myself up. Picking up those broken pieces and putting them back together again. It wasn’t easy. There were up and mostly down days, those voices and the anxiety inside of me kept creeping up. I had lost faith in god. I wasn’t quite sure what to believe in but I had to believe in myself. 

I’m just going to say it out loud. This is mental health. 

There’s so much stigma around this sort of stuff still to this day, it’s so embarrassing and unacceptable and I’m disgusted by that. Especially with us Tamils! Even after I had gone through what I had, my family still don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I mean, I’m meant to be that strong independent girl that I had always been, and I’m expected to keep being that person?! I was born in an era where I try to keep up with the traditions in my family and at the same time keep up with the western differences. That’s not easy! 

I remember when I was lying there with all those thoughts, all that went through my mind was that there are so many people who are going through something like this or worse and now I truly do understand how they feel. 

Anyway, the good thing is I came out of it eventually, I picked myself up, I even made an important decision to start my masters whilst I was still in recovery mode. I did a social media detox for nearly 4 months and just focused on myself. I adopted new self-care routines like meditation, threw myself into making my flat look pretty, started reading again and meeting people (as much as I could in this pandemic). I practice gratitude as much as I can. I binge watched TV lol and I threw myself into my career again! 

What I learned from all of this is being happy and content with what you have is the most important thing. Don’t underestimate how painful this sort of thing is:

1) Don’t treat anyone else like shit.

2) Don’t allow yourself to be treated like shit. Our minds and bodies can only handle so much. 

Don’t be ashamed. We all go through a difficult time at some point in our lives and THAT’S OK! It doesn’t and SHOULDN’T make us less attractive or less worthy!!! It should only make us stronger. Although I’m off medication and feeling so much better, I have my days and that’s okay too! You can’t always be perfect, you can’t always be a warrior! I’m so happy and grateful to be here! 

This is such an overplayed statement but I actually feel it now! Don’t let society define who you are or who you should be.

I know my mum will probably be upset with me for posting this, but I feel liberated to share my story with you all! I am so thankful to all of my friends and family that constantly showered me with love and gifts throughout this grey period!

There is no purpose in being perfect to inspire others, let them be inspired by how you deal with imperfections! 

You live and you learn.

That’s my story. 

The main photo was taken on New Years Eve - It was the first proper photo taken of me after I started to feel better within myself and health wise! 

Vishnavy Srinathan
Chief People Partner
United Kingdom
I’ve lived and worked in both Australia and Hong Kong having been born and brought up i...
I’ve lived and worked in both Australia and Hong Kong having been born and brought up i...
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