When mental health makes connections harder to maintain – or recall!  


When I was 8 my parents divorced. Holidays were the only time I saw my dad, as my mum, brother and I moved to another city. We didn’t speak on the phone so the gaps between contact were pretty long.   


I don’t have many memories from that time, but I do recall excitedly telling a kid in the playground that I was going to see my dad on the weekend. It must have felt big to have left such an impression on me.  


What I do remember, however, is that I didn’t keep the absent parent in my mind. When I was with dad I didn’t think of mum and when I was with mum I didn’t think of dad. It was like they didn’t exist. My therapist has explained that this ‘splitting’ was a way of protecting myself from missing them.   


Today I still feel the effects of this childhood defense mechanism. I have trouble thinking of people if I’m not with them – it’s like I can only hold friends and family in my mind if they are right there with me. For example, I used to think friendships with people who lived overseas were not ‘real’ because you couldn’t be together with them.   


Therapy has helped me face the pain of missing people, and I no longer experience missing as a ‘dangerous’ thing. I even have a friend who lives far away who I maintain contact with over the phone – something I wasn’t able to do in the past, causing me to lose contact with people.  


Despite my progress I still find myself forgetting to reach out to people, as they just slip out of my mind. I’ll even forget my husband is sitting in the other room waiting for me – so I guess I’m still a work in progress! 


This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.

To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/