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Emotional effects of Boarding school - how it affected my relationships and has closed down my emotions

Community Member

I was sent to boarding school at aged 4 many many years ago but only now realise how it has affected my relationships with family and friends, and my general wellbeing. I find it really hard to cope with emotional issues, lack trust and tend to walk away without resolving them. I have always been scared to show my true feelings and when I do on the rare occassion I lash out. Until recently I found it hard to cry and now I cry several times a day. The doctor has put me on anti depressants. I am also seeing a pyschologist but I don't think she understands the issues of abandonment at such an early age. I suppose it is like being put in to care as a small child.

Has anyone else experienced being sent away to boarding school at a young age ? how are you dealing with the issues?

8 Replies 8

Community Champion
Community Champion


Welcome to the forum. This community is friendly, kind and supportive.

I am sorry you have issues of abandonment from a very early age at boarding school.

I know of someone who went to boarding school form age of 5 and never recovered. When his marriage broke up his parents would invite his ex wife to family functions and not their own son so he felt abandoned again.

I think the sense of abandonment can be very hard to deal with when family and friends say just move on.

It must be hard if no one who is helping is acknowledging your issues of abandonment.Would it be possible to write down how going to boarding school at such a young age has affected your life, and then show it to your psychologist so she has a better idea of what you experienced.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Jessica45

First thing that comes to mind is how much I just want to hug you. I'm not a super huggy type so this is really saying something. As a mum, I can only imagine the impact boarding school would have had on my kids, who are now 13 and 16, and my heart goes out to you.

It may not be my place to say but if you see absolutely no hope at all in clicking with your psychologist, keep searching until you find someone who gets where you're coming from. I imagine there are many complex issues you're dealing with and you are entitled to the best insight and guidance.

When it comes to mental conditioning, I'm wondering whether those boarding were all generally taught to sweep personal challenges and emotions under the rug and just 'get on with things/life'. If this was the case, I imagine the feelings of abandonment didn't just involve your parents. Perhaps the feelings cover a lack of overall constructive guidance within the school as well. We can feel abandoned in so many ways, sometimes to the point where it becomes easier to create distance rather than run the risk of rejection or criticism.

Re-learning how to live in a way that serves us best often involves unlearning the ways which led us to ignore that special part of us - the part that thrives on celebrating great personal expression. It's the part of us that longs to be recognised as unique, one of a kind. It's hard to know that part of us when we have been given so many conditions which to live by. I can remember coming out of many years of depression some time ago and feeling overwhelmed by having finally 'met myself', my true self without conditions. Sounds a bit weird for sure but it is a beautiful experience I pray you will come to know for yourself.

I'm sorry I can't offer a relateable scenario, due to me not experiencing the challenges of boarding school. I just wanted to be able to offer some support in the way of looking forward, beyond depression. I believe the only positive form of abandonment involves us abandoning an identity (brought about through conditioning) that was so poorly chosen for us, especially from such an early age.

I'm glad you've taken the path of guidance through navigating not only the challenges faced within depression but also the challenges involved in reforming your self in a way that reflects the truth as to who you are. You are unique, you are incredibly valuable.

Take care Jessica45

Hi Quirky

Thanks for your kind advice. I have started writing down my story as you suggest. Since posting I discovered and been in touch with a UK website Boarding School Survivors and have been given the name of a psychologist who i hope to work with via skype .

We are so fortunate to be able to communicate via email, web and skype. Again thanks jessica42


Thank you for that lovely hug. I'm not much of a hugger either but yours made me feel so much better. Also I do appreciate your long respose. I've read it a couple of times and want to read it again tomorrow.

Since posting I discovered and contacted a uk website Boarding School Survivors. I have been given the name of a psycholgist and will communicate with her via Skype

I am also writing up my story which is quite difficult as i recall the long forgotten past. To survive arding school I learnt to hide my feelings and controlled my emotions so dredging all this up is quite scary. Your response has given me courage to seek the change and to learn how to trust. I wonder what my true self is.

Thanks Jessica42


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Jessicas45

How hopeful and exciting to have discovered a psychologist who deals specifically with this topic. A brave move for sure, having contacted the website. I believe that whilst the soul prompts us to take the best path, the ego often stops us from stepping foot upon it. So glad you listened to the part that longs for your healing.

The fear associated in conquering 'demons of the past' is understandable. It is said that all great and wise warriors experience an element of fear before they go into battle, for the wise are not deluded in thinking the battle will be simple.

If you wish to, please keep us updated on your progress.

Take care of yourself

Community Member
I started boarding school in the 70s just before I turned twelve, and it was an emotional wasteland. My heart bleeds for you little Jessica45, being so much younger when you were "sent away" - I wish I had seen your post back in 2019 so that I could at least say "I hear you". I hope you are recovering well. Recently I have been trying to figure out the cause of some new physical symptoms of anxiety. While I have been angry in the past about my boarding experiences, I was nevertheless surprised at the visceral response I had when recounting those experiences to a psychologist recently. I am wary about complaining about boarding school: some see it as a privilege for which I should feel grateful; my experiences are not universal; I was a high achiever, so it can't have been that bad; I am looking for someone to blame for my issues etc. I don't think boarding school is the only cause of my lifelong difficulties, but it certainly didn't help. The effort of suddenly being responsible for running my day to day life, and having to maintain a facade all the time, took its toll. We were kept constantly busy with a rigid routine of study, cleaning and sport. There was no privacy and no downtime. I constantly compared myself to other girls - the usual things like clothes, but more significantly it seemed like my family lacked affection (or even a basic level of interest) compared to most. Some nuns were ok, but most were either sadly immature themselves or otherwise frankly disgusted by teenage girls. Weekends home, 4 to 6 (and once even 😎 weeks apart, were fraught - I learnt pretty quickly not to wish for any special treatment. Looking back, I think there were plenty of indications that someone should have been making some serious enquiries about whether I was ok. And that is my main complaint - nobody, not the nuns, not my parents - ever really checked or cared how I was coping. I hope someone is keeping a watchful eye on boarders now and that mental health practitioners see boarding school in anyone's history as a serious red flag. I got the impression that the psychologist I saw wasn't interested in getting in to the boarding school weeds, or anything else in the forest really, in any depth. She seems more interested in my "character" (by which I think she means personality traits, but for me it's a term loaded with good/bad, weak/strong connotations). She's been sacked.

Game face on

welcome to the forum and thanks for your detailed and very moving post.

As you have seen your post is the first one in about 2 years. so you may like to start your own thread so more people can see your post.

The idea of boarding school as being a red flag makes sense z. My ex had man6 issues and many started at board ing school where he was sent at age ten. On his first day he wore the wrong coloured shirt and felt humiliated. He did not like one day there and his wish to co e home was ignored by his parents. He only saw them a few times a year.

Thank you! I feel for your ex - the shirt story is a classic "death by a million humiliations" boarding school tale - petty to people haven't experienced or at least observed their cumulative effect