My Life with Severe Separation Anxiety
“They are coming!” I exclaimed, almost jumping out of my skin. My father was bringing my mother home from the airport in Warsaw. She had been away for 6 months, working in the United States.
That was the arrangement my parents made to provide for our family of 5. My mother would go away and clean houses in New York for 6 months at a time, then she’d return home for 2 to 4 weeks and then my dad would go and work construction for another 6 months and Mom would stay home. Then the cycle would repeat. My parents tried to make ends meet back home, opening up one unsuccessful business after another, but it was never enough. So this coming and going with my parents was my reality for the first 14 years of my life.
I remember the days when they came home as some of my happiest childhood memories. My siblings and I made ambitious, flashy welcome home signs, covered in every shade of glitter we could get our hands on. We cleaned the house until it was spotless and we helped grandma and grandpa prepare delicious Polish delicacies.
Then the 3 of us children, my sister, my brother and I, would put on captivating performances for the grand return of our missing parent. Our shows varied from dance numbers to short sketches to music productions, but always seemed to end with one of us crying hysterically because we knew that very soon our other parent would be leaving again for their stint of working away. It took me years before I even realized that those “goodbyes” impacted me so severely.
In fact I was so sick to my stomach with the idea of saying goodbye to anyone from my immediate family, that I would burst into tears when we separated for even a few days. This unhealthy pattern continued for most of my life. I still remember coming home nearly every weekend my first year of grad school, not only to visit my husband but also to see my parents. Whenever it was time for me to leave, I had to do so quickly before my tears started to stream down my face.
I didn’t realize that this pattern wasn’t normal until just a few years ago. I noticed that my siblings didn’t go through the same experience as me. For some reason, despite growing up in the same household, I won the separation anxiety lottery. At first, when I became aware of my patterns I decided to suppress my feelings. I decided to hold my tears in, put on a smile whenever someone left, and pretend that I’ve changed my ways.
I probably don’t have to tell you that it was a terrible idea. What ended up happening was that in anticipation of someone leaving in the future, I would become progressively anxious and would start crying before it even happened. Instead of healing this wound I had, I made it worse. This is why it’s so important to face our problems. If we bury them under the carpet, we allow them to continue hunting us and getting in the way of our happiness.
I’ve since dealt with it differently. My separation anxiety is not completely healed, because unfortunately healing deep childhood wounds is not a linear process and I’ve yet to uncover some of the layers behind my pain. However, I’m feeling so much better about it. With a combination of meditation, mindset shifts, working on raising my self worth and EMDR therapy, I’m finally able to put some of that anxiety behind me.
I hope that this gives you hope and a plan of how to deal with your own blocks and trauma. It’s so important to address them. Don’t let them simmer and marinate in your head and heart for too long. They will just manifest in your life in different undesirable ways. Find your own healing path. If you need professional help, don’t wait to reach out. Become the best version of yourself. The world is waiting for your gifts.