I have a problem with abandonment. There’s no reason to ask myself why. It’s perfectly clear to me. I’ve had it all my life. I remember when my mother was dropping me off at nursery school when I was four and I told her I didn’t want to get out of the car. She said to me I didn’t have to and yet when we drove to the nursery school, the teacher was there waiting and she opened the door of our car. She and my mother dragged me out and then the teacher held me while my mother drove away.
I’m not saying this was a terrible thing to do. It wasn’t great that’s for sure. That’s what parents did in the 50s. There wasn’t any comforting or soft landings or other things that kids have in today’s world. It was just like “ Here’s the schedule and you are going to do it whether you like it or not”.
Unfortunately, I have never forgotten the feeling of looking at my mother through the rearview mirror of the 1954 pale green Studebaker station wagon, wood paneling and all. The back of her head held rigidly, and her two hands in the 10 and 2 o’clock position, gripping the wooden steering wheel vehemently, she drove off like a comet. I don’t remember what I did that day or where I sat or who I played with. I just remember that I was frozen. I wondered if I would ever be in my house again.I saw the white canvas cots in the back of the room and understood I might be here for a long time.
Anxiety was never a friend. I never got used to anxiety. I never asked it to spend the night. I never asked it to come and ruin my vacations, nor did I ask it to criticize all of the relationships that I had. Anxiety had a way of slipping into my mind and persuading me within seconds that I had no one and I never would. After being persuaded that I had no one that loved me I would go on to think, “Well, I only have another 58 years to live so I can get through this.”
Now I catch myself thinking, “Well, I only have another 10 years to live”.
That’s what people think, because anxiety leads to depression and depression can often lead to a thought pattern of there’s nothing on this earth for me.
I want you to know that I don’t feel this every day.
I never know when I’m going to feel it, but when it starts now I have more tools to deal with it. Abandonment and anxiety often go hand-in-hand and one can trigger the other so easily. I noticed recently that I was having a hard time saying goodbye to friends. Then I noticed it wasn’t just friends. I was having a hard time saying goodbye to anything or anyone. I was having a hard time closing the garage door because then I’d have to say goodbye to the car for the night. What if I needed it? Or if I needed to go someplace? Maybe I should leave the door open?
An old friend spent the night with me recently. We had met in college and we both have the same name and we’ve stayed in touch over the years and supported one another usually using one form of distance-learning or another. When she came for the night it was as if she had always been there. I looked at her sweet face and her large expressive eyes, and I thought how charming and interesting she was. When I went to sleep that night, it was so nice to think that there was someone else in the house sleeping too. Normally there’s no one in the house with me.
As a segue, I asked my sister the other day when we were having lunch if she was ever troubled by anxiety. She thought for quite a while, which I appreciated and then she said she thought she was, but what she did was immediately go outside and move very rapidly. This makes sense to me because she’s very athletic and in doing what she was doing she was naturally taking care of that anxiety. Then I asked her about abandonment and she said she thought she had it too. So I asked her if maybe we had it because there’s been so many people in the house with us when we were a little though we weren’t really connected. She found that really interesting. She’s still thinking.
Anyway, so my friend is sleeping in my guest room below me and I am so grateful to have a body in the house and have that body belong to somebody that I love and will love for the rest of my life.
In the morning, we sat at the breakfast table and talked about our lives, and what we wish we had done but didn’t because anxiety had gotten in the way. She shared with me that she wanted to go to graduate school in journalism and I shared with her that I had wanted to go to law school. Both of us were afraid to apply because we were afraid to have to take the exams. Another form of anxiety which hits us both though we are both very intelligent women.
I don’t really know how you help people with anxiety. I know there are techniques that are helpful. I also know that it’s genetically-based and that some people are helped by medication. I think the most helpful thing to me was being in a long-term relationship with a man I could really count on, and I hope to have this happen again in my lifetime.
I see children with anxiety now and I see the parents trying to ignore it or push them into doing something. Anything to distract them from their anxiousness. I think that it would’ve helped me if some adult had noticed what was going on with me, and taught me some breathing techniques and explained to me that anxiety was merely a function of brain wiring gone off for a moment. What a blessing it might’ve been instead of having to wait 70 years to deal with some thing that had prevented me from having a life I have wanted so badly.
Now I think about my mother, dragging me out of the car and driving away and immediately locking the door so I couldn’t run after the car and jump in. I wonder what she was thinking? I wonder if she was angry at me or I wonder if she was scared. If so, what could she have been scared of? I certainly was a child who was different than the others in the family. I was like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I think I spent a lot of time as a child wailing at what went on in the world and at home.
It must’ve been hard to live with someone like me. Now I see that having this type of personality is helpful because one is automatically tuned into others and can help other people become stronger. There are many people in my life that I have helped with anxiety and helped with their own communication skills and helped with their job choices. I am proud of that, but there still is a part of me that will always be there. That little part that’s always saying, “What would you be like now if you hadn’t had anxiety? Where would you be?”
They say in life you should never go back and criticize your choices, but I disagree. I think it makes you stronger and more compassionate. If you can look at the choices you made, and see where you went wrong something softens inside you. Compassion comes along with acceptance. I’ll never go to the airport to drop off someone I love because all I will see is the back of my mother’s head getting smaller and smaller. I can’t change that moving picture nor the forlornness that accompanies it.
I can remind myself that nothing is forever. Friends come and go physically but they stay in your heart. There is no guarantee about anything in life but when you are playing musical chairs you have to get up and find another chair when the music stops. The space in time when you have no place to sit is filled with possibilities not dangers. Even without a chair or a friend, there is a path. Along that path are many forms of love and support. I keep getting up when the music stops and setting out to find them.