The girl is gone and I am reminded of how poorly I handle goodbyes. Not the kind of goodbye where you leave behind things that are no longer good for you, I’m an expert at using my gift of goodbye! I’m talking about literal goodbyes, farewells, so longs… I’m talking about separation anxiety. I’m a complete anxious mess leading up to the hugs and cries. I sweat as my stomach knots and I feel like I may throw up or shit myself, possibly both. My mind begins to race, creating vivid and extraordinary situations in which I would never see this person again and then my heart aches, it literally aches.
I’m pretty sure my separation anxiety is one of the many side effects of my absentee father. When we were young, my mother used to drive my sister and I to see my father. The drive seemed like it took days, but in reality it was only 2 hours. She would drop us off with family and we would play with cousins, and wait for my father to show up. He never showed up. And, every time she picked us up, I would cry and feel an overwhelming sadness. I wondered if I would ever see them again… and there came a time when I didn’t.
I started to identify my separation anxiety when Rosie dropped me off at college. I was sick, literally sick, the entire drive from Illinois to Tennessee. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t hold anything down, and I felt like I was dying. I cried and cried as I hugged my mother goodbye and the longing was followed by a period of grieving, where I self-soothed for a couple of days. I noticed this cycle repeat as I moved through friends, lovers, cities, and chapters in my life. Each time, breaking down as I said “bye” and then spending time reminding myself that I am not alone and this separation is not forever.
This behavior is still very much present in my life. Now, I just know how to manage it. I still cry every time I leave my family, especially my mother. I cry every time my plane leaves Chicago (home). I cry every time I leave behind a moment that I loved and I cried and cried when the girl hopped into the car to leave me and never come back!
I immediately began to self-soothe and now that I own my issue, I’m able to recover more quickly than before. Here are a couple things that help manage my separation anxiety:
- Cry it out! Don’t hold the tears & emotions in, let it out. Crying is cathartic and sometimes I feel better after a good cry alone.
- Take lots of pictures and journal the moments you’re afraid of losing. Having something tangible helps me cope with the idea of never having it again. I can look at pictures and read the way I felt in the moment, forever!
- Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is real. The anxiety, the sadness, and the fear are real; the situations in your imagination are not. Speak rational & realistic statements:
Yes, there is a chance you may never see this person again, that is life. This chance is small and should not paralyze you. This is so long, not goodbye.
- Take your meds. Chances are, if you are someone who manages anxiety, you have some type of medication for moments just like this. There is no shame in taking your meds. There is no shame in not being able to manage these overwhelming feelings on your own.
- Say what you need to say. Tell people that you love them, that you miss them all the time, and that being in their presence makes you happy. Tell people they are important to you.
- Check-in! It always helps to know that that everyone is safe after travels. The world can be a crazy & scary place, where truthfully, anything (good or bad) can happen. A quick check-in is the easiest way to peace of mind.
- Take care of you. If you are someone who suffers from any kind of anxiety, you should know at least three solid methods of self-soothing
- breathing exercises
- exercise or movement (walking, yoga, dance, running, sports, endless options!)
- sight, sound, smell stimulation (look at photos, listen to music, aromatherapy)
- touch (hug or cuddle with someone safe: someone who won’t judge your state of anxiety)
- chat with a friend (doesn’t have to be about your anxiety & sometimes chatting about something else will help relieve your toiling mind)
- get out of the house
- read a book
Take care of you luvvhers, there is only one.