My daughter is moving out of my house, and like many parents, I’m not doing well with it. But unlike other parents, I have a history that plays into this mix of emotions. And I’m having a hard time tamping down those feelings.
My mom was hospitalized with tuberculosis for a year and a half when I was 3. I bounced from family to family during that time of my life. She relapsed when I was 6 and was sent away again, for another year.
Another year of family chaos and grief.
The aftereffect of this abandonment has been with me since then, lodged in my psyche, crouching in a corner, ready to rear its ugly head when someone significant leaves my circle. Or when my child-self detects the slightest trace of emotional abandonment.
And that seems to happen on a regular basis.
I drank for years to cover it up, to push it down, to try to obliterate the pain and anxiety it caused. But these things have a way of worming their way to the surface, of getting our attention, no matter how hard we try to dismiss their existence.
Before I was fully aware of this abandonment issue, the anxiety emerged in the form of allergies and asthma, and for years flared up when the thought of someone leaving crept near. And because I had no idea of what was really going on, I became increasingly needy, unconsciously pushing people away when I needed them most. I had no real knowledge of what was happening until I stopped drinking.
And that’s when it all hit the fan.
That stuff I bottled up all those years blew up right in my face.
It rose to the surface when my husband left me and our young daughter just a few months after I quit. I no longer had alcohol to squelch the pain and fear. My asthma and allergies erupted with a vengeance, propelling me into fits of sneezing during the day, then waking me mid-sleep unable to take a sufficient breath.
And now I’m bracing for another round of discomfort.
Except for the four years she spent in college, my daughter and I have lived together. During the past few years, we mostly just had dinner together, occasionally watching something we agreed upon on Netflix. We’ve been more or less practicing for her leaving. But it still doesn’t make it any easier for me. While my daughter prides herself on all the adulting she’s doing, my 3-year-old-self takes over far too often.
A friend canceling a movie date can cause unreasonable anxiety.
My sister going off on an out-of-sight trip for a month can bring me to tears.
A longtime girlfriend moving away can have me spiraling for months.
Of course, years of therapy helped with this, and my work with a homeopath has been healing. So, I’m gearing up for the big day with lots of deep breathing, exercise and contact with friends. And I’m keeping my asthma inhaler close at hand.
Just in case.