How do you differentiate the meaning, or should I say feeling, of leaving and leaving? A person, or child, without a history of abandonment may think this is a silly question, but is it? Really, is it? If you look up the meaning of the word ‘leaving’ on dictionary{dot}com it has multiple meanings, some of which are: “to go out or away from” “to depart from permanently” “to desist from”. But when you’ve been left time and time again, or for some just once, by the people who were supposed to care for you, who were supposed to stick by you, what does your definition of leaving become? The perception of it becomes so much more defined and in-depth than that of a child, or person, without a traumatic history. To a “Normie”, a parent or guardian leaving to go to check the mail, go to the grocery, or hang out with friends is no biggie, in fact, sometimes it’s relieving. However, to a child with abandonment in their history those things can cause a great deal of stress. For some, when their caregiver says, “Sweetie, I’m just going to walk to the end of the road to pick up the mail, I’ll be right back.” a sudden wave of panic and anxiety sets in. Sometimes the child has a meltdown, sometimes they have nervous antics take over, sometimes they shut down, and sometimes they just follow you. It’s hard to grasp the concept that you are only leaving for __ amount of minutes and will be right back. If a parent gets mad at their child, who has no traumatic history, the child and adult might stay mad for a little while but they still know that everything is okay, safe, and will be fine. Kids with traumatic backgrounds, not so much! When a parent gets upset or is off a little it is capable of setting the child into a tailspin. The brain is wired so differently in the two brains. How do you settle the heart and mind of a panic attacked, anxiety ridden child? I don’t have the answer. I know that there is not just one answer…but many…and unfortunately I can’t really offer any of them to you because I don’t know them. I am one of those children/adults who have major anxiety and panic when those I am close to leave. I mean to the point I have melt downs. The panic is so deep that I don’t know what to do with it or how to deal with it. Lets take my most recent “episode” into account and put things into perspective. A few days ago I was struggling and had pretty much reached my window of tolerance [that usually happens when I have had a day of work] and I was bubbling on the inside. My sister was off, my friend was off, and I was off…and when that happens, someone is bound to have some sort of melt down. Anyway, long story short, I was pretty disrespectful to my sisters friend and that really upset her [understandably] and I couldn’t handle it. She was trying to go to her room to have space to calm and collect herself…but I panicked. She reassured me multiple times that she was just going to her room [it’s like 8-9 yards away] and that she still loved me and that things would be okay. Logically I knew that…but something inside of me was stronger and wouldn’t allow me to settle. She went to go to her room and I literally freaked out. I panicked. I was so terrified and didn’t know what to do with it.  Needless to say it turned to me throwing a tantrum and following her. Literally! Like a three-year old. Legs flailing, arms flailing, waterworks, screaming, etc. It was a messy scene. All because she was leaving to go to her room. Not leaving, just leaving. Even tonight, I struggle. My sister is upset. Not AT me, but upset and as she tucked me into bed she reassured me that just because she is upset doesn’t mean that things aren’t okay, aren’t safe, etc. She let me know that she still loves me and that she is only a few yards away. That even though she is leaving to go to her room, 9 yards away, she is not leaving. It’s a hard concept for me to understand, as I’m sure it is for many others. As soon as she shut her door, my whole body set into full force panic mode. I’m okay now, three and a half, almost four, hours later…and it wasn’t easy to pull out of. I am still panicky and have anxiety but not to the point that it’s too much. It’s uncomfortable, but not unbearable. She isn’t leaving, just leaving…and somehow my body and mind needs a way to separate the two. So…how do you differentiate? How can you calm the dysregulated brain to understand that leaving doesn’t mean leaving. Leaving, to a child with abandonment issues, means forever. It means that something he or she did was bad or wrong and they are unlovable so the parent is leaving, forever. Not just leaving, but leaving! 

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