The biggest epidemic in our societies today is separation (disconnection with self and the world) It is this feeling that leads people to suffer with low self esteem, live a life where they find it difficult to be true to themselves and ultimately dis-ease.
I say this because I know ‘separation’. I have felt its fear in every fibre of my being. I have suffered with separation anxiety for my whole life but for many years nobody knew and I didn’t even admit it to myself. Then 4 years ago when my son was one, a thyroid problem kicked in and my anxiety levels peaked, I experienced the full effect of this devastating ‘condition’. My husband stopped working outside of the home and worked from home so he could be there for me. I utterly depended on him ‘being around’ every moment of the day. I wouldn’t go out by myself and I wouldn’t be left home alone.
I knew that I couldn’t cure this ‘condition’ by gritting my teeth and using my will power because I had done that all my life with no success. I had to do something different. I started to relax into the support I had. For a while every day felt like Christmas because I had someone there to look after me. I set myself a goal of being better in a year but when the next new year came I felt no inclination to move away from my husband’s side. A trip to the dentist or the hairdressers without him still felt nearly in-surmountable in its difficulty. I was disappointed with myself and worried for both of us but I kept going with what I had started. Another year passed and there was little change in my willingness to do anything by myself but I knew that I felt ‘more safe’ in the world somewhere deep inside. When I did go to the hairdressers I could be distracted from my feeling of separation when I connected with the people there. Not being able to find my husband in the supermarket, the fear wouldn’t strike so deep to my core.
As the years have passed, I have become stronger. When my son was 5 I did the school run – driving the 4 miles with him to his little school in the countryside. When I caught sight of the Dorset hills, felt the sun on my back, jigging along to some music on the radio, I suddenly felt alive and free and OK. Now he is 7 I am happy to go further afield, with my son or by myself. I am also happy to be at home by myself for short periods of time. I still feel wobbly thinking about it but the minute I find myself on my own I feel I step into a strength I didn’t know I had. I feel safe in the world for the first time in my life. They are small steps but I know the rest will follow.
I think many people will find my approach to separation anxiety an odd one. It would seem like a recipe for never getting better. But I have learnt that this anxiety has little to do with being dependent on a significant other. This is simply the symptom. The cause is a sense of separation that runs deep in the core of our being. It may have happened at our birth or in childhood, we may have inherited it from our parents but however it happened, I believe it is our deepest journey to find our sense of safety within ourselves and the world. When we find that feeling, we will no longer tolerate separateness and we will do everything in our power to create strong bonds with our children, our families and the world. We will fall into God’s arms and gladly admit that we can’t do it on our own. Due to my experience I used to crave a feeling of independence and self- sufficiency but it is no longer of any concern to me. All I want is to feel safe, loved and at home in myself and the world.
Symptoms of Adult Separation Anxiety
Because there has yet to be a clear diagnostic tool set forth to better understand separation anxiety in adults, it becomes difficult to tell what is a symptom of ASA and what may simply be an adults personality. The best way to understand what ASA is, is to view the symptoms of separation anxiety in children and see how they can manifest as adults. In children, symptoms of separation anxiety include:
- Distress when detached from a specific figure or figures.
- Excessive worry about losing these figures.
- Anxious, “worst case scenario” thinking about separation.
- Trouble sleeping when away from a specific person.
- Physical complaints when separation appears eminent.
Research into adult separation anxiety is currently very slim. But there are reasons to believe that ASA is a very real problem, and affects the lives of countless adults.