I Have Adult Separation Anxiety

When I was a kid, I would always ask my mother to leave the hallway light on right before I went to sleep.   There was this comfort I received knowing that this tiny beam of light was there.  And I don’t think I’m alone when I say that we have all asked our folks for that one simple favor.  We’ve all been there.  We’re afraid to shut our eyes.  We believe there are outlandish creatures standing behind our clothes in a closet.  We’ve all been afraid of the dark.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here–I’ve always had a problem with anxiety. It shows up when it wants to.  Sometimes I’ll be driving and my body will get tremors.  From an outside observer, it looks like I’m going through hypothermia and I’m shivering to death.  (Don’t mind me, I’m just shaking uncontrollably and I’m waiting for it to stop.)  It’s gotten so bad that I’ve had to pull over, flip on some tunes and just play the waiting game.  It sucks.  And it has even happened in social settings.  I’ll be sitting at the table hiding the fact that my legs are trembling nonstop.  And if that wasn’t already frustrating, my teeth start chattering because my nerves have skyrocketed.  I absolutely hate it.  My anxiety is not as bad as it was.  In fact, I hardly have those intense tremors anymore.  (Which rules so much, you don’t even know).  But no matter how much I try to ignore it, I will always have this one thing…

I have Adult Separation Anxiety.

{{Separation Anxiety Disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive Anxiety regarding separation from places or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment.     }}

When I was living at home, sometimes my parents would go on vacation that would last for a few days.  And since I was old enough, they would trust me with the house.
Let’s be clear about one thing–I’ve always enjoyed my alone time.  It has never been an issue.  I’ve never had this problem of being separated from my parents when I was a child (although my mom contributed to that, here).  I could be found reading while listening to music.  I could be found in my room writing.  Or I’d be laying in my bed watching some of my favorite films on repeat.  Alone time is seriously the best time.  But over the years, I’ve encountered a slight problem.  I thoroughly enjoyed my overall freedom and alone time during the day, but absolutely hated it when it came time to go to sleep…
At first, I thought that maybe (just maybe) my mind was playing tricks on me.  Everyone get’s a little jumpy when they hear a random noise when they are at home alone.  Guilty as charged.  But I started to feel far different than the whole ‘someone’s-in-my-house-and-they-are-here-to-kill-me-anxiety’.  I started to feel nauseous.  I would start pacing a lot.  My hands would get clammy.  And this type of anxiety was never a thing when I had someone else at home with me.

I was only getting anxious when I was being left alone at night

My mom kept telling me that it was all in my head.  But I had to know for sure.  To be honest–I couldn’t talk to her about it.  She is the most judgmental person I know.  And even if I told her I needed to see a doctor because of it–I would get the third degree.  I didn’t want the third degree.  (In fact, I shouldn’t get the third degree to begin with, but whatever.)  I just wanted answers.  Was it really all in my head? 

I began to sift through credible sources, and I realized that this wasn’t just some phase or silly mind game.  My symptoms were behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial and physical

  • Social Withdrawal/Isolation
  • Cyclical Thinking
  • Refusing to sleep without or when away from a significant other or other loved ones.
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Labored Breathing
  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Appetite Changes
  • Nausea
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Nightmares
  • Ritualistic Thinking
  • Irritability
  • Ongoing feelings of nervousness
  • High Levels of Anxiety
  • Feeling Guilty
  • Intense/Excessive fear.

To put things into perspective–last year, my boyfriend had taken some graveyard shifts at his work.  And I panicked.  Hard.  I told him that I wasn’t comfortable being alone in the house.  I explained that I would have a lot of trouble falling asleep due to anxiety. Although we live in a gated community and our house is secured by surveillance, I was still plagued with this unrelenting sense of danger.  He reassured me that our dog would keep me company and that everything would be alright.  Trying to ignore the amount of anxiety rising within me, I tried to push through and put my big girl pants on.  Well, I failed…

The first night he was away, I had the meltdown of the century.  I called him up while bursting into tears.  I felt this wave of fear washing over me.  I couldn’t get myself to relax.  Feeling panicked, he asked if he needed to come home from work.  I sat there feeling like such a child.  This was incredibly embarrassing.  I couldn’t make him leave work just because I was flipping out.  That wouldn’t be right.  I just had to suck it up and deal with it.  I had to deal with the terror of being alone in an empty house.  And I hated every second of it.  

As much as I tried–It never got any better.  When it became time to go to bed, I’d lay there with constant horrible thoughts running through my brain.  I’d worry that I’d wake up to a phone call about him getting an accident.  I’m not kidding.  I’d lay there wondering if I was ever going to see him again.  I’d worry that I’d lose him forever.  There’s nothing more unsettling than thinking about all the horrible possibilities that could happen to the one you love.  These thoughts circled my brain every night when I was by myself.  I had no real source of comfort.  I was in constant agony. 

At first, I hated bring this up to anyone.  In fact, I avoided it at all costs.  I’ve kept this beneath the radar because people are insensitive pricks.  The few times where I have brought it up, I immediately regretted it.  At one point–I really started to question if I really was some big cry baby that couldn’t handle being alone.  Am I just some big child?  I mean, I know I’m a child at heart but is adulting too hard for me?  After having a moment of weakness, I came to the sudden realization that people are just insensitive jerks.  Not everyone will be supportive or have your back when you need them.  That’s just the beauty of life.   And I’ve gotten the brunt of it.  They’ve blamed my anxiety on “silly mind games” or the fact that I watch “too many” horror films (which is stupid).  Bottom line–you will get people judging you your entire life.  And that’s fine.  Let them.  People are entitled to their own opinions.  But no matter their opinion–they can never define who you are.  Period.  I’ve also been told that I’m being ridiculous.  But to be honest– I think I’m being ridiculous by not embracing what I have.  I have adult separation anxiety.  I fear the worst.  I dream the worst.  And I feel it to my core.  I have to own it.  This is a part of who I am.  I mean, I’m blogging about it aren’t I?

How do I handle it?  Well– I take it day by dayI handle it as it happens.  I’ll make a cup of tea.  I’ll take a long bath.  And the majority of the time– I find myself reverting back to my childhood–I flip on a small nightlight.  I’m back to finding that ‘simple’ yet small amount of comfort…

This is not an easy thing to deal with.  At first, I was embarrassed to even admit that I had this issue.  But why should I be?  I can’t help it.  I really cant.  I just have to learn to adapt and control it to the best of my ability.  I have to remember that I’m not alone.  I have to remember that other people have this.  I’m not weak.  I’m just–different.  And that’s okay.



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3 comments so far.

3 responses to “I Have Adult Separation Anxiety”

  1. Thank you for writing this and sharing. I typed into Twitter Separation Anxiety and you came up and it is SO nice to know I am not alone, please don't take that the wrong way, I don't wish this torment on anyone but you know. I had an absolute terrible time last night. I didn't sleep till he got home! (3am) I am so tired and feeling sick from it that I have had to call in sick from work – CRAP! have you managed to just easily fall asleep yet when alone?

    Thank you
    Charlee | Rose above the Thorns

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