Posts Tagged anxiety
My adoptive mother had 10 siblings, including a sister that even mom referred to as the ‘black sheep’. Ironically her name was Faith and my memory of her is that of a thin, lily-white laughing woman in short shorts and high heels, high ball in one hand and lit cigarette in the other. She was an endless fountain of high-pitched hyperbole, to say nothing of her nocturnal activities. She spent the last years of her life pushing around an oxygen tank and to this day I can’t hear the word ‘faith’ without thinking of her.
I’ve had some lessons in faith these past several years. At the time of my sister’s car accident and then again when my mom went head-on with a tree, I was flung into a veritable panic. Whatever happened to each of them from that time forward was in my hands. I recall distinctly in each case pacing around the house for days, wringing my hands, unloading my anxiety on anyone who would listen, feeling completely overwhelmed at the raft of decisions facing me, not sleeping or eating much.
The amazing lesson from those years is that serendipity happened. People exhibited good will, obstacles were overcome and issues gradually resolved. Bodies healed to the extent they are going to and acceptance began to take root. After the due diligence you have to let go. Life provides the whetting stones against which we sharpen our awareness of the paradox that one’s will, as the poet David Whyte says, can only take you so far and cannot be the primary driving force in a life well lived. A few pushes must occur: get out of bed, get into the shower, repair the broken doggie door. But surrender, the huge act of faith, allows flow to come back in and dance us through life.
When a new obstacle presents itself there is always anxiety. I don’t know if my early childhood experiences predestines me for more of it than the average person. But I do know that the abject panic has lessened. The boulders are now more appropriately rocks – not pebbles yet but certainly deployable. As Gandhi said, “Faith is not something to grasp; it is a state to grow into.” I’m feeling ya Mohandas.
This past weekend I discovered a new disorder almost certainly related to my adopted status: succulation anxiety. It’s not a typo, it is a condition of extreme distress experienced when a lumbering, tool-wielding man compels a parting of the ways between me and my fleshy companions.
Every home owner must at some juncture have trees pruned, walls painted, pests eradicated and wooden parts replaced. These events are stressful enough for their cash outlay requirements and the fact that strangers are generally roaming around your personal space for extended time periods. But when you’ve doted for a year over a blooming aloe and the careless flop of a wood beam snaps off its head, believe me when I say a new syndrome is immaculately conceived in the DSM-IV Diagnoses and Codes manual.
What can you do? I beseeched Bob (we’ll call him) through tight quivering lips, “Bob could you please be careful around the succulents? Maybe move the planted pots that are in your way, step lightly around the rooted clumps?” Bob could not be more apologetic when I pointed out the amputee. And Bob did move the container gardens. And Bob scythed off several more flowering clusters in so doing.
Later in the evening after the executioner and his crew departed I took stock of my Senecio. Several formerly trailing mounds lay smashed on the flagstone. I lopped off the carnage and stumbled into the house. My partner Margie took one look at me, offered a sympathetic hug and retreated to her office.
I am bracing myself for part 2 of the trellis replacement project today. But at least I have a name for my condition. Somehow I always feel better knowing what my malady is.
“I’ll bet you made that appointment with your therapist right after I left and felt like you could cancel it after I got back,” my partner Margie challenged after returning from a recent trip. I used to beg my ex husband in our early years together not to travel; but I didn’t want to go with him. Once pointed out to me (okay, more than once), I could own a clear pattern of behavior: you leave, I get anxious; we leave together, I get anxious; I leave alone, I get anxious; you threaten to leave for good, I go ballistic.
The researcher and therapist in Margie compelled her to google search separation anxiety/abandonment issues. You can guess the word that began appearing with these search terms: adoptee. The next day at work she sent me this article, which launched a reading marathon. Separation anxiety is but one of a constellation of ‘traits’ that are common among adoptees and others who are separated from birth mother (separation anxiety and the many means of numbing it). And then there’s plain old garden variety anxiety, also common.
It is the mother’s role to prevent the occurrence of traumatic events that might hinder normal psychological development. Inadvertently the birth mother may set the stage for her child’s future inability to integrate with success events related to separation and loss. And since few adoptive parents know their baby is experiencing loss, they can’t be expected to minister to it.
It’s a good thing I’m a fan of paradox. For the other side of the coin which commonly manifests in adoptees relates to the development of a premature ego survival mechanism, stemming from the adopted child’s experience that the caregiver may disappear at any time. As they can’t count on anyone, self-sufficiency is a must. Paradoxically, I am nothing if not-self sufficient!
A little over fifty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus. Not long afterward the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation on interstate trains and buses. A half century ago there were only solitary voices suggesting there was something special that transpired between a mother and her baby that cannot be learned or acquired by even the best of substitute mothers.
Why here, why now? Certainly not to place blame on biological or adoptive parents. One week ago I was none the wiser about the roots of my “quirks”, a characterization I borrow from an “incubator baby” I chatted with while getting a hair cut yesterday. This is an odyssey of self discovery fueled by a sense that with some openness and education, we can do better than we did fifty years ago.