January 2, 2021 at 7:02 pm #372094
Hello TinyBuddha community,
I’m a volunteer paramedic. I often see a lot of sick unwell people, I’ve seen death, I’ve heard the cries and the wails of family members mourning for their loss. I’ve taken patients to hospital and wished them well and turned around to go to my next job.
When I have my uniform on, I feel like a different person, I’m a medical professional and whilst I see a lot of this stuff, it almost feels like I have a barrier. The emotion doesn’t really get to me and I keep it separate.
However, over the last few years, I’ve realised the same cannot be said with my family. I completely lose all logic and rational thinking and I sink into a spiralling negative thinking and prediction line of thought every time a family member is remotely unwell.
It started with my mother a few years back, when she had a straight forward infection that needed a bit of treatment. A case I’ve seen numerous times as a volunteer paramedic, I knew exactly what would happen and how it would be treated. Yet, I completely lost myself. I freaked out, I panicked, I asked irrational questions I knew the answers to myself, and I could not stop obsessing about it until my mother had recovered. The same happened when my dad was hospitalised.
Yes, I understand why medical staff cannot treat family, this makes sense. However, I’m scaring myself. I jump straight to the worst case scenario and I complete immobilise myself with thoughts that I cannot stop. I google answers religiously and I find myself doubting the things doctors say to me – even though it would be the same advice I’d give to my patients.
My wife very recently had a swollen lymph node and is on antibiotics. I completely broke down. I cried and cried and couldn’t sleep at the thought ‘what if it is cancer?’ and my head fills images of a world without her. My brain runs continuously on all the different diagnosis even though I know it takes a few days for the meds to work and see what happens from there.
I can see a pattern in my mind. I perhaps fear the lost of a loved one so much that I fill with fear and it completely consumes me. Death is the only thing in our lives for sure. Yet somehow I have realised the death of the loved one, even just the thought, completely crushes me. I tear up as I write this sentence as thoughts run away again.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
TJanuary 2, 2021 at 7:41 pm #372095
Thank you for being a volunteer paramedic. I am not there to perhaps personally benefit from your volunteer work, but I appreciate the work you do to help other people who personally benefit from your volunteer work. Thank you!
“I completely lose all logic and rational thinking and I sink into a spiraling negative thinking and prediction line of thought every time a family member is remotely unwell… It started with my mother.. I completely lost myself. I freaked out. I panicked”- it’s because the one who panicked is the child in you, afraid to lose his mother, afraid of being left alone, unfed, unsheltered, unprotected and therefore… left to die.
As we age, we remain the children that we were because physiologically, we shed our skin, but we don’t shed our brains- the neurons of our brain remember and re-experienced our childhood.
“My wife very recently had a swollen lymph node.. I completely broke down. I cried and cried and couldn’t sleep.. and my head fills images of a world without her… I perhaps fear the loss of a loved one… the death of a loved one, even just the thought, completely crushes me. I tear up as I write this sentence”-
– attachment to Mother => attachment to Wife.
What to do with the fear, Tony, the fear that we share- the fear of losing the ones we love, being left alone; how does one accept the certainty of death of everyone we know and of ourselves?
I will be back to the computer in about 11 hours from now.
anitaJanuary 2, 2021 at 11:56 pm #372100
Glad you are still around helping people here in this community. Nice to hear from you once again!
I hear what you said, ‘attachment’. Certainly after you said this, I can recall many times in my childhood where I have felt this attachment and a fear of loss/abandonment. It makes sense that such childhood memories are still stored in our sub conscious. And my wife, is so dear to me that I guess will follow the same pathway in the brain.
But you ask the million dollar, how do we accept the certainty of death?
I guess it is the thing that death brings, loss, never being able to see, hear, talk, be with, etc. with this someone. I remember going through some really rough times years ago with my break up. That wasn’t death, but that was loss. Maybe it is a similar concept?
I have been thinking, and I think in life, our struggles comes from fighting what we cannot change. If we can truly accept whatever it is, our lives would be so much calmer. Isn’t that what monks and so many other concepts in religion teach?
But easily said than done, we can’t avoid or change death and loss. There isn’t a single gathering or party that doesn’t eventually come to an end. We think back to good times and memorable events or childhood memories that would never happen again as we all grow up and move on. Isn’t that loss or ‘death’ already in our lives? Yet we cope?January 3, 2021 at 9:48 am #372126
Thank you for your kind words.
November 2015, you wrote: “A couple of months ago, I met this girl… A little over a week ago, I managed to get myself into a downwind spiral of negative thoughts that I couldn’t get myself out of. This freaked me out about what if I lost her, she didn’t like me back and so on… I was feeling helplessly needy, needing her texts, phone calls”.
March 2016: “When my ex from 4 years ago messaged me to wish me happy birthday.. all of a sudden I felt like I have a safety net.. Like I’m hopeful for someone to love me”.
January 2020: “I completely lose all logic and rational thinking and I sink into a spiraling negative thinking and prediction line of thought every time a family member is remotely unwell. It started with my mother a few years back… I completely lost myself. I freaked out, I panicked… The same happened when my dad was hospitalised… My wife very recently had a swollen lymph node.. I completely broke down. I cried and cried and couldn’t sleep.. my head fills images of a world without her…
“I can see a pattern in my mind. I perhaps fear the loss of a loved one so much that I fill with fear and it completely consumes me… the death of the loved one, even just the thought, completely crushes me.. I can recall many times in my childhood where I have felt this attachment and a fear of loss/ abandonment… I remember going through some really rough times years ago with my breakup. That wasn’t death, but that was loss. Maybe it is a similar concept?”
– the concept may be Separation Anxiety from which you suffered as a child and as an adult.
According to healhtline. com/ health/ separation anxiety in adults, “Separation anxiety isn’t only seen in children. It can also be seen in adults. Adults with separation anxiety have extreme fear that bad things will happen to important people in their lives… People with this disorder may be socially withdrawn, or show extreme sadness or difficulty concentrating when away from loved ones… common symptoms include: .. *difficulty sleeping away from a loved one for fear that something will happen to them *depression or anxiety attacks related to (separation)”.
Another website, exploring your mind. com/ separation anxiety disorder in adults, reads: “The number one characteristic of separation anxiety disorder in adults is excessive worrying about being alone… Separation anxiety can stem from childhood. More specifically, it can be related to the individual’s first bonds of attachment… The likelihood that you’ll develop separation anxiety disorder as an adult is much higher if you were diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder as a child”.
Another website the ravive. com/ therapedia/ separation anxiety disorder, reads that according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), symptoms of the disorder are: “*Unusual distress at the discussion or experience of being parted from their attachment figure *Excessive fears that harm will befall their attachment person *Persistent worry of an unexpected event that could lead to separation from the attachment figure *Refusal to leave the attachment figure *Excessive fear of being alone *Nightmares about separation *Anxiety about sleeping and being separated from the attachment figure *Physical complaints when separation is immanent…
“It may lead to impairment in the ability to complete housework, personal and social impairment, and work problems. People with separation anxiety are more likely to have another anxiety disorder or mood disorder”.
What do you think?
anitaJanuary 4, 2021 at 12:48 am #372160
It is interesting that you dug up my past posts, I recall them, however, cannot believe the similarity in words I used to describe myself. It seems this insecure overthinking habit hasn’t changed too much at all.
Certainly the signs for Separation Anxiety is relatable. I think there are a few that I exhibit. And when I think back right to my childhood I can recall times as a child where I exhibited them.
Like when my mother would go out grocery shopping without me, I’d often wait in the lounge looking outside waiting for her to come home. I also recall thoughts where I’d wonder what if something bad had happened, like an accident?
My parents and I immigrated to another country when I was 4. I remember when my grandpa was sick with cancer, I would often travel back home with my mother. Except one time, when my dad picked me up after school and I realised my mother had secretly flown back without me. She was gone for a month, and being a mummy’s boy, that certainly was extremely challenging.
So certainly reading what you wrote about separation anxiety, I do feel relatable to some of the points.
TJanuary 4, 2021 at 6:19 am #372162
“when my mother would go out grocery shopping without me, I’d often wait in the lounge looking outside waiting for her to come home.. wonder(ing) what if something bad had happened, like an accident… when my grandpa was sick with cancer, I would often travel back home with my mother. Except one time, when my dad picked me up after school and I realised my mother had secretly flown back without me”-
– she decided to travel alone to visit her ailing father, but she kept it a secret from you because she wanted to avoid witnessing your anxious expressions and behaviors over her leaving, something that she experienced many times before.
Way before that event you were already anxious about separating from your mother. Of the two parents, seems like your mother was your main attachment figure. Your attachment to her was disrupted by many events leading to your separation anxiety disorder: maybe (these are only possibilities) she repeatedly went shopping or whatnot, leaving you all alone in the home for long periods of time (a half an hour can seem like a short time for an adult, but for a young boy left alone, it feels like a forever); maybe she was depressed and from time to time made comments such as wanting to leave and go back to the home country alone; maybe she repeatedly got angry at you, telling you that you are a bad, or a difficult boy, and that she may give you away, etc., etc.
Maybe your father fueled your anxiety as well, maybe the family immigrating to another country when you were 4 severely disrupted your feeling of being safely attached: maybe your parents left the home country by themselves, leaving you behind to join them later; maybe they were so busy with the move that they left you alone- emotionally, if not physically- for too long.
Looking into how your separation anxiety in childhood was formed can help, together with applying emotional regulation skills, to lessen this anxiety in adulthood, over time. This may require some quality psychotherapy, but you can start the process here, if you want to.
In adulthood, whenever you felt emotional attachment to a woman- that attachment fueled the separation anxiety, and any time you thought or imagined a cause for separation, any time she expressed something about separating from you, the anxiety was at its peak. It is interesting, how this anxiety is not an indication of a quality of a relationship, but an indication that you formed an emotional attachment to this or that woman.
Lessening your separation anxiety will make it possible for you to focus on and relax into the quality of the relationship you are currently in.
anitaJanuary 5, 2021 at 6:48 pm #372242
Thank you for your insights. I think I need to go do some research and reading on ‘separation anxiety’ and some self help methods as a starting point.January 5, 2021 at 7:37 pm #372252
You are welcome. I hope that your reading on separation anxiety is helpful to you. Post again anytime you wish to post.
anitaFebruary 20, 2021 at 1:29 pm #374989
I decided to come back to your thread a month and a half after my last post to you, to share with you what I learned recently about separation anxiety from recent communication with other members, and to look further into it. If you are feeling good right now and you don’t want to lose that good feeling sooner than you have to, please postpone the reading to a later time. Of course, you always have the option to not read at all what is to follow.
What I learned recently is that children who experience intense separation anxiety in regard to a parent (or parents), forget over time how badly it felt, memory becomes vague and limited, the vividness is gone.. we forget. Fast forward, when we experience that same intensity of separation anxiety as teenagers and adults, in regard to a girlfriend/ boyfriend- we imagine that it is the first time we felt this way.
But this forgetting of the separation anxiety in childhood is not really forgetting: as adults we keep re-experiencing the same separation anxiety over and over again. The way to stop re-experiencing it is to.. remember more/ process what happened, so to lessen the fear that took hold in us, so that there is less of that fear to spill into our current adult lives.
Even as adults, we forget our earlier adult experience of separation anxiety. In Nov 2015, at 29 years old, you wrote: “Up until a week ago, I was fine, confident, happy go lucky. All of a sudden.. I now find myself feeling so insecure, helpless and weak… It is funny thinking about how confident I was 1 week ago, and then somehow crumbled”- having communicated with you for a while, I believe that the “so insecure, helpless and weak” has been the predominant emotional experience you had as a child, which you’ve been re-experiencing as an adult, and that the “fine, confident, happy go lucky” emotional experiences have been moments in time, refreshing break from the ongoing anxiety.
We forget: our memory of our own emotional experience of a week ago is not reliable. Our memories of how we felt as children is significantly unreliable.
“It is funny thinking about how confident I was 1 week ago, and then somehow have crumbles and destructed by thoughts generated by myself in my own head”- the emotional memory of the years of childhood is stored in our brains and it gets activated repeatedly: we re-experience our childhood.
Still Nov 2015: “Three and a half years ago, I went through a break up with my then girlfriend… it really broke me in a way that I had only heard of from others.. I felt I was destroyed overnight… It hurt in a way I didn’t really know existed”- you forgot that you already “heard” that pain, felt it, knew it in a very personal way, as a child.
Continued quote: “I was mentally strained and anxious about basically everything. Months went by and I slowly got back to my feet… After about 1.5-2 years I was pretty much reinvented.. I had the closure and I moved on”- you moved on from that relationship, but not from the separation anxiety of childhood. The childhood emotional experience will be re-activated in small ways every day, and less frequently- in bigger ways.
March 2016, you shared regarding a new relationship: “about 3 weeks ago, we finally called it to an end.. And so yesterday, I turned 30. I’m a teacher and so it was a great day at school with gifts, well wishes and just awesome vibes from students, colleagues, friends and family. But later in the day, I suddenly broke down when I was alone. I suddenly felt so empty and hollow. Sure I had all these people around me but all of a sudden, what am I living for? Achieving? I’m so alone! It was overwhelming. As if my break up left me all alone.. I suddenly felt so alone”-
– notice that you used the qualifier suddenly three times in the quote above: you were surprised, not understanding that at some time on the day of your 30th birthday, you were no longer experiencing the here-and-now, but the there-and-then: your childhood separation anxiety.
Let’s look further into that childhood experience of separation anxiety: “broke down.. empty and hollow.. so alone!.. overwhelming.. all alone.. so alone”- this so-alone experience is not about an adult having some time alone in the day, there is no tragedy in that. This so-alone experience is about a child believing that alone, separated from his mother, he is in danger of death.
There is no tragedy and no danger when an adult is alone, he/ she can fend for himself, seek shelter, find food.. but for a young child, to be left alone is a death sentence because he cannot fend for himself, cannot/ does not know how to find shelter and food.
Whether it is a young child separated from his parent or a young deer or a young coyote finding himself alone, his parent/ social group gone- nature instills in the child an intense, life-or-death fear so to motivate the child to look for his parent with all his focus, all his strength.. the parent is his only chance to live.
Back to the quote: “I never realised how I’ve become so desperate… I know I should keep focusing on my life and move forward, to not fear this ‘forever alone'”- nature instills in the young, separated (or about to be separated) a fear that feels like it will last forever because nature wants the young animal to be fully and desperately motivated to find his parent. That “forever alone” feels so intensely terrible for the child, that he will do anything and everything possible to find the parent he lost.
What I learned recently is that a child can experience this intense separation anxiety when his parent never really left him. All it takes is an ongoing threat of losing the parent. If after all is said and done the parent is still there.. it doesn’t retroactively resolve the anxiety, not when the threat of losing the parent lasted long enough to take hold.
At soon to be 35, you shared on Jan 2021 in regard to your mother: “a few years back, when she had a straight forward infection that needed a bit of treatment. A case I’ve seen numerous times as a volunteer paramedic, I knew exactly what would happen and how it would be treated. Yet, I completely lost myself. I freaked out, I panicked, I asked irrational questions I knew the answers to myself, and I could not stop obsessing about it until my mother had recovered”-
– as a paramedic, when you encounter a stranger who suffers from infection.. it is a stranger, not someone you are emotionally attached to. If that person dies from his or her infection, your life is not in danger. But if your mother dies from infection, the child in you believes that your life without your mother is in danger, and he freaks out, panicking.
“when my mother would go out grocery shopping without me, I’d often wait in the lounge looking outside waiting for her to come home”- your separation anxiety took hold by the time you were waiting for her to come home from shopping, your heart beating fast, your breathing shallow, feeling light headed, scared.
“I remember when my grandpa was sick… I realised my mother had secretly flown back without me. She was gone for a month, and being a mummy’s boy, that certainly was extremely challenging”- it must have been a torture of a month, a month that felt like forever. Interesting how we use euphemisms, such as mummy’s boy, to substitute for accurate description, such as a boy scared to death without his mother.
Separation anxiety in childhood is about an ongoing fear, and fear is the most powerful of all emotions. When it takes hold in childhood, when it is Formed into our brains during our childhoods, aka our Formative Years, it gets activated during adulthood again and again in different contexts and to different extents. But there is hope because accessing and processing that emotional memory disarms it over time, and we can gradually relax into the here-and-now, no longer held hostage by the there-and-then.
anitaFebruary 21, 2021 at 11:08 pm #375060
Thank you for taking the time to come back to this post and providing new insight.
It is so interesting what you wrote, I’m going to need to read it a few more times. It makes perfect sense, and thank you for taking the time to dig out all my previous posts to fit the puzzle together.
Indeed, I use the same phrase over and over again, and it certainly is a cycle that keeps appearing and manifesting in a different, but very similar form each time. I can see it all stems from perhaps some childhood mental trauma. Perhaps it wasn’t even trauma, but enough to leave a lasting memory in my head.
I think being able to see that pattern, is definitely a leap forward. Not saying that it won’t happen again, but perhaps I can now recognise what is happening below the surface.
As I said, I’m definitely going to have to read your post a few more times to really let it sink in. But I’m so grateful for you making this possible for me to see.
February 22, 2021 at 6:34 am #375063
- This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Tony.
You are welcome. Do take your time re-reading and considering my previous post. For now, I have a couple of comments regarding your reply:
(1) “perhaps some childhood mental trauma. Perhaps it wasn’t even trauma”- we tend to think of trauma as something involving blood and gore, and you have such images I imagine, being a volunteer paramedic, and/ or watching certain TV shows and genres of movies. But young children get traumatized every day while there is no blood or broken bones to indicate the trauma. Young children feel an intense, uncompromising attachment to their parents, and a threat of permanent separation from a parent, a threat that does not end soon enough, is a trauma for a child.
(2) “being able to see that pattern, is definitely a leap forward. Not saying that it won’t happen again”- it will happen again for sure. Being able to see/ becoming aware does not undo the physical, neuro-chemical processes involved in that emotional memory, the memory that gets activated in small and big ways. Awareness is only a beginning in the process of healing.
anitaFebruary 23, 2021 at 1:22 pm #375119
Yes absolutely, I agree.
Next time it happens, I really need to try jump out and look at it rationally, and understanding this will hopefully give me a head start!!
I’ll stay in touch, but once again, thank you so much! I’m extremely grateful for the numerous advice you have provided over the years.
TFebruary 23, 2021 at 1:31 pm #375120
You are welcome and thank you for your kind words. I am glad to read that you will stay in touch!