My dad and I think it all started when I was a baby. My parents left in the middle of the night to embark on a two week work trip to Australia and left baby me with my grandma. It flipped my baby-world upside down. I wouldn't eat, I couldn't be distracted and the only words I could muster when my grandma put me on the phone with my mom were, "mommy, come home."
Ugh. Still wrecks me somehow - even though I don't even remember it firsthand.
It also wrecks my dad. Years later at dinner on a family vacation, we were discussing how hard it was for me to have sleepovers or even feel secure about my parents going out at night. We walked through the panic attacks I had when I got left behind and how that carried through as separation anxiety to my significant other at the time. "It's because we left you to go to Australia that time." My dad burst into tears and put his face on my back to hide the meltdown. Feeling his tears on my skin made me cry too. So we just sat there, shamefully, publicly sobbing in the middle of a nice Tahitian restaurant.
It's no one's fault. For some kids, this probably wouldn't have even affected them. It was clearly written in my story to have this experience for greater lessons and mastery - though the attachment issues I developed were pretty tough to navigate.
My separation anxiety really was a deep fear of abandonment. As I kid, I couldn't bare to be away from my parents. As a teen, I couldn't have sleepovers and I transferred all my attachment to my boyfriend. As a young adult, I worked tirelessly to let it all go, but it crept up in ways I didn't even know it could. It wasn't until this quarantine that I realized I was still battling with it.
I thought it was gone. Mostly because I'm not afraid of being away from my parents anymore (thank god) and I also have a very healthy relationship with my boyfriend, Nick. I don't feel afraid to be abandoned by anyone. Since doing the work, I've found myself as a very secure person. What I did know though, was that I'd been dealing with a heavy case of self-criticism for a long, long time.
I'd beat myself up over just about anything. My favorite nickname to call myself was, "idiot" - mentally or literally. I couldn't stand the thought of failing as a result of myself. I had no tolerance for mistakes, learning curves or naiveties. Really, I had no tolerance for anything less than perfection. What a set up for let down, huh?
What I realized is my self-induced pressure to be "perfect" bloomed straight out of the depths of my fear of abandonment. Maybe if I were perfect, no one would ever leave me. Maybe if I were perfect, my fears would go away.
But who was I afraid would leave me?
Feeling overwhelmed with self-criticism, I decided to enroll myself into a Shadow Work course. The premise of the work is to accept all the parts you want to change about yourself - to honor the parts you've historically chosen to hate. Big stuff. Hard stuff. I cried the entire month of April, 2020.
At the end of this Shadow Work, I was doing a visualization meditation where I met my younger self as my current self and offered my younger self love and acceptance. I met her in the hallway of my old middle school. She stood there, seemingly secure, but terribly insecure, sporting a giant knockoff Louis Vuitton book bag and knee-high socks. I looked at her, being guided to support her and practically spat in her face.
I couldn't bring myself to care for her. I couldn't bring myself to love her. I rejected everything about me.
I sat up out of this meditation gasping for air like awakening from a bad dream. Sadly, in that moment, it was my reality. I rejected myself deeper than I ever knew.
I kept going. I did this meditation again and again with the commitment to learning to love and accept myself. I did it until I desperately pleaded for help. I prayed for guidance to help me accept and a third figure popped into my visualization. It was me. Evolved, wiser, bigger, stronger, more integrated. She walked with me to my younger self - alone, terrified of abandonment, deeply ashamed. I reached out to her and hugged her close to my heart. I offered her everything I knew she wanted. Everything I knew I wanted.
My guide whispered in my ear: "tell her what you need to hear."
I took a breath.
"I am here. I will always be here. I love you. I will never abandon you."
As if I wasn't even in control of my body, my head rocked back, exposing my throat to the ceiling. I wailed and shook with tears.
I had abandoned myself.
It was me.
I wasn't there when I needed me the most. I condemned every move I made that called desperately out for love. I kicked myself when I was down, instead of picking myself up and saying, "it's okay, we all make mistakes."
"It's okay, perfect isn't real."
"And if it is, you are perfect as you are."
"I love you."
"I accept you."
"No matter what."
To anyone that needs to hear this, I love you, I accept you and you are perfect. I fucking promise. Never leave yourself.