Friendship

So, what do you know? It turns out that I do in fact still remember how to hit the “publish” button. It’s been a month since my last post. I guess you can say I’ve had blogging writer’s block. I’ve been dealing with an unpredictable mood lately. I’ve been able to write, just not blog. But, today, I finally had the urge to write a post. Actually, the urge just cropped up on me about an hour ago. I hope this will be the beginning of my return to the blogosphere, but I’m not putting the cart before the horse just yet (I’ve always wanted to find a reason to use that phrase). Either way, though, I’m not planning on leaving this awesome universe of fellow bloggers anytime soon.

Now that I got that bit out, I guess I’ll just jump on into the heart of my post. Today’s urge to write can go back to this morning. I had therapy this morning, and it left me feeling quite low. Therapy is often a pleasant experience and I feel replenished sort of speak when I leave my psychologist’s office. However, today was a difficult session and quite emotional. It had to do with some issues I’ve been feeling inside lately, that have left me unhappy and feeling lonely. I know I’m not technically alone, but emotionally, I’ve felt it. I had a wonderful night this last Friday. For the first time in four years, I hung out with a couple of family members and watched a movie here at home and we ate take-out and drank Starbucks (something I hadn’t drank since 2008). It was a fun night and I was proud of myself for finally not saying, “No” to their request to hangout. It was like it was before my life falling into pieces, which I’m now trying to put back together. These family members understand how things are for me, though, and I appreciate them never giving up on me, like some of my friends have done. Once I was no longer fun to be around, they suddenly disappeared. I don’t blame them, but it still hurts.

So, the weekend started nicely. However, my mood started dropping slowly by Sunday night, and I couldn’t shake it. Part of it was due to anxiety, I know. But, something else was getting me and by the time I was trying to go to sleep, I was in tears. A sense of loneliness was once again taking over me inside. I tried praying through it, and I guess it helped since I fell asleep right afterwards. But, when I woke up it was still there, and it continued on into my therapist’s office.

After difficult sessions, I usually come home and not say anything. Even saying hi to my mom is difficult ‘cause it can feel exhausting to open my mouth and force the words to come out. So, when I came home I went into our family room for some alone time. I walked into the kitchen a short time later for some water, when she asked me how things went. I just answered, “Fine”, before walking back out of the room. However, I had to go back in there again about ten minutes later and she asked again, “Are you sure things went ok today?” This time I got upset and snapped at her, “I said it was fine!” I left the room once again, until I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted comfort and my anger wasn’t bringing me comfort. So, I walked back in the kitchen and when I saw my mom standing there, I went up to her and just hugged her. She asked me if I was ok, and I just started crying. I couldn’t say anything, and just cried. She then said, “It’s not ok, is it?” I didn’t want to talk with her about therapy, so I just kept it simple and she understood. She knew I wasn’t really mad at her, I just took it out on her, but thankfully that had been rectified now. And, it is then where the friendship side of this post comes into play.

I decided I’d log into a game that I play and just mess around in a world of fantasy, rather than my frustrating real world. When I logged in, I saw a good friend of mine was online too, which brought an immediate smile to my face. I always look forward to seeing and chatting with this person online and it helped to see her. She’s a beautiful person and I feel blessed that God has placed her in my life. We didn’t stay online long, but later on in the evening, came back and played some more. After we logged off tonight, I realized that spending time with her made me feel better. The feelings are still there, but they seem a little better now after hanging out and talking with her.

It was then, that I began thinking about friendship and how important it is in our lives. I started reflecting on past friendships of mine and how some have come and gone, while others have never left since the day they began. I’m not sure how that comes to be with some friendships lasting forever, while some do not, but I know my friendship with the aforementioned person will be a lasting one. I hope she feels the same way. Considering the world of constant connectivity through the Internet, such a concept isn’t impossible anymore.

However, I got to thinking about three friendships in particular that came, thrived and ended due to loss of such contact. The Internet can have its cons, but I think the connection of friendship is a major pro. The three friendships I’m thinking about are people who impacted my life in a positive way growing up, but since then have faded.

My Fantasy Twin

Third through sixth grade was a special time due to one particular friend. She was someone who loved fantasy and make-believe just as much as me. We’d play with one another often during recess and lunchtime breaks. Our imaginations guided us through a world of pretend that only we could see. We each formed the world around us, and in a Bridge to Terabithia sort of way, we fed off one another’s imaginations and could see what the other was seeing. It was fabulous, and she was the only friend whom I have ever had that was able to go into this world with me. But, then, came the end of sixth grade.

Her father got a new job in another state, and come seventh grade, she’d be gone. In a world of no Facebook, MySpace, or other social media (not even the Internet was in people’s homes yet), her departure meant the end of our friendship and Terabithia universe.

Although that friendship ended long ago (which feels like ages now), I still remember her. I will not forget her and I still have a story that she and I wrote together. The last day of school of sixth grade she handed me a typed up story. It was the story of our universe. It was what we always imagined together and what we had played for so many years. I still remember her saying that she had to write it out before she left, because it was a special memory that we had to complete before she moved away. I’m tearing up as I write this ‘cause it’s such a special thing when a friendship hits a deep and private side of your soul like that. She will always have a special place in my heart.

An Understanding Camaraderie

In the second grade, I met a girl who would become my “best” friend by eighth grade. She and I had a wonderful friendship, filled with laughs and plenty of memories. As a kid who was bullied in school a lot during these years, she was also a protector. Whenever someone tried to mess with me, and she was around, they’d back off. She spoke her mind and due to that, she became our class and school president during eighth grade. She was the most popular girl in school due to her brains and personality, and unlike most of the other kids, she didn’t treat me like I was a piece of cow dung on her shoe.

In addition to all of that, she also made me feel extremely understood – at least to a degree. I suffered from severe separation anxiety as a kid, and so sleepovers never happened. I couldn’t even go places with her and her family. I was always “sick” on the days when such events arrived, because I couldn’t get myself to go. All I could ever do is spend time with her at her house for a few hours, before I’d start becoming emotional and sick to my stomach. I could never eat at her house. I would sit there while she and her family and any other friends ate. Her mom always asked me why I wasn’t eating, and I would just say that I wasn’t hungry. That was the truth. It’s hard to be hungry when you feel like expelling your stomach’s contents onto the table before you. So, I would just sit quietly and sip on something to drink.

Through all of this behavior, though, she never gave up on me as a friend. She could have just thought I was too weird for her or that I wasn’t a good friend. But, she didn’t. Instead, she became my best friend, and an unlikely pair of comrades went through elementary school together.

Unfortunately, the world of high school would come between us. She went to one private school, while I went to another, and we slowly drifted a part. I did get to see her almost four years later, though. I was in line for the SATs (exams given in the U.S. for college entrance) with a friend of mine from high school. We were talking when a girl in front of us suddenly and loudly asked, “Summer?” I turned and after just a second of recognition, I yelled back in excitement. It was her… my friend for so many years was standing in front of me, and there we were embracing before one of the biggest exams that a young person may take in their life. We were so happy to see one another, but sadly we got split up almost immediately as they were dividing all of us test takers into classrooms. It was a bittersweet moment, but one that was quite awesome at the same time. Albeit for a short time, I got to see how she was doing at that point in her life, and vice versa. We were able to receive a life update on a good friend, which many people don’t get. She was well and thriving, and so was I… at least at that point in my life.

I still miss her, though. I will always smile when I think of her, and just as my fantasy twin, I will never forget her, as she holds a special place in my heart. She was a friend when I often needed one most. And, I always tried to be the best friend I could for her. We clicked in a way that doesn’t always happen in life, and I’m thankful for that relationship in my past.

A Friend Once There

The third friend is someone who brings with her a lot of good memories, but unfortunately I’m left with hurt ones too.

This friend and I met the second week of high school. I didn’t know a single person at this all-girls college prep Catholic school, and was suddenly thrown into a world of nuns and no boys. At first, it felt like it would be way too odd, and lonely beyond bearability. But, once I met this friend, things changed. She was the reason I didn’t wind up getting home schooled. I wanted out of the school after the first few days due to not knowing anyone and being so alone. I went from a school of bullies, to a school where I felt as if I didn’t even exist. My mom and dad had considered home schooling, until one day I came home and proclaimed with joy that I had made a friend. And, after only a month of being at that school, I realized that my high school experience was going to be much better than the previous eight years. I wasn’t being bullied. I was treated with respect and left alone by the girls that didn’t have anything in common with me. None of them jumped up in the bathroom stall next to me to invade my privacy, like when I was in fifth grade. No one laughed at me, if I fell down skinning my arms and knees. No one pulled out the chair behind me while I was sitting down, just so they could get a laugh from everyone in class. No one told me I looked like a boy and should stop lying by saying I was a girl. No one attacked me for how I looked or my strange quirks. All of that was gone. And, if not for this friend, I would not have stood at that school long enough to realize that. I would have lost out on that experience. I realize I was blessed that my bullied days were behind me when I entered high school. Too many kids are not so fortunate, and I hate that. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but when it comes to bullying, hating it is the only thing that seems appropriate. It’s not right and it’s something that needs to be put to an end. Bullying needs to stop!

My friend helped to keep me at that school and realize that things were going to be better for me. She and I became inseparable, and everyone knew that wherever I was, she wasn’t far behind, and vice versa. It was a wonderful friendship and we had a blast hanging out all of the time. She came from a strict family, and just like me wasn’t allowed to stay out past ten at night, even if our friend hadn’t cut her birthday cake yet for her 16th celebration. We had an understanding for one another and connected through both that understanding and just enjoyable times we had with one another.

However, just as high school divided me from my friend from elementary school, college became the division of this friend. It didn’t happen right away, though. At first, we kept in contact a lot while she was away at school. After moving in with her roommates into a townhouse near campus, though, our friendship began to fade. I became closer with a good mutual friend of ours from high school, and she with her roommates. As we grew up further into the world of adulthood, our mutual friend and I became closer as we had more in common. My old high school best friend had the taste of freedom in college. She wanted to only party, drink and go to nightclubs. She enjoyed that entertainment, while our mutual friend and I enjoyed chilling at the campus cafe, chatting at Starbucks, going to the movies, or just cruising up and down the coast and going to the beach. That bored my old friend and she made it known, by saying she was going to go to sleep in the backseat and we can wake her when we had decided on something to do.

Our company was no longer fun for her, and she made that perfectly and coldly clear. Sadly, there wasn’t anything we could do about that. I’m not a nightclub, drinker, or party person. I can’t stand that atmosphere, and prefer a quiet and laid back environment. It was only a matter of time until our friendship divided.

Eventually, she cut me out of her life by unexpectedly changing her number and not giving me the new one, and never replying to my emails about what was up. We never had an argument. We never said a goodbye. The last time we spoke all was fine I thought. She said she’d give me her new number, but never did. After my diagnosis, I started worrying that it was the bipolar. I hadn’t been diagnosed when she cut me off, but my moods had been affecting plenty in my life back then, and I just worried that she finally had enough of me. Maybe that was the reason, or maybe not, but I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore. For a while I worried that something had happened to her, but then my good friend (our mutual friend) saw her with a group of girlfriends one day. She was happy and laughing while going to lunch with them. She had moved on with her life and had cut me out without any reason or notification.

I was hurt and confused as to why she lied to me and told me she’d give me her number, only to just cut me out. However, through all of that, I was also happy to know that she was ok. She wasn’t hurt or worse, as I had begun to worry. She had only moved on. It hurt for a long time, but now I realize that was on her, and not me. I can’t make anyone like me, nor would I try. I tried as a kid, but not anymore. I’m a grown adult who now realizes that sometimes people just aren’t going to like me, and that’s fine. I’m not here to make people like me. I’m here to be who I am. I’m here to enjoy and love my friends whom I do have, and appreciate their presence in my life every day.

I will always have the good memories of my high school “best” friend, and to this day, I have no ill feelings toward her. I hope she is living a great life, and if she were to suddenly pop into my life again someday, I would have a hug waiting for her. I have no reason to be hateful toward her. All she did was grow up and so did I. It was just meant to be, I guess.

It’s All Meant To Be

In the past, I’ve talked about how I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. I may not always know what that reason is, but I have to believe that it’s there. My above three friends from childhood may no longer be in my life, but they will always be in my heart, and maybe that was the purpose. They brought something into my life, and I into theirs, when we were kids. I now have a small circle of friends. I no longer have a “best” friend as I value and love all of my friends, and don’t like to place such a label onto any of them. They all are each the “best” in their own ways and they each mean something special to me.

Only a few of them have now learned of the bipolar, but they have not abandoned me. They have given me their support and love, and one in particular has been amazing in her support of me since my diagnosis. She knows who she is. I love you so much “Lillie”.

I’m Now Changed For Good

One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard on friendship is from my favorite Broadway musical Wicked. It never fails to make me cry. I think it sums up my relationships with the three friends who made a huge impact on my life as a kid, which has in turn impacted who I am today. This song is for them.

 

 

 

I Never Liked August

Ah, August. The month of the year when back-to-school ads are out in abundance. As a kid, I remember this month being an anxiety producing one. I hated the month. For me, it meant that soon I would once again be forced from my mom’s loving and protective arms, and thrown back into the slimy claws of my bullies.

June was wonderful. School was ending, and I knew I would be home to play in my make-believe world and stay up all night if I wanted. I would do that often as a child. I’d stay up all night long and loved it! As the summer pressed on into July, I was still content, as I knew I had quite a bit of time left of my glorious vacation. But, then, it would always happen. Inevitably, the first Sunday of August would arrive, and with it, a flurry of back-to-school ads in the newspaper. Full-colored ads of kids looking disgustingly happy and excited to be heading back to a place that I dreaded throughout my grade school years.

Elmer’s Glue… What?

It was upon lying first sight on those ads, that what I now know to be anxiety began to take over my body. I knew that soon I would be going to be measured for my new uniform (I went to a private Catholic school grades 1-12). And, I knew that my mom, dad and I would be making our annual trek to the store to purchase all of my school supplies. That memory is still so ingrained in my mind, that whenever I come across a bottle of Elmer’s Glue in our house, I have flashbacks to those shopping trips. I always had a long list of supplies that were needed, but the glue… something about that glue has never left my mind. It had that smell, the texture, and feeling of when that bottle was in my hand. It’s sort of strange, really, ‘cause I’m not sure why of all the supplies I had, that the glue would stick (pun intended) in my mind.

Maybe it’s due to it being such a special staple of school supplies. I mean, paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, and folders, are all common supplies (at least here in the States), but they’re used for every subject. Glue, on the other hand, is a school supply that was used for only some circumstances. It was used for art class and trying to get those stubborn macaroni pieces to stick, or for cutting out pictures of people and places for social studies class. Or, most importantly of all, it was used to make hand masks. All of us kids would pour it all over our palms and wait until it dried a bit, then pull it off to see a perfect imprint of our palms. I’m sure parents will love me for sharing that lovely tip with their kids. But, that was glue. It was only used for those special occasions. So, when I see glue to this day, it reminds me of school more strongly than any other supply. And, it takes me back to the days of buying it in August most often.

I can still feel the sadness that would start to overcome me, as August came to a close. I could feel my energy being drained from me, and I would enjoy less and less as that final week of vacation arrived. I would become more emotional, and spontaneous crying was a given during this time. As I stated in my post Separation Anxiety and Bipolar in Kids, I suffered from severe separation anxiety as a child. I would cry as if I was grieving, and it was a draining experience.

School registration was horrible. It would take place in September, shortly after Labor Day. Starting around 6th grade or so, our school changed how it did registration, and made it occur during the middle of summer vacation. But, up until that year, registration took place on the first day of school. Being a private school, they already knew the kids who were going to be there due to the tuition being paid, but the registration was for the parents to fill out important forms and such. Most of the kids left the room as the parents were filling out the forms. They were happy to be back at school and they were looking forward to playing with their friends. Not me, though. I would stay by my mom’s side for as long as possible. I didn’t want that time to end, and it would hurt me to think ahead another twenty minutes, when I knew I’d be forced to leave her.

I remember a few other kids in the room with their moms. They seemed to be feeling as I did. And, then, the bell would ring. It was time for me to go to my new classroom, and my mom had to stay where she was. You would think I’d be used to that separation by now, but that’s the problem with a child who suffers from separation anxiety… it’s just not that easy. I would cry and hug her as hard as I could. She would comfort me with her assurances that I would see her soon, and that I was going to feel better once the day got underway. Letting go was a difficult challenge, but I would always get the strength to eventually do so. And, it helped that I had that Kleenex!

The Kleenex

Oh, did I forget to mention that? You see my mom always has Kleenex in her pocket, due to allergies. And, back then it wasn’t any different. As I would cry in her arms, not wanting to let her go, she’d give me a tissue to dry my tears. Well, that tissue would stay with me for the rest of the day. Why? Simple. It had her scent on it. The tissue would smell like my mom, a pretty scent of ‘mama’ that I never wanted to let go. So, I would dry my tears with it, then go off to class, and I’d keep that used, tear-soaked tissue in my pocket. And, I’d pull it out throughout the day, to smell it, so I could smell my mom’s scent. It made me feel like she was with me. I can’t recall how she found out – if I told her, or if she just guessed – but eventually my mom knew what the tissue meant to me. And, everyday, she’d give me a new tissue to carry with me… her scent and all.

It’s funny what can soothe a child, and what can also cause pain in adulthood. A few years back, when my mom was in the hospital for a week following a surgery, I was staying there every night with her. I didn’t want to be away from her for that long. It was the same as a child, when I had to leave for school. And, when she had surgeries when I was little. The surgeries were especially difficult. I wasn’t just taken away from her during those times, but I was also taken from my dad and home. I had to stay with my older sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I couldn’t stay at home with my dad, ‘cause he didn’t feel he could handle a little girl alone. My sister took very good care of me, but no one can substitute for Mom (I know she’d agree with that). It was hard for me to be away from my mom, and away from home too. I wasn’t allowed to visit her either, because my mom knew it would only upset me to see her, and then have to leave again. She felt it was best that I just did not see her until she returned home. So, that meant twice as a child, I was away from mom, dad, and home, for one week for the first surgery, and almost two weeks for the second. For a child with separation anxiety, that is an unimaginable amount of time. I had to continue going to school during the second surgery (the first one took place during the summer), and that made the time go a little faster, but it was never fast enough.

The Burnt Pizza

My dad has never been much of an indoor cook. He can Barbeque, but he hasn’t done that in years. But, cooking on the stove is something he usually leaves to my mom. Well, one day during my mom’s second surgery, he picked me up from school to take me home for a little bit, so I could be at the house for a while. My sister was set to pick me up afterward. So, we stopped at the market on the way home, and my dad picked up a large frozen pizza to make for our dinner. I’m actually crying as I write this ‘cause it’s such a touching memory for me. My dad, who doesn’t know how to cook much on the stove, put the pizza in the oven, and well… he left it in there a bit too long. He took it out and it was a tad black on the bottom. It was still edible, though. I still remember his face when he pulled it out. He looked disappointed, but I still ate it.

That is a touching memory that I have, but nothing will beat what happened next, that same day. I was sitting in my bedroom. Prior to leaving for the hospital, my mom had set up a rack in my room with fresh clothes for my dad, uncle who lives with us, and one of my older brothers who still lived at home at the time. All three were adult men, and that’s why both she and my dad thought it was best for me to be with my sister, since as a little girl, I was still very dependent on my mom. So, back to the clothes. My mom wanted to make sure that they had all of the clothes that they needed while she was gone. I remember sitting on my bed that day staring at the rack of clothes, and my dad was in the kitchen with the pizza. As I stared at the clothes, I started to cry. I was trying not to be loud, as to not let my dad hear. My mom was the only person I was ever comfortable crying around, although my tears wouldn’t always restrain themselves in all other instances, including this one. My cries soon turned to sobs, which could no longer be muffled. It was then, that my dad walked into my bedroom. He sat next to me on the bed and put his arm tightly around me, hugging and telling me that, “Mom will be home soon, don’t worry.” He kept hugging me and my tears kept coming. I wanted to stay home so badly, but I couldn’t.

Later that week, my dad went over to my sister’s house for some home-cooked dinner. When it was time for him to leave, I began crying again. He thought that I was crying for my mom. That day in my bedroom, it was for my mom, but that night after dinner, it was for him. I wanted to go home with him. I missed him. He didn’t know that, though. My sobs were too strong for me to talk through them, so I couldn’t let him know that. So, he left that night thinking that I was crying for my mom, when in reality the tears were for him. Those memories have always been extremely emotional for me (still are), so it wasn’t until last year that I was finally able to tell my dad that I was really crying for him that day. It felt good to finally let him know. It touched him too.

Back, to the Past

So, back to three years ago, I could not let my mom stay in a hospital alone. For one, I was worried about her being alone. It was an excellent hospital, but it didn’t have to do with that. It was that I would worry about her no matter where she was located. And, secondly, I didn’t want to be at the house without her. I went through that as a child, when I had no choice but to listen to the adults telling me what to do. They did what they felt was best for me, and I don’t doubt that it was best for me. But, now I was an adult, and I was going to make the choice to be with my mom.

For the week that she was in the hospital, I spent each night with her, and most of the days. Then, I would go home for a few hours everyday to wash dishes and clothes, shower, make my uncle’s lunch for the next day, and my dad’s lunch and coffee for the next day as well. I’d make sure all was set for them, and then go back to the hospital with my mom all night. The recliner that I slept on left much to be desired, though. Two recliners were present in the room with her, but the really comfortable one was in the way of the nurse when she’d come in to check on my mom in the middle of the night. So, I just slept on the other one that might have once had padding back during World War II.

Everyone knew this. Everyone in my family knew that this was what I was doing, but there was one thing that they did not know. Each day when I’d go back home, I’d peak into my mom and dad’s room and start crying. I remember lying down on their bed once, and just sobbed like a baby. I’d see the empty room, and know that my mom wasn’t there. I’d go up to her sweater that she always wore, and just like when I was a little kid holding that Kleenex, I’d smell her sweater to get that scent. I knew she was getting better in the hospital (and today, she is doing much better), but at this point she had a lot of complications that made a lot of things, such as her ever walking again, up in the air. It was a stressful time. That bedroom, and her sweater, was a symbol of what life had been before she got sick. Now, everything was different, and she wasn’t home. She wasn’t able to lie in her own bed, which I knew she wanted to do so badly. She wasn’t able to be home with us. It was hard.

August… Oh, August

So, you can now see what August does to me still. As a child, it was a depressing time for me as school came closer. My mom’s first surgery took place in August. The second and most recent one did not, but their memories come back with this month. I guess August has become a time for reflection on all of those things. As each new ad comes on TV with kids dancing around in new clothes, and happily heading off to school, I think back to a time when I did not feel that way. And, even more sadly… I imagine the kids who, today, are in that same emotional place. They don’t want to go back to school. Maybe it’s fear or sadness, or maybe it’s getting back to routine. Either way, it’s a change to which some kids are not looking forward.

Change… that is something that never comes easy, at least for me. I know it’s also not coming easy for Alice. I’ve mentioned her before in my post Innocent Heart. She’s my little cousin (my cousin’s daughter), and she’s entering first grade this year. She’s nervous. She feels good about it, then the nerves come back again. When I was talking with her a while back, she was telling me how she misses her friends from Kindergarten who aren’t going to be in her class anymore. They’re going to different schools. She was expressing to me her fears, and she became teary eyed when talking about going to school and not knowing if she’ll recognize anyone, or if she’ll make new friends. I tried to comfort her in the best way I knew how, and I tried my best to remember what I felt like at that age. The memories are strong, so I was able to ease her fears a little that day. However, I know first hand, that it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you. You will only be at ease, when you are in that place and feel it inside. No one can really say a magic word to make you feel perfectly fine. Anxiety comes from within, and it’s up to what we feel inside that will either put it at ease or not. So, as she comes closer to her first day, I am thinking about her a lot. I thought I was past those back-to-school emotions. However, she’s afraid of the change that’s coming, and, unexpectedly, I am feeling anxious for her.

When I think about it, I guess that’s what August represents for myself. August equates to change. Whether you’re heading back to school in August, or preparing to, it’s all a brand new experience coming. Summer is coming closer to an end, and that means fall, and soon the holidays, will once again be upon us. That time of year is returning.

As an adult, I now cannot wait for the summer to come to an end, due to my serious loathing of the heat. But, I also think about those kids – and especially Alice – with separation anxieties that are aching as the summer comes closer to its end. They want the summer to last a little bit longer. For them, I guess I can put up with a little longer summer.

I know I would have appreciated that when I was a kid.

 

Here’s to a classic!

Separation Anxiety and Bipolar in Kids

I never wanted a lunchbox in kindergarten. I didn’t want anything that was so permanent. I only wanted to take a brown paper bag. And, when it came to what I allowed my mom to put inside of it, well that was where my mom started running into issues with my teachers. I would cry if my mom put anything more than half of a sandwich, a tiny handful of crackers and a small juice box in that bag. I didn’t want any more food than that inside. In my five-year-old mind, the more the food inside that bag, the longer it meant that I had to stay there at school. My mom had to explain this to teachers many times, as they always addressed the problem that I never had enough to eat. My saying to them that I wasn’t hungry was not a satisfactory answer. But really, would that be enough for anyone to hear a child with such little food say? They thought something was wrong at home, until finally my mom was able to fully explain in detail what was going on. It was no longer questioned after that.

I had a severe case of separation anxiety as a child, and it lasted throughout my high school years. Since my diagnosis, I have learned more about the signs of bipolar, and I have found interesting articles on bipolar in children. Bipolar presents itself differently in children than it does in adults. One such symptom can be separation anxiety. On the right hand side of my blog, there is a link to information on bipolar in children. In addition, there is an article on separation anxiety and how it can relate to bipolar in children. That article is to which I’m going to be referring in this post.

This article defines separation anxiety as “the excessive anxiety that occurs when a child has to leave the home or the person to whom she is very attached.” It’s normal for young babies and toddlers to be attached to their parents, but it becomes an issue when that attachment extends into the older childhood years. By the time a child reaches school age, he or she should be able to leave home and the parent(s) to whom he or she is attached. So, when a child cannot make this separation, it is then that separation anxiety becomes the probable reason.

The Goodbye Fence

Kindergarten was an entirely new experience. I was entering a world that I had never seen before. I didn’t always cry when my mom would drop me off, but I always wanted to be home. My teachers were kind, I had friends, and I enjoyed playing with them, but it didn’t match the comfort that I had when I was home in my mom’s loving care. But, I soon found a way to help myself say goodbye to my mom in the mornings. The school had a fence through which you could see the driveway as parents drove off. So, every morning, I would run to that fence and stand there. As soon as I would see my mom and dad (my dad was driving, as my mom doesn’t drive), I would then wave and smile. It made me feel good to see my parents, especially my mom, one last time before the day began without her.

I did this every day for months, until one random day when I was told that my morning ritual was no longer being allowed. My mom had taken me into the school to drop me off, when the teacher told her that I was no longer allowed to wave at the fence, due to the fact that other children were now starting to do the same thing. It was stated as being a danger for children to be so close to the fence, since it was by a driveway with cars. I was devastated. I began to cry and my mom just tried to comfort me. She held me and gave me a long hug and said that it would be ok, and she’d see me soon. But, that is not enough to calm a child who has just been told she could not “truly” say goodbye to her mom. To me, my goodbye was not complete. My mom eventually left, and I was forced to stay inside the classroom until she and my dad drove away.

What those teachers did not realize was that it was crushing for them to do that to me. What compounded the issue was the fact that the rule was enforced suddenly, and without warning. My mom was not even able to properly prepare me for this change in rules prior to my going to school that day. From how I see it, they just viewed it as a “child will get over it” type of situation.

The Wink Goodbye

I could not stop crying that day. The tears kept flowing and they wouldn’t stop. Finally, as I sat in my Kindergarten classroom, we were all supposed to be working on an assignment that was given to us. Everyone was quietly working. Meanwhile, I was at my seat, wiping my unending tears on my sweater’s sleeve. I felt as if I was in mourning. I did not recognize that emotion at that young age. But, as that same reaction came out in future years due to the same separation anxiety, I could now say that it indeed felt like I was mourning. Eventually, my kindergarten teacher came up to me and asked me why I was crying so much. I could barely get the words out, but tried to explain to her. She just said that it was a rule that was meant for my safety. She still didn’t understand that it was more than just saying goodbye at the fence. As I look back on that experience, I realize that the wave goodbye was a final reassurance that my mom and dad were still really there after they left me at school. I was five-years-old and it was what I needed. Not having that wave goodbye cut that security out of my life.

Going home that day was a blessing. It was a miserable day and I was so ecstatic to see my mom. My mom and I talked about what had happened that day and she and I began to come up with a way for us to deal with the new rule. That is when we came up with “The Wink Goodbye” tactic.

The way it worked was that I would stay on the playground, away from the fence, after she dropped me off. Then, as she and my dad drove off, and I could see their vehicle pass by in the distance, I would wink in that direction, and she would do the same while looking through the fence as they passed. I could not really see my mom winking, but my five-year-old brain created the image, so as she drove past, I could indeed “see” her winking at me. That was our goodbye each and everyday, for the rest of my kindergarten experience. Best of all, the teachers never knew about it. I wasn’t going to let them take that away from me too.

It Just Didn’t Go Away

The separation anxiety never went away. If anything, it just got worse as I got older. At least as a young child, people look at you and think that it’s understandable. However, when you’re twelve and crying hysterically for your mom and dad, it becomes an entirely different picture.

I slept in my parents’ room until I was eleven years old. I slept on this fold-up style couch/chair. But, thanks to my bed wetting (which lasted until eleven as well), I kind of… um… ruined it. So after that, I moved to sleeping bags. I just couldn’t get myself to sleep by myself. I tried… boy did I try! I would tell my mom, “Tonight is the night, Mom! I’m moving into my room.” I would feel pumped and ready to go, but by the time nighttime came, I was in awful tears and in a depressed state. My mom would come into my room and say, “Do you want to come back in our room?” I would and I’d be calm again. I don’t even know what it was really that kept me from being able to sleep by myself.

The Hysterical Bed-Destroyer

I had a lot of fear as a child. I had a lot of worries too, mainly about my parents. I always worried about losing them, and it was a thought that was regularly on my mind. The OCD did not help any of that. But, then there was the strong desire to move into my room. I wanted to be a “big girl” and sleep in my own room, but each time the night came, I just couldn’t do it. So, I don’t really know what was the driving force behind my inability to sleep alone.

The article “Separation Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder” that I have referred to, discusses that a child may become hysterical if forced to stay by his or herself. That really hit home for me when I first read it. I remember this one time when I was around nine-years-old, and I had the urge to clap one night. It was bedtime and I had a strong urge to clap really loudly. So, I did. Well, my mom said, “Go to sleep. You do that again, then you can sleep in your own room.” What she didn’t realize (and what I also didn’t realize ‘cause I had no idea of its existence) was that it was my OCD that was making me do it. I had this urge and it was like I had to satisfy the urge otherwise things felt wrong for me. Life was wrong if I didn’t clap. I know that sounds completely absurd, but that is how I saw it that night. So, I clapped again.

It… kinda looks like me that night.

Well, my mom made good on her threat. She pulled me up from the floor and walked me to my bedroom. She then left me in there to sleep alone. That was all it took to flip the switch in my head. I was suddenly thrown into a rage. I started screaming and crying. I was hitting the walls. I was throwing objects around my room and making a complete mess. I pulled all of my blankets and bedding off of my bed and threw them on the floor. I then got the mattress and pulled it as hard as I could until it slid off and onto the floor. All that was missing, was me turning green while my muscles tore through my clothing. I was angry and throwing a nine-year-old-sized tantrum. Except the tantrum wasn’t that of a child trying to get her way. It was that of one in fear. I was suddenly thrown into the lonely environment. It didn’t matter how familiar it was, because it was not comforting to me at that time of night. It was frightening and I felt alone and angry because of it. All of my fears, worries, and worst of all my OCD thoughts, were my roommates, and without my mom and dad, I was all by myself to deal with their mental torture.

My mom finally came back into my bedroom. She saw the mess and I truly think she would have spanked me hard, if she had not been so tired. My mom spanked me as a child, but I rarely required one; a scolding or mere look would usually do it for me. But, that night, the frustration on her face was one that, to this day, makes me think that she wanted to smack me. Instead, she looked at me and told me to pick up all the bedding, move the mattress back onto the bed and then go to sleep in their room. The rest of the mess I would have to clean up the next day. So, I did what she said, and off I went to their bedroom.

The Retreat

Unfortunately, these moments of anxiety did not leave as I entered my teens. By my senior year of high school (12th grade, 17-years-old), I was still unable to leave my mom and home.

I went to an all-girls Catholic high school, and part of the requirements to graduate, was to attend four class retreats (one each year). The 9th and 10th grade retreats were easy, since they lasted half a day and a full day respectively. The 11th and 12th grade retreats were a different story, though. My 11th grade retreat was going to be an overnighter, and my 12th grade one was to be four days and three nights away from home. Needless to say, I was terrified when I learned of this requirement.

When the time came for me to go to my overnight 11th grade retreat, I did not want to go. I begged my mom to let me pretend that I was sick. She said that I could do that if I wanted, because she knew how awful such an experience would be for me emotionally. But, then she gave me an option. She said, “You can either pretend your sick for this one, and be forced to go to the four-day retreat next year, or go this year, and skip next year’s retreat.” It wasn’t like I could skip both retreats, as that would draw attention from my teachers. Talk about a suck-filled decision to have to make. Either way, I was going to be gone overnight. Yes, the obvious choice is to go on the one night retreat and skip the other, but when even one night away makes you physically and emotionally ill, that’s still not an attractive option.

However, I knew what I had to do. So, I forced myself on the one-night retreat. It was God who helped me to get through that. As I stood at the back door, my dad waited in his work truck. My mom told me to be strong and not cry in front of him because he would have just turned the car around and brought me back home. He would not have dropped me off at school in an emotional mess like that. So, I stood there, staring out the door. My mom kept looking at me, just encouraging me to take that step outside of the door. It was such a struggle. I was trying to catch my breath and gain my composure. I then took a deep breath and walked right out of the door, without looking back. I still remember my mom saying, “Good girl” to me as I left the house.

The drive to school was hard. I was trying not to cry in the truck, but I couldn’t hold it in. I just kept looking out of the passenger side window, so my dad would not see me. I think he knew, but also knew that I was trying not to show him. Finally, I got to school and continued to cry in the bathroom. I remember girls in there thinking that something had happened because I wasn’t someone who cried in front of people. I always hid my tears as a kid, and still try my best to do so. But, the “mournful” emotions that would overwhelm me during those anxiety-filled experiences were too powerful to fight.

The hour ride to the retreat location was another stressful one. I was in the school bus and crying my eyes out. I was trying to be quiet ‘cause I didn’t want all of my classmates to see me. Everyone else was laughing and excited, whereas I was an emotional mess. My friend was sitting next to me and kept trying to tell me jokes to cheer me up. She tried so hard, and managed to get me to crack a smile a few times, but I always reverted back to tears. The entire day, I had to keep excusing myself to go to the restroom so that I could cry in private. At lunch I was crying uncontrollably and couldn’t eat. One of my other friends asked, “You miss your mom, don’t you?” I couldn’t even answer, just nod. It was the same story, all day long, that is until dinnertime.

This is where something that has always baffled me occurred. The anxiety disappeared… and I mean completely. This is something that has always happened, even as a child when I was staying at family’s houses when my parents would go away. The anxiety would just disappear by the time evening came. It was then that I would realize just how close I was to going home. The nighttime had finally arrived, and I knew that once I fell asleep that the hours would fly by, and I’d awake to the day on which I’d be going home. Often times, I wouldn’t even sleep. I would stay up all night and watch television, as I was not tired. I just wanted to be home so badly. So, when this same thing happened the night of my retreat, I was not surprised. It was then, that I was able to finally fully appreciate the experience that the retreat was supposed to be giving me. The second day was a much more relaxed and enjoyable day, as I knew soon I would be home.

As for the 12th grade retreat, I followed through on my plan and pretended that I was sick for it. To make up for my absence, I had to do additional community service hours (in addition to the required 100 – 25 per year – that our school required for graduation), but that was fine by me.

The experiences that I had with my separation anxiety go on and on, but there is no reason to list them all, since they all are pretty much variations of the ones I’ve mentioned.

So, Did I Have Bipolar Back Then?

Who knows? My psychiatrist and psychologist both think it’s very possible, considering this and other issues that I experienced as a child. However, they also know that they cannot be certain, as they could not observe me back then. Separation Anxiety is a common symptom in children with bipolar. But, children can have separation anxiety and not be bipolar. So, unless someone creates a time machine for me to go back in time, then I’ll probably never know.

I will say this, though. Bipolar or not as a child, I was indeed severely anxious. If you know a child who is exhibiting such anxiety, then please address it with his or her doctor. I did not know what was wrong with me as a kid, but I knew something was not right, as other kids weren’t as emotional as I was in such situations.

Please don’t ignore the signs in your kids.