The separation anxiety phase struck my house when Dhruv was close to turning 2 years old and it continued for a year. While a lot of information is available on the web on this topic with respect to its symptoms and effects on the children and how can a parent help a child in easing out his/her anxiety, there is nothing much on about what this separation anxiety in a child does to the parent or the primary carer. And even if there is something it is very impersonal.
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from peopleto whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (e.g. a parent, grandparents, or siblings)
Dhruv and I were settling down alone in our new home far far away each with our own set of insecurities. Dhruv was suffering as a victim of being uprooted from the loving nest of his grandparents. I was adjusting, surrendering and struggling myself to fit in the bill of being a housewife and a full time mom.
Daddy was nowhere in sight to listen to my horrid tales leave alone any helping. In my perspective, he would come home late from office, would change and fall asleep, wake up at dinner time, have his dinner, lock himself in his study with his computer watching movies until midnight. I was sure everything around me was falling apart…Dhruv, my marriage and most importantly me. Off course daddy had a completely opposite perspective on this whenever he was summoned….the project work at office was exhausting, the office politics was draining and he could not offer any help because he was too tired. The unsaid words that I could hear were ‘This is your litter, you created it now pick it up and deal with it on your own.’
Meaning of Litter –
- rubbish such as paper, tins, and bottles left lying in an open or public place. Junk, waste, refuge.
- a number of young animals born to an animal at one time. “a litter of five kittens”
Source: Oxford Dictionary
My energies were terribly low in this whole process to even understand the needs and anxiety of my little baby. Dhruv would cling onto my leg crying incessantly whenever I would be doing the chores around the house asking to be picked up and being held. I would scream and yell at him to let me go and this would further accelerate his pitch. I failed to note that he was not throwing any tantrum as we all are used to phrase it as Toddler Tantrums. He wanted a loving assurance and his mummy’s attention for a great deal of time.
He would follow me everywhere I would go in the house to make sure I was not leaving him behind and moving out of the house. I would complain a lot, to myself and to others, of not getting any time for myself all alone to put my broken pieces together. I felt like I have cheated myself. A constant question I posed ‘Is this some kind of a muck I have got into?’ I almost had broken up my friendship ties with a woman when she downplayed everything and served me the rhetoric ‘Welcome to Motherhood’. I thought she was too perfect to understand my plight.
But the plight did not just confine to this.
The biggest energy sucker and energy drainer was the persistent hitting and beating at the bathroom door, unrelenting pulling of the door handle and loud screeching and wailing outside whenever I used to go inside locking the door to preserve the physical sanctity of my existence. It would be such a drainer that as Dhruv wailed outside I profusely cried inside. I felt like flushing myself down the toilet than to open the door and face the damage of the battle that was being waged at the doorstep. Being the toilet paper would have been easy but that was not who I had to be. I had to open the door to resurrect the phoenix out of both of us.
There were bright days when Dhruv and I would sit and cry together wiping out each others tears. There were some dark days when I would ignore him and let him cry and do my work. And then there were some extremely dark days when I emerged as a total maniac from the bathroom defeated, frustrated and disgusted and in a matter of a second I would spank and thrash and shake him. He would drop down asleep out of the tremendous exhaustion. On days like this I felt scared of the Mr. Hyde residing inside me and that he would someday take over the good Dr Jekyll completely.
Realising, thus, the disastrous effect it was having on me and more so on my little baby, Dhruv, I decided to take firm steps. Help came from 2 sources. One was that same woman with whom I had almost broken all ties but she was a saviour. The other was the compassionate ‘Mrs Taylor’, a staff member at the play group we attended.
- The first source, my saviour friend, got me registered for a parenting programme ‘The Incredible Years’ run by the local children centre. It was the first step I undertook to understand my child better and to deal with his different issues. Someday, I will take up the programme’s learning here in the form of a blog post.
Her other advice was to have the door of the bathroom open on all times. Inspite of not being comfortable with this idea and a strict opposition from daddy I weighed the pros and cons of it and raised the flag to give it a go. However, taking a shower with an audience watching was too much for me so either I would wait for Dhruv’s afternoon nap or untill late evening for daddy to return from office to give Dhruv company. Surely, my personal hygiene dropped to an all time low during this time but some mental sense prevailed.
- Mrs Taylor’s play group worked only on Mondays and Fridays so on her advice both of us, Dhruv and I, started moving around a lot attending various play groups in the city as a resort to boost his confidence. I marked the calendar with various play group activities for each of the week day and the bus rides added fun to our daily adventures.
The mood in our household was brightening up and the other side effects were that with all the playing and moving around Dhruv started to sleep well and his appetite also improved.
- The third thing I did was completely my prerogative. I set a target for myself for improving my patience levels. I would keep a record of my meltdowns and temper issues using pen and paper and each time I lost my temper or raised my hand on Dhruv, I reminded and promised myself that next time this will not happen to me any sooner and I will deal with his meltdowns and tantrums calmly. This was the most difficult part of my own survival programme but the most critical. Slowly and gradually over a considerable period of time my patience levels soared up . Though Dhruv’s separation anxiety continued showing up its ugly face now and then but now I was more equipped to handle it. At certain times, I could even sense a tantrum coming and I would nip it in the bud by providing distractions.
Those times were immensely tough yet they have definitely made me realise my strenghts and with all my efforts, the equation of the trust and the bonding between Dhruv and me also improved.
Cheers to the happier times that we are in!!!