Facing Fear Series…
A guest post by Alison at Life of Scoop
I stood amidst suitcases and travelers, waiting my turn to struggle through security, with tears streaming down my face. Sure, people were watching. Sure, I should’ve gone into a bathroom stall until I composed myself. But those security agents are relentless in their pursuit to push you toward giant metal detectors.
Airports are not my favorite place. Airports are almost always the final stage of separation – an overwhelming fear of mine.
Anxiety usually starts about five days before the separation. Whether it is a two-day separation or a two-week separation, my stomach becomes a tangle of knots and my immune system gets weaker. I feel it in my body – the fear of leaving people I love.
As a child, I remember crying for hours before and after leaving my parents. Summer camp, weekends with grandma, school retreats and sometimes sleepovers would have me nervous and unsettled.
In college, I cried when my parents left my dorm room. I cried when I left home to return to campus after Christmas break. I cried when I wasn’t sure I’d see my mom for several weeks. Freshman year was a battle of separation.
I suppose the clinical term for this is separation anxiety. I do not like leaving the people that I love. This doesn’t really have anything to do with my own insecurities, but rather is related to whether or not those I’m leaving will be safe.
I’ve been married almost exactly a year, and this past summer I left my husband in Colorado while I traveled to Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. I was excited about the trip – I was seeing family, longtime friends, and spending time in rest. But in the midst of my excitement, I was also incredibly nervous about leaving my husband for ten days.
My stomach knotted up. I stopped sleeping well. I was constantly feeling aches and pains. My body was having a physical response to the amount of anxiety I was feeling about separating from my husband for those ten days.
Insert my story above about airport security and you’ll have the full picture. I had just kissed my man goodbye – after spending the past few days cooking him burritos and casseroles so he would eat something other McDonalds while I was away.
My thoughts raced. What if he gets in a car accident while I’m away? How will I know if he’s feeling okay and eating well? What if he’s lonely? Oh my goodness, what if he falls in the shower and can’t get help?!
It sounds irrational, but it is what happens when I’m about to leave someone I love.
Fear of separation. It’s really difficult, friends.
I’ve shared some tips below that have helped me learn to cope with the anxieties and the irrational fears before I leave for a trip (or someone I love leaves for a trip), as well as what I do while I’m separated from those I love.
Have a plan
This has calmed me in moments of fear. Having a plan about when you’ll leave, how you’ll communicate, what you’ll do when you return, and more allows for a little more ease as you prepare for separation. For example, when I left for my ten-day trip, my husband and I made it a goal to talk on the phone each night before bed (even if only for a few minutes). My husband also took the day after I returned home off of work to spend time with me. Preparations are calming.
Be willing to be vulnerable
For a long time, I felt that I had to “get it together” before I saw anyone. As a child, I didn’t want to be seen crying when my grandma came to pick us up. As an adult, I was embarrassed by my tears at the airport. But as I’ve grown and developed in this area, I’ve come to realize that vulnerability is precious. Letting your true feelings be known is powerful.
This also important to explain to those you’ll be spending time with after you separate from your loved ones. Are you leaving your husband to spend time with girlfriends? Let them know that separation is hard and that you might miss your man, but that it doesn’t mean you’re not happy to be with them.
Remind yourself of previous travel/separation experiences
If you’ve traveled quite a bit, you’ll be able to reflect back and realize that most (if not all) travel experiences ended with warm embraces and husbands who hadn’t starved while you were gone. I don’t want to be insensitive and say this is always the case, but usually, the separation is difficult and anxiety-provoking only to end with everything turning out well. Remind yourself of this as you’re separated from loved ones.
Give yourself grace
Let yourself struggle. Allow yourself the room to be sad, the room to miss your loved ones, the room to cry in the security lines at the airport.
Sometimes in those moments of separation, I feel pretty weak. Practice giving yourself this grace in small ways, so that when the time for separation comes, it will feel more natural.
All in all, friend, I want to leave you with hope – hope that this trial of separation anxiety is producing stronger faith and steadfastness in you. (James 1:2-4) Fear of separation is not an easy road to walk – and I get that. It feels silly, or immature, or frustrating, or unfair. But that grace I mentioned? It makes hearts new and people rejoice and lives changed.
Biography: Alison is a wife, graduate student, blogger, and Jesus-follower growing in grace and truth daily. She loves coffee in the morning, experimenting in the kitchen, camping with her husband, and reading in a hammock just about anywhere. Her blog – Life of Scoop – exists to encourage authentic community grounded in biblical truth. Basically, it’s some good soul talk in the midst of the mundane. Follow Life of Scoop on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
Thank you, Alison, for your transparency in this post! Your story will help others who struggle with separation anxiety know they are not alone. I love how you express the importance of being vulnerable by expressing true feelings and giving yourself grace. I really appreciate your friendship and your participation in this series.
Do you struggle with any fears? What steps have you taken to overcome them? I hope this series will be helpful to you as you learn to face some fears in your own life.
Check out the previous posts in this series… 1. The Unexpected Cure for Fear: Fighting Fire with Fire 2. How to Face Your Fears One Step at a Time.