When I was young, I spent a horrid week or two at a summer camp. I don’t remember much, just a general feeling of displacement and despair. Not your usual fond memories of swimming with friends and making bracelets out of plastic lanyard you bought at the little store with your summer money.
I was about 9 years old and I was looking forward to spending some time away with girls of all ages in a lush forest setting. But an unfortunate event occurred as I was getting up to leave for my time away. As my family roused to get me to the bus stop in time for my journey to begin, my mom had a tumble down our stairs. She was hurt pretty badly and needed the attention of a doctor.
My mom and I have always been close and seeing her lying at the bottom of our stairs, her ankle tucked in between the bars of our staircase and her face bruised and motionless, I was panicked at the thought of leaving her. In my 9 year old state of mind, my mom was injured and close to death and leaving her was the last thing I wanted to do.
But camp was paid for and the plans were laid out so off I went and spent a miserable 14 days away from my family with only letters to comfort me. I wanted to call, I wanted to hear her voice and know she was ok. My dad wrote to me, drawing little pictures of ants and writing of happy things to keep me comforted. But a picture from my younger sister alarmed me. She took the time and care to draw a picture of my mom, fully dressed in a neck brace bigger than life.
It was when I got home that the battle really began. My time away somehow severed in me the ability to feel at home during times of emotional stress.
I can’t explain it well. It’s almost like I’m in familiar surrounding and yet not at all comfortable there. As if my body becomes numb and unable to feel at peace in any place.
For weeks after I returned from camp, I would wake in the middle of the night, panicked and feeling out of place, lost. Getting up in the dark, I would tip-toe to the hallway and would sit in the middle of the open space, looking, searching for something to help me know I was safe. To ground me and help me feel at peace.
I remember nights crying softly, unable to speak to my parents and explain these unnerving feelings welling up inside my stomach. About this time, I could sense a discord within my home, between my parents while at school I was forced to endure bullying from my teacher on a daily basis.
As an adult, if I have any issues, I completely point to this time in my life as the place it all began.
I never did get over those feelings of being lost, of having no place and of feeling unsafe. I’d rock myself on the warm carpet in the hallway, the moonlight streaming in through the window in my room, waiting for exhaustion to sweep me away.
That was over 20 years ago and last night, all those feelings bubbled up and I fell apart. I cried huge waves of tears and my thinking was scattered and erratic.
I felt out of place in time and numb from head to toe. It was as if I had a clear view of everything and then suddenly, the lights were turned off and I was left to bump along, unable to catch my bearings and find my footing.
I stumbled through the night, aching for peace and starving for comfort.
I wanted to go home. But…where was that?
They say home is where the heart is but my heart was so broken last night I couldn’t seem let go and find peace. That where I was, in the arms of my sweetheart and close to my little man, was a perfect place to be. It was where my heart needed to be.
In the end I fell into an exhausted sleep and fitfully made it through the night, bad dreams and all. Upon waking up, my eyes swollen and my nose stuffy, I felt drained and without aim.
I was 9 all over again.
How do I heal these wounds? It’s evident to me that I’m in my 30’s now and I’m still dealing with some form of separation anxiety from my past experiences that were never healed. Maybe even a sense of abandonment from being sent off to camp without the means of speaking with my family after a terrifying event.
My 9 year old self is hurting and I don’t know how to make it all better. I’m a mother myself and I don’t know how to make the hurt go away. How to make the monsters under the bed disappear.
I’m certain that I need to be taken care of right now and comforted. I need to be held and rocked and told it will be alright. And, most importantly, I need to allow myself to be reassured. To be loved and cared for. And to believe that everything will be alright.
That I will finally feel at home.