Separation Anxiety

September 19, 2005

For the past couple of weeks I have been struggling with an issue that has been moving just under the surface of my life for many years now. Over the Labor Day holiday it came boiling to the surface and rather then force it under water again I have decided to rid myself of it once and for all. In short I have come to the realization that the relationship I have with my immediate family is toxic to me, that I have no mechanism for moving the relationship towards anything that would be less toxic, and that I need to distance myself from them literally and figuratively so that I can heal myself.

From the time I completed college until now, I tried every thing I could think of to gain the approval and acceptance of my parents and brother. I, incorrectly, assumed that the difficulties I was experiencing were (a) shared by them and (b) entirely my fault. I see now that they have an entirely different view of our relationship than I, and I know from what they have told me directly, that they have no intention of changing. A part of me grieves all the years I put into being the "perfect" son or the "best" brother as I know now that it was for naught. The plain truth is that I could be anyone and their reaction to me would still be highly conditional and not take into account who I am at all.

Every interaction with them results in pain for me. Therefore the only course of action I see as viable is to not have interaction with them. My fear is that I've reached a point where I am ready to lash back at them for a lifetime of hurts, real and imagined. While that would feel good in the short term, saying things that would be hurtful or permanently damaging in the heat of the moment would go against my sense of integrity and character. Removing myself from contact with them gives me time to collect myself, to heal my wounds, to come back to a place where I can be civil.

Separating myself from my family come at a very difficult time as my mother is battling lung cancer. While she appears to be in a state of recovery, she is not asking the doctor for any prognosis, so I have no way to know if she will live another week, another month, or years yet. By taking the course of action I feel is necessary to save my sanity, and my mental health, I am risking never seeing my mother alive again. I cannot imagine higher stakes, and yet I cannot follow any other path.

My hope is that with time and distance the heated anger I feel towards them will cool; and that the steps I am taking now to reaffirm who I am in my own eyes, by my own standards, will heal the wounds I've had for so long. Once I feel strong in my own opinion of myself I will be ready to interact with my family once again. Until then I must keep myself separated from them and accept the risks that separation represents.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.