”I’m way too young to be going through this,” I sobbed to the therapist. ”This wasn’t supposed to happen for another 10 years at least!” But at least I knew what was wrong with me. No, sadly, it’s not menopause. The diagnosis is ”empty nest syndrome,” or something a lot like it.
I had made numerous phone calls to friends asking for their shrink’s numbers. I was in an emergency state and my therapist, who I haven’t seen in a very long while, turns out to be on vacation. Ass. Same with every other therapist in the city asses – which made me seriously wonder what people, like me, were SUPPOSED to do, if they were having a breakdown and there was no on there to talk you through it because all the shrinks in the city were at their cottages. And it’s not a feeling that you can explain to your family or friends, except to say, ”Everything sucks! Yeah, I don’t know why.”
Finally, I got a therapist on the phone, who listened to me sobbing and I told him all the things that were going on (or not on) in my life.
”It sounds like you have a void with your daughter gone.” Yes, yes. Yes!!! Apparently, this therapist figured out, after five minutes, that I was feeling the way I did because my daughter has gone off to Europe with her father for five weeks. She had already been gone to overnight camp, and back for five days, before taking off again, this time with a huge time difference, which turns out made all the difference.
At camp, I knew I couldn’t talk to her, so it really wasn’t on my mind. But knowing she is just in Italy, which means I could talk to her every day, made me extremely anxious. With the time difference and bad connections, I can barely talk to my daughter. I know she is having a great time with her father. I know it’s his time with her. I know they will bond and she’s in good hands. But this shrink was right. The knot in my stomach, my depression that led me to bed for hours in the middle of the day, trying to find anything good with my son right beside me in my life, was depression, for sure.
But why? Everything in my life is good. Except that my daughter was not near, or with me. It feels like I’ve lost a limb. I often go into her empty bedroom and sit on her bed thinking, ”I wish she’d keep her room clean like this all the time,” and, ”How am I going to get through this?”
I swear, I don’t know how parents do it when their child goes off to college. I mean, I know they do it. I did it. I’ve lived in numerous places, moving out as soon as I could. But did I once think about what my parents were going through? Nope. I suppose because all my friend’s kids are so far off from going to college and because we joke that we can’t wait for that day to come, when it really DOES come, it hurts like a motherfucker.
I want my daughter to experience the world. I have already told her she’s going somewhere out of the city when she graduates high school. It’s all fine when you talk about it, but when it actually happens and your child is not with you for weeks well, let’s say the therapist is right. There is a huge void. And, fuck, there’s nothing to prepare you for what you’ll feel, just like there’s nothing that prepares you for menopause.
I WISH it was menopause because this empty nest thing is emotionally painful and draining. I would rather be in physical pain then go through this empty nest emotional pain.
Everything started to suck the day after she left. I’m trying to look at the positives, which is that not only is my daughter having a great time, but also I WILL be prepared when she actually DOES go off to college or move out.
We want our children to grow up and be independent and that day will happen quicker than you think and you will look like me, non-showered, crazy on the phone, looking for a professional to help you through the crisis, crying, ”I just want my daughter back.”
The therapist actually gave me some good ideas, journaling my feelings for her to read when she comes back (nixed that. These are grown up feelings.) Or painting her room, doing something that keeps me connected to her while she’s gone (The painting the room idea? I’m on it!) He also said that no one could fill the void not my family, not my friends, not my baby except me. Meaning, I should get a fucking hobby or hang out with friends, do anything that will fill the missing void my daughter – which has caused this depression.
I also understand completely why (on movies or sitcoms or in real life) when a child moves out but comes by only to drop off laundry no one complains. I swear, right now, I’d do 12 loads of laundry to see my daughter for two hours. So brace yourself parents. This is something you will all go through. And the weird thing is, this is what we want, isn’t it? For our children to be independent and happy? So why the heck does it hurt so much?