This is an exercise I did with a psychotherapist;
Dear Baby Duck,
Do you remember that trip to the Coromandel in the summer of ’78? Not quite a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack but certainly memorable! There are some things I’d like to tell you about that time, looking back as an adult.
It all started because your Mum and oldest sister were going to the UK. You and your brother and sister were farmed out to families as Dad was deemed too busy with work to cope and it was summer time so no school. You were sent to the Gilmores, a family we had known for a short time through your Dads work. Natalie was a similar age to you. You should have been happy with the family you got but I know you really wanted to go to the Browns. They were a family we had spent a lot of time with growing up. They were, in a way, our ‘best’ family. You would feel relaxed around them and they had a swimming pool. But your sister and brother already ‘assigned’ to them so to the Coromandel you went.
The Gilmores had posh brekkie cereals and a boat. There were less kids, less chaos and lots of Americanised foods (they spent some time there). You were in for a treat!
You’ve always been anxious about travelling haven’t you? Having seen your brother and sister carsick on many occasion you then developed a deep-seated fear of travelling for this reason. I remember you would stick your head out the window of the car as it travelled, like a dog getting air. Your long, golden tresses would be a bird’s nest by the time you arrived but it didn’t matter. No uh! You could deal with messy hair as long as you were not sick. I wish I could have told you not to worry so much. That you’ll be alright, it’s not the end of the world. That in fact worrying about it was worse than the actuality. But then you were only young and couldn’t see the bigger picture. Instead you focussed all your energy on being OK, much like I do now. You would go very quiet and inward. I wish you could have shared your fears with someone as putting them in the light makes them less scary. So the trip up in the car was your first obstacle. It was made more difficult by being with another family. But you survived, you always did. I wish you could have been reassured so that you could have enjoyed not endured the journey.
You spent happy days swimming and playing on the beach. Your hair would go white in the sun and your freckles would almost join there were so many. Your tent was only a stone’s throw from the sand. The main tent had the parents and living area. You and Natalie were in a wee tent on your own. I know you were scared of the dark. You have been for as long as I can remember. You would have bad dreams, call out and sometimes sleepwalk. You were worried about sleeping in a tent weren’t you? But you thought you shouldn’t be because Natalie was OK with it. Maybe she would protect you both from the ‘bogyman’? I feel very sad that you felt so scared and alone. I wish I could have held your hand and stroked your head til you fell asleep. I wish you’d told someone how scared you were. Do you remember the night you went sleepwalking along the beach? When you came to you were standing on the beach with a sea of tents in front of you. But where was yours? It was so dark with only the faint light of the moon. You couldn’t tell tent from tent, you didn’t know how far along the beach you were. Your heart rate quickened, you held back the tears and your throat went dry with pure fear. You panicked and looked around desperately for your wee tent. Lost, alone in the dark was so, so scary. You would have given anything to be back in your tent. And so the bargaining in your head began again. ‘I will be -insert (be good/go to church/do my maths etc) if only I could be back in my tent. You walked further from your tent unwittingly tripping over guy ropes and stopping to find the wee blue tent. The tears came, fell silently down your freckled checks, providing no comfort at all. You’ve never felt so alone in your life. Desperation is kicking in now and you want more than anything to be back in that tent. With no torch and no sense of direction you stumble from tent to tent hoping to find a blue beacon. You give up temporarily and go onto the sand and lie down. The roar of the black sea frightens you to your feet. You try and look from the beach to the camp strip to see where you are but you can make no sense of it in this dim moonlight. Sheer terror fills your whole body and somehow ‘survival’ mode kicks in. You keep checking tents, getting up close only to find it is the wrong one. Pushing on through hopelessness you keep going until you come across the ‘parent’ tent. You’re not sure but you go inside and see remnants of tomato sandwiches you had that day for lunch in the ‘living’ area. (Tomato in sandwiches was another thing you didn’t like but you swallowed them down anyway). Still to this day raw tomato in a sarnie reminds you of that time doesn’t it? It elicits such a strong visual. Having confirmed you’re in the ‘parent’ tent you then navigate on hands and knees round the outside of the big tent until you come, at last, to the wee blue tent. From the side canvas you feel your way round to the front, trembling you reach for the zip. You unzip just enough to crawl in and fall back on your sleeping bag. You are aware of how heavy you are breathing. You are still scared even though you are back in the blue cocoon. You remain on edge for the rest of the night having fitful sleep and feeling terrified until day breaks. I wish I could have shone a light for you or reassured your small heart that you’d be OK, you were always OK in the end. I wish you could have found comfort in the tent instead of more fear. Most of all I wish you had told someone what happened and how you felt. It may have made you feel better. You were only so very young and deserved to be comforted and reassured. You shouldn’t have had so much worry at such a young age.
I want to take you in my adult arms and hold you, stroke and kiss your head and tell you everything will be OK. You will be OK.
Love Mama Duck xxx
#anxiety #fear #summerholiday