Odeliya’s parents struggled with their relationship but pledged to stay together at least until all their three children turned 18. However, when Ilana, their youngest child was already 11, baby Odeliya unexpectedly arrived. At that point, her father said that he would not commit to staying for another 18 years, and he left the family home the day after Odeliya’s 7th birthday.
Odeliya’s mother took her husband’s departure as an opportunity to pursue her own dreams for the first time in more than 20 years. She took a job involving a lot of international travel and relied on Ilana to look after Odeliya while she was abroad. Ilana would often hire a teenager to come and babysit after Odeliya came home from school, but the babysitter usually spent the whole time on the phone. Sometimes, the babysitter brought her boyfriend over and they told Odeliya to stay in her room and not bother them. Odeliya learned to play by herself, make meals for herself, and to handle her homework alone. Ilana tried to come to Odeliya’s school performances but it didn’t always work out and Odeliya stopped expecting it.
A few years went by and Odeliya’s mother received a promotion that required her to relocate abroad full time, so she persuaded her ex-husband to take in Odeliya. However, Odeliya’s father worked night shifts at a hospital, and when he wasn’t working, liked to spend time on the road with his motorcycle club. Odeliya reassured him that she was used to looking after herself. She needed a base and an allowance, but beyond that, she was low-maintenance.
Odeliya stayed true to her word and went through her teenage years quietly. She did fine in school and had friends. She was known for being exceptionally calm, and never seemed to get stressed or worried about exams or anything else that others her age got worked up about.
When home alone, Odeliya spent hours and hours playing a sophisticated video game in which she built homes and activities for simulated characters. But afterward, she would feel uncomfortable, like coming up for air after being underwater for too long. Things seemed blurry and unreal, and she felt down and disconnected. In her last year of school, Odeliya started experiencing that depressed, foggy feeling more and more. She would be talking to her friends and feel completely detached, as if she wasn’t really there. They were oblivious but she felt like she was floating aimlessly in a private bubble. It was frightening. On her 18th birthday, Odeliya decided it was time to get help from Kav L’Noar.
Odeliya filled the Kav L’Noar therapist in on her various living arrangements. When the therapist asked her if she could remember how it had felt when her mother started spending more time abroad, Odeliya told her how she’d managed just fine and how her sister had helped look after her in the early years. But when the therapist asked her again to try and think back to how she’d actually felt - Odeliya suddenly found herself in floods of tears. “I don’t know why I’m crying! I never ever cry! My friends wouldn’t believe it was me if they saw me like this!” The therapist replied, “it seems like you are experiencing the pain of a little girl left behind by the person who was most important to her. Tears are a sign that you are allowing yourself to feel. It’s healthy!” Odeliya smiled a watery smile. “I do feel like I’m really ‘here’ in this conversation”, she said. “It’s comforting- some things do still feel ‘real.”
Odeliya spent the next few months of therapy learning to reconnect with the feelings that she had buried throughout her childhood and adolescence. It was sometimes intensely painful and it took a lot of bravery to face those emotions, but somehow acknowledging them made her feel better. The therapist helped Odeliya understand how, even though she was always so tough and independent- she had been hugely affected by her upbringing, and how her attitudes and behavior reflected that impact. It was empowering to learn that she could choose to act differently if she wanted to.
Sometimes Odeliya would bring up a worry or a reaction and expect the therapist to explain how her experiences made her respond that way. But then she would be surprised when the therapist would reassure her and say “It’s normal to feel that way when you are a teenager. It’s ok.” Odeliya had never had anyone to really ask before or at least no one that she felt truly cared about her as the therapist did.
Odeliya is still working with her therapist, and as the process continues, is feeling stronger and more ready for the joys and challenges of a healthy adult life.