Sigmund Freud was one of the first people to describe age regression, and he called it an unconscious defense mechanism where a person will unconsciously and temporarily shift to an earlier age. This is typically caused by a traumatic experience during childhood.
My dad died the day after my tenth birthday. I vividly remember his body lying in the aisle of the plane as the flight attendant called his name and tried to do CPR.
He was wearing his green sweatshirt and long khaki pants. I remember the face of a young man who looked at me as my mom guided me to the back of the plane. I remember being in the firetruck on the way to the hospital. I remember the nurse who brought me donuts. I remember crying while my mom held me in her bed. I asked if Daddy was going to be okay.
She shook her head and held me tighter.
I would be lying if I said I remembered much more.
I became an angry child who acted out. I found porn not long after my dad died and watched it almost every day until I turned 20. I started cursing. Some time after, we suddenly had over 20 animals or more at once. Who knows how that happened.
My mom started working three jobs to make up for my dad’s lost income. I was home by myself a lot.
Then all of those pets started to die, and we bought more. My only living grandparents died. The family fought over money. My mom and I fought constantly.
Did I mention that through all of this, we had a house that was infested with rats?
I threw myself into schoolwork. By the time I entered college, I had 43 credit hours. I am, 20 and I graduate next semester.
All of this to say, 10 is when I stopped being a child like I had been, and I grew up.
So now, when I feel absolutely safe (or sleepy or drunk) I become like a child again. I cannot say what age I am, but I am young. This typically happens with my boyfriend, or around my dogs, where I feel like I am being protected. When I am a child, nothing can go wrong. Nothing can hurt me. I am not anxious, and I don’t feel anything except happiness.
This is not a sexual thing. This is very much trauma based, as I just illustrated. And while I am into many things, this is not one of them.
With my boyfriend, I will curl up into his lap and play with his shirt or his ear like I did with my father when I was little. I also like to ask him to read to me while I cuddle with my stuffed animals.
Now that I have rambled a bit, I’m going to explain how to deal with it. It hasn’t completely taken over my life. I am still a fully functioning, albeit stressed, adult. So why is it an issue?
It’s an issue because it means that I have not fully dealt with the trauma that I experienced. I still lament that my 43-year-old sister got to have her dad watch her graduate and spend so much more time with him.
The first piece of advice that I have is to talk to others about this if you have not already, and come to terms with what happened to you.
Easier said than done.
Another idea is to get rid of or minimize triggers. For me, it is extreme stress, so I pray, meditate or go for a drive to help mitigate what I’m feeling.
Lastly, learn to accept happiness in the present—again, not exactly easy.
My dad is long dead. It has been over a decade. My mom and I don’t argue like we used to. We are in a different house, and I am happy with my boyfriend as my boyfriend. And yet I still regress, as much as I think I am better, I am not.
I am well aware that this is strange, and you might even ask me why I am even writing about it at all. The answer is to help destigmatize it, to show that, while it isn’t normal, it isn’t completely unheard of, nor is it just something sexual, as I said, like calling your partner daddy.