My elder daughter is a high school senior and we have been making visits to colleges that she is interested in attending next year. Two weeks ago we visited my Alma mater, SUNY Binghamton, in upstate New York.
I have not stepped foot on campus since I graduated over 20 years ago, and it had certainly changed a lot.
The way these college visits go is you check in and then the parents and students are given a presentation by a college admissions person. The presentation highlights the school and its outstanding features, and goes over things like the application and admissions process. After that you go on a campus tour. It’s a fun day.
What was weird was I felt like I was going back in time. I felt like I was 18 again, as we were being walked over to the lecture hall where the presentation was being given.
I told my family- “Wow! I remember this lecture hall! Honey, I took my first chemistry class here. This is just about where I sat every day for a year!” She didn’t really care that much The lecture hall seated about 200 people.
What I DIDN’T tell her was that I had hundreds of panic attacks in that very class. I started out as an eager freshman, happy to learn and excited to be in college. Then the panic attacks started…
Every day in that class. Pretty soon I couldn’t raise my hand and participate any more. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t know why I had these terrible bursts of anxiety every day during class.
I remember I used to take Tums and carry gum with me and water- because the classroom anxiety always made me feel like I would lose control and vomit. It was so hard to sit in that class once the anxiety started. I remember sometimes having to skip class, I was so tied up in knots.
As I sat in that lecture hall 2 weeks ago, I was pretty overcome with emotion for that 18 year old little me. Interestingly enough, the person who was presenting for the college asked if there were any alumni in the audience. I raised my hand along with 2 other people.
She had us stand up and everyone gave us a round of applause. It was kind of nice.
As I sat back down I thought, wow I have really come full circle. I wish I could have told that younger version of me that it will get better, that everything will be alright.
I wish it wouldn’t have taken as long as it did, and I wish I didn’t suffer as much as I did.
But honestly, it’s ok… Something else I realized-
I broke the cycle of untreated anxiety in my family.
My beautiful daughter, sitting there in that lecture hall, has suffered with classroom anxiety too. (My younger daughter, thankfully, does not.)
The difference between me and my daughter is that I have walked the walk, and therefore have been able to advocate for her and always get her the help she needed.
It has not always been easy, and watching a child suffer from anxiety is heartbreaking. But by the grace of God, and through a lot of hard work, she is doing quite well.
She is currently very happy, pulling straight A’s and is really looking forward to going away to college. In fact, she went away over the summer to Cornell University for a science research course she is taking.
This is a huge contrast to me. Back when I was a senior, I KNEW in my heart I would not be able to go away to school. It made me sad at the time, but I didn’t know what to do about my anxiety, or how to keep it from spiraling out of control. All I knew was that it was worse when I was away from home. So at home I stayed.
Anxiety has not affected my daughter the way it did to me when I was young. She talks to me (not as much as I wish of course, but she does when it is important), she got counseling and medication when she needed it, and I make sure to keep tabs on how she is feeling and performing out there in the big world.
If anxiety should flare up for her again, I will be there for her. She will get help right away.
So in the sense that I can teach her how to help herself, and how to deal with panic, specific symptoms when she is going through a period of anxiety, I feel very very blessed.
She has made her momma real proud, that’s for sure. And whatever life may throw at her, when it comes to feeling anxious, she always has me to help her every step of the way.
I wish you peace,