My first daughter went to college and it was huge alright. Getting into a top school after facing down defeat at that racket called early decision, she got a deal so wonderful I walked around looking behind my shoulder to see if it was a trick. Yet they let her in and I let her go, despite my irrational fear it could all be taken from us in a moment. Meanwhile, on my own last leg(s), I developed severe sciatic pain for which no concoction of therapies could relieve. There were nerves and fears and so many of those separation anxiety feelings I didn’t know if my mind and body were working in tandem anymore.
According to the DSM-V Separation Anxiety consists of at least two or more of the following…
Separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed when symptoms are excessive for the developmental age and cause significant distress in daily functioning. Symptoms may include:
- Recurrent and excessive distress about anticipating or being away from home or loved ones
- Constant, excessive worry about losing a parent or other loved one to an illness or a disaster
- Constant worry that something bad will happen, such as being lost or kidnapped, causing separation from parents or other loved ones
- Refusing to be away from home because of fear of separation
- Not wanting to be home alone and without a parent or other loved one in the house
- Reluctance or refusing to sleep away from home without a parent or other loved one nearby
- Repeated nightmares about separation
- Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other symptoms when separation from a parent or other loved one is anticipated
Separation anxiety disorder may be associated with panic disorder and panic attacks ― repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes.
I had all eight.
Still we battled city streets and got her there with our relationship nearly intact. I wrote this piece then: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sext-text/2016/04/a-letter-to-my-daughter-upon-going-to-college/. She also did tell me several times how stupid I was and then maniacally thanked me ten seconds later, after checking incessantly with her friends on text to see if they liked the green or the grey comforter (drab grey is in, go figure). We were scared to leave her there and I had intrusive thoughts of nighttime stalkers and daytime lunatic assylum refugees slipping into her room. In my head I rehearsed her route to classes as if that gave me some control. And of course we fought about parking that day; I mean how can you not?
Now my second is going away. I have barely seen her all summer and suddenly when I asked her to go college shopping she lost it. “Nono no I am too scared and I don’t want to go,” said she. Yes she is 18. I continued to apply pressure to the wound. Therapy be damned! But kid I said, we are running out of time, not aware of speaking in metaphors. We just have to get this done! So consumed was I with my to-do list I never realized that we missed the dreaded deadline for shipping to the college. Nor have I yet to figure out the exact sequence of how to fill a birth control prescription in another state. More time, I begged.
And just like she did on the first day of Kindergarten she pushed back and said it’s not time mom. After about 20 more minutes of yelling and crying she left with a friend. An hour later I said I’m so sorry. I wanted to check it off my list. One last time. The Big Bed Bath trip by which we measure all other trips. The one where you get your own bedspread and call your dorm room your own. The one where the money spent is an actual investment in her class schedule and her sleep schedule. The trip that gives you all the control you need because you know she has towels to last a century, should the world go to pot in the meantime. The one where I already got half the things on sale at Marshall’s. The one where you officially become a college girl, we get it ready, set and you go. The one where we both let go.
Another day mom, she said.
And I said, another day, baby.
Photo by woodleywonderworks