This post was written by my very first guest writer, Ilyssa Rudman. She is the fabulous daughter of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Ilyssa is beginning her senior year at Syracuse University and is on her way to becoming an amazing writer. I asked her to write a piece for my blog and was thrilled when she happily agreed. She wrote the following open letter to my daughter, Amanda, as well as all incoming college freshmen who are experiencing anxiety. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did….
You know your mom’s friends from growing up that you never really knew but you feel some sort of connection with? That’s who Stacy is to me. She once left her shampoo in my shower and her dress in my house – so duh; we’re connected on a level no one can understand. I don’t really know her daughters all that well either, but they are Stacy’s daughters so I’d basically do anything for them – as if they were family… Because they kind of are.
I cannot speak to losing a husband or a parent, as that is something that I have fortunately never experienced myself, but my heart hurts for them every day. I admire that Stacy has used writing as an outlet and I have a great respect for the ways that each of them has handled themselves after experiencing such a tragedy.
Something that I can speak to is the common enemy that Amanda and I have: anxiety. I know through both Stacy’s blog and what my mom has shared with me that Amanda is very anxious about going off to college as a freshman. I also know that I felt the same exact way four years ago, and as I am about to enter my Senior year I wish more than anything that I could go back to the very spot that Amanda is in right now. So here is an open letter to Amanda and anyone else that is in her position. From one anxious mind to another…
Dear Amanda (and anyone else who can relate),
Going away to college is extremely scary for everyone. To someone with an anxiety disorder though, it is literally PETRIFYING. I want to start off by saying that this is a good thing. Not only is it a good thing, it is a GREAT thing. You are about to enter the best four years of your life. I know that is super cliché and you have probably heard it a million and one times, but take it from me – an anxiety ridden about to be senior in college who would pay to trade places with you.
The last thing anyone with anxiety wants is change. But flip that negative perception of change that you have onto its head – and focus on the positives that are coming your way. You are about to make new friends. Not the high school friends that you associate with because you’re from the same town, but people who you are drawn to and truly connect with.
I personally had trouble talking about my anxiety throughout high school. In fact, I don’t know if my friends knew the severity of it back then, when it was the most severe it’s ever been. Now here I am writing about it for everyone to see.
I opened up about my anxiety to my college friends, and that ability to truly let people in has helped me grow closer to my high school friends as well. I have found a support system in both the friends I have made in college and the ones that I grew up going to school with, and I am confident that you will find the same.
Most importantly, I learned that there are tons of people around me who feel the exact same way that I do and silently suffer. You are not alone, ever.
Another aspect of going away to college that racked my nerves like no other was the idea of being “stuck” away from home. But let me give it to you straight – you are nowhere near stuck. If for any reason you want to go home at any time, it is well within your power to do so. I used to go home all the time – whether it was for a prior commitment or simply because I wanted the comfort of my own bed. As time went by, school became like a home to me. I know that you will soon feel the same way, but just remember that you are NOT stuck.
Lastly, I want to remind you that it is okay not to be okay sometimes. It is inevitable that this transition comes with anxiety. Do whatever it is that you feel you need to do to stay calm and centered. Get a really comfy mattress cover and a fuzzy blanket and make your bed at school feel like home.
You may not feel like you are ready, but I know that you are.
With love and lots of luck (that you do not even need),
And to Stacy, and any other mom who is anxious about their anxious child going off to college (moms get anxiety too!) – trust me when I say that they will be more than fine. I have been there and back. Amanda is strong as she has a very strong role model in her mom. Deep breaths ladies, it is going to be okay.
I have been joking around with my friends and family about this for months. I have been talking about these next few weeks which are quickly approaching for my girls and I. The thing is – I don’t think I believed that this time would ever really arrive – but now it’s just about here – and it’s not so funny anymore.
For the months (even years) after Howie passed away, I would wake up with my heart racing. I did not know what each day would bring, but whatever it was scared me. That has not happened for a year or so. My life had finally settled and quieted down. It is so nice to be in a good place and not stress about anything too major.
Don’t get me wrong – nothing horrible is happening now. Life is what’s happening, and with life comes change. Change can be good, but change can also be stressful, especially for my girls and I. We had one very huge change almost six years ago, and it was the worst one imaginable. It is hard to see change as simple for all of us.
Two things are about to happen.
The first is that Lily is about to come home from her very last year at her beloved sleep-away camp. This might sound silly to some – but I am actually scared. She has been so lucky to go to the place that she loves for seven weeks every summer for eight years. Camp is truly her second home, and the friends she has made there are her second family. These summers have helped her deal with her loss, as well as maturing into the wonderful person she is becoming. It has been her “escape” from the stresses of her regular life. Now, at 16 years old, she has “aged-out” and will no longer be able to go back to her camp and live in a bunk with the girls that she loves.
I have been warned – by Lily as well as other parents whose children have gone through this transition. I am expecting a lot of tears, a lot of time spent in her room, and a lot of moodiness. While my mind is prepared, my heart will break a little to see her lose something so important to her. It will truly be a huge loss for her.
At the same time this is happening, Amanda is preparing to leave for her Freshman year at college. Amanda suffers from anxiety and fears change. I have written about this in relation to her going away to college in my Grown & Flown article. Leaving for college is a scary time for many kids, but for someone with anxiety it can be debilitating. Thankfully, we have known this, and have prepared her in the best way possible. I know she will do great and be just fine (even better than fine) once she makes the transition, but I know the transition will be scary for her. I have the utmost confidence in her and am so proud of how far she has come in the last few years. But I am her mother – I worry – and more so than that, I will miss her terribly. Change is hard for me also.
Lily will be home in a few short days, and Amanda will be leaving less than two weeks after that. So, their mom is stressed for them. I am now waking up with the racing heart and the nervousness all day that I haven’t felt in years. But as difficult and crazy as the last few years of my life have been, I have learned ways to cope with my own stress. I am trying my best to get through this time that I never thought would really arrive. The one thing I know is that we will all be okay.
“You are more flexible than you realize”.
It was during my one month trial period at Powerflow Yoga. I was really starting to like yoga and had begun going to class 2-3 times a week. At first, I tried to stick to the instructor that I had taken my original class with. I was comfortable with her and she knew that I was a beginner. She helped me when I needed it. The problem was that her classes did not always match up with my schedule so I had to really expand my horizons and try other teachers.
As much as I was enjoying yoga, I was still pretty much out of my comfort zone. Walking into a new class was a little intimidating when I was still very insecure about how I was moving. I also could never remember which pose was which. What was the difference between Warrior One and High Lunge? Or Warrior Three and Standing Split? I found it quite confusing!
One problem that I was sure I would have was flexibility. I was never flexible. I remember taking ballet classes when I was seven years old. It was obvious that I was a horrible ballerina. My little body did not move the way the teachers wanted it to. I also tried gymnastics which was even more of a disaster. I could not even manage to do a cartwheel. I decided at a very young age that I was inflexible.
On this particular day, I was in class with an instructor I had tried only once before. I found his class difficult but there was also something about it that I really liked. I was giving it another try. During this particular class, I felt as if he was contorting us into all kinds of crazy positions. Then we finally came to one I knew – one that I thought I had mastered. This position was either Warrior One or Warrior Two – I am telling you I could not keep them all straight at that point! The teacher came over to me and moved my back foot a bit.
That was when he said to me, “You are more flexible that you think you are”.
Me? Flexible?? Oh no I am not. This guy should have seen me in that ballet recital back in 1970 something! Not a pretty sight.
But….after he moved my foot, I was able to move deeper into the pose. Could he be on to something?
I kept those words in my head and for the next few classes I took. I tried to challenge myself to move in ways in which I would have thought impossible for me. I fell – often – but after a while I didn’t care anymore. If I fell, I fell. Soon, I was able to see that I was more flexible than I thought. The more I tried, the better I was able to move. I was proud of myself.
What has been more challenging for me is balance. I am still working on that one.
*** If anyone is interested in trying Powerflow Yoga in Livingston, they are now offering a free week for new clients who would like to try it out. Just mention my name or The Widow Wears Pink!