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Am I right or wrong?

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Casual scribe

Am I right or wrong?

Hi there. I'm Jody and I'm new to this site. Thanks in advance for reading my post.
My daughter just turned 19. She's been dealing with social anxiety since grade 8. High school was a nightmare for her...numerous calls home because of feeling sick, dizziness, sore stomach, heart palpitations. She did manage to graduate, and she was determined to go to University last September. She went for 2 weeks, and quit Smiley Sad Since then, she doesn't do much of anything. She's in her pajamas all day long, she doesn't leave the house unless it's with me, she has absolutely no friends. She's been on medication for 2 years now, and she sees a mental health counselor, but there's been no improvement. It's heartbreaking and frustrating to watch my daughter waste her life and not be able to help her. She's talking about signing up for school again this September, but she wants to do online classes. I don't like this idea, because I'm worried about her secluding herself even more. I don't want her to be alone inside the house for the next few years! I think she needs to push herself to be out in public around people, dealing with everyday issues like everybody else, preparing herself for the workforce, trying to make friends. Other people I know who suffer from anxiety say you have to push yourself to do things, no matter how nerve racking or uncomfortable. Am I wrong to want her to get dressed every day and get on the bus and go to school? Or should I be okay with her staying in her pajamas, getting absolutely no exercise, sitting in the living room with the curtains closed, and seeing nobody all the time. Its frustrating.
Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Am I right or wrong?

Hello @Jody1980 and welcome. 


I read your post yesterday, and I'm sorry it took a little time to respond. As a mom to a daughter with anxiety (who is quickly approaching the end of high school), your words, and the deep concern behind your words, resonate with me. 


I imagine that you're sad.   We see our children feeling down, lonely, scared, hurting...and it's so very difficult when we can't make it better. It sounds like you have been a witness to your daughter's struggles with anxiety for many years, and you've seen the toll that it's taken on her. You and your daughter have sought support for her (counselling and medication) and I imagine that you have hoped that these steps would make life easier and smoother for your gal.   


I imagine that you're feeling scared...scared that 'this' (and all that 'this' entails) is going to be long term, that your daughter's current path is taking her further away from the goals she set for herself and the rich/full life that you know she deserves. 


I imagine there is heartbreak, for both of you. Your daughter, very bravely, tried university last fall only to find that it wasn’t the right time and that she didn’t have the skills/supports in place to do well (this time).  Both of you, in your own way, had a vision/hope for how things would unfold, and that vision didn’t work out. I imagine there is heartbreak and grieving; the future she hoped she would have perhaps seems a bit further away…for now.


If you’ve read through some of these postings, you’ll see that many of us have seen/are seeing the impact of anxiety and depression on the lives of our kids. My daughter is a bit younger than your daughter, and I’ve seen the ways that anxiety has made her world smaller, shrunk her ability to see her strengths, and—in her eyes—magnified what she sees to be her faults.  


And, in the tougher times, the presence of anxiety has made me question my abilities to parent, made me impatient to see change, made me angry that she can’t do what she used to be able to do, and made me worried that the way things are now will always be. In other words, it has often been difficult for me to ‘make friends’ with the anxiety in my daughter’s life.


It has not been very long since your daughter left university and returned home. And to use the metaphor of a break up (a break up with some of the goals she had for herself), it’s been less than half a year since she’s had her heart broken.


I completely understand that you hope that she ‘gets back in the saddle’ and tries university again, in the more traditional sense (face to face on campus classrooms and so on). And, I think it’s important to remain open to what your daughter is suggesting.


First, your daughter, with her plans of online learning, is showing that she is fighting for her goals. She believes her education is important. And, she believes she is capable of learning. She is planning a future and she sees a life beyond the present. I think that is very, very hopeful.


Second, online learning—whether it be a credit or non credit course, whether it be something that she is taking for pure interest, or whether it is part of a larger program of study—might give her some confidence. First year university is known for highlighting and exacerbating mental health challenges (impersonal lecture halls, big campuses, tutorials which expect even the most anxious student to participate, rigorous deadlines, competitive environments, varying degrees of isolation…., all this can be very difficult, more so for someone with anxiety) and I think it’s important to take advantage of the many routes to/through university. For some, the path might be straight to university. For others, it might mean first testing the waters at a junior college. For some, it might mean taking one course at a time versus a full course load. For others, it might mean building confidence in online classes.


Third, I think online learning might potentially offer success…which can build courage, confidence, and a sense that she can do this.  If online classes go well, perhaps other possibilities become clearer.  (As a very minor example, I have to do a lot of public speaking in my work. I once bombed a big talk, completely messed it up and, in my mind, completely embarrassed myself. I couldn’t speak to a larger group again until I started with smaller groups again and had positive experiences).


Fourth, some time with online classes might provide a bit more time for your daughter to work with her anxiety. Is it time to try another counsellor? Is group therapy a possibility? Are there opportunities to work with the right resource people at the university who work with students who have anxiety/require accommodations?


I also imagine that the past few months have taken a toll on your as well, and I hope that you find support and comfort on this site.

Please keep us posted.

Casual scribe

Re: Am I right or wrong?

Thank you SO much for taking the time to write that encouraging and helpful response! I appreciate it more than I can say. You've given me lots to think about, and you've given me hope. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was so close minded with the school situation and I just wanted her to be out of the house, fighting her demons no matter how hard. Sometimes I have a difficult time understanding her anxiety and how hard it must be for her, and why she can't just get up and go. Your message reminded me that I need to be much more patient and understanding, and to be happy that she hasn't given up on life completely. Thank you for your support!!!!