When the Anxiety Monster reared his ugly head one morning at college, a student called his mom. In this essay from the CATCH series, In Real Life, she shares their conversation and the one important question she asked to support him in that moment.
You can read this In Real Life Journal post here.
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CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health, is a 501(c)3 that provides support and education for families around mental health topics. Original content and materials from CATCH and its collaborators are for informational purposes only. They are provided as a general resource and are not specific to any person or circumstance.
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My college son called this morning with his anxiety soaring. He wasn’t sure he could get to his class.
It would be the first class he’d miss so far this school year.
And, for a kid who spent most of his middle school and high school years struggling to get into school every single day, and experiencing some challenges last year in college attending class, missing a class carries a big burden and PTSD story for both him and me.
I knew in that moment, he wasn’t calling “Mom.” He was calling his wise mind. And so, I asked, “What can you do right now?”
His response, “I can’t go and sit and listen to this professor talk for two hours. It will make my anxiety worse.”
I asked again, “What can you do right now?”
His response, “I will not go back to bed.”
He was very focused on what he was not going to do.
What I asked next turned into the key question, “What can you do to decrease your anxiety, because it sounds like going to class would increase your anxiety?”
His response, “I can go walk on the treadmill. I can pay my credit card bill. I can reply to my advisor’s email, and I can email my professor about the class work.”
My response, “Those sounds like very healthy ways to decrease your anxiety.”
Tears filled my eyes.
Twelve months ago, (literally!) the Anxiety Monster would have been in charge, and my son would have been chained to his bed.
Today, although that same damn Anxiety Monster was jumping up and down demanding attention, his Super Hero Wise Mind was standing up with his chest expanded, hands on his hips saying, I see you and I’ll take care of you, Anxiety Monster. But you will not control me.
I celebrated this moment with my son. I told him that he’s an adult and that he will have these moments at school, with a job, in a relationship and that he’s going to have make decisions to take care of his mental health over a school, work or personal commitment. And, that is OKAY.
I am so proud of him. And, I’m proud of myself for being the mom he needed in that moment.
This journey has been (and is) so hard, and I am grateful that I am on it because of what I’ve learned in the dark and the light moments.