Week One: Can A Child With Anxiety Go To College Far, Far Away?

Today, all I can think of is Gabriela. I think of her, a freshman at the University of Dallas, walking across the college campus, the brick pavers under her flip flopped feet, the warmth of the Texas sun unable to penetrate her dark mood. Today is the first day of classes and it should be a good day but Gabriela suffers from anxiety. I knew that and yet I let her go to that far away school. I let her because it suits her. I let her because I thought she would feel at home there but now she calls me crying. She uses words like “hopeless” and “gloom” and I feel my own panic start to creep in. I am no psychologist. I don’t know if I should say, “suck it up,” or if I should tell her to come home.

When do you give up? Not the first day of course, but is there a time to call it quits? Is there a time to say that maybe anxiety can’t be ignored or worked through? There are pills but they make her feel bad, slow, detached. The idea of taking them makes her panic even more. I don’t pretend to understand and I am afraid to assume it’s nothing. I only offer words because words are what I know. I say, “strong” and “brave” and “positive” and I talk about prayer.

Gabriela knows prayer, like I know words. Prayer is what has brought her to this point. It is what sustained her through her boarding school years, through the many times when her soul was so heavy with fear that she could not even lift herself from her bed. She wonders now if God might be calling her to be a nun and I wonder if she is hiding under His promise of protection. She feels more comfortable in her church then she does in her room here at home. She has taken her faith way beyond my own and left me to stand behind and watch her as she walks away.

I was dreaming of that scene, the one where she walks away, but it was onto the college campus, laughing, surrounded by friends, flip flops slapping happily across those warm Texas pavers. It is only the first week of school. I have so much hope for her to adjust to her new surroundings, to find friends, to face the challenge of her classes with joy instead of fear. I have hope that she will have good days and call me with happy news. I look forward to a time when I hear her voice on the phone and in it there is no pain, only joy. I pray for that. Pray and talk her through it. It’s all I can do.