I’m filled with mixed emotions. Excited, anxious, and a little sad. But most of all, I’m proud.
Talee (going into her third year of college), left this morning to study abroad for six weeks. She’s with three of her closest friends. The trip of their lifetimes is waiting for them 6,000 miles away.
Years ago, I’d never think this could be possible. My little Talee. My painfully shy, anxious girl, with panic attacks that ruined a part of her childhood.
Talee is what I call a “home girl.” She’s always wanted to be close to home. I first noticed this part of her personality when she was a baby. She wanted to be with me — just me. She’d scream and cry when grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes even my husband, tried to hold her. But I cherished that time and figured it was fine. She’s just a baby.
When Talee was a toddler, she’d tightly wrap her arms around my legs and say, “Mommy, I’m scared.” I’d ask her what she was afraid of, and she never knew. She needed me close by every waking moment.
Talee was three years old when I signed her up for a “Teacher and Child” class at a local park. It was for an hour once a week. All the kids had so much fun. Well, all except Talee. She cried the entire time, and wanted nothing to do with that class.
Her separation anxiety continued when it was time for preschool. Talee cried every day for the first couple of weeks. She slowly adjusted, but I knew it wasn’t easy for her.
Mackenzie (a couple of years older than Talee), was the complete opposite. She was independent from a very young age, and didn’t want or need me around nearly as much. One summer, Mackenzie went away to Girl Scout Camp. Talee had zero interest to follow in her sister’s footsteps. I asked her if she’d like to go to camp one day, and she replied, “Mom, you know I’m NOT a sleep-away girl!”
When Talee was ten years old, she experienced much more than separation anxiety. She started to have panic attacks. The symptoms frightened her so much, she was afraid to go to school. She saw a child psychiatrist and took medication. Thankfully, she had fewer panic attacks and was able to be a normal fourth grader.
Anxiety doesn’t just disappear forever. Talee has had setbacks. But the good thing is panic attacks are treatable. Talee is able to control her panic and live a normal, productive life.
I’m thrilled that she’s able to travel — something I never could’ve done at her age. There’s no way I could’ve flown out of the country when I was in my early 20s. My anxiety and panic attacks were uncontrollable, as I hadn’t yet reached out for medical help.
I got the goosebumps this morning at the airport, as I watched Talee walk toward the boarding gate. She held her passport in one hand, while rolling her carry on luggage with the other. She turned around, waved, and flashed a huge smile.
The best part was, I’m sure she wasn’t even thinking about her anxiety or panic attacks. She’s confident and happy. And close to panic-free. I couldn’t have dreamed of this moment ten years ago.
There is hope.
Image courtesy of group5avm104.blogspot.com