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hittingthefan posted:
Okay, so I was supposed to go to college six hours away from home, and everything was all planned and I had a perfect setup over there. But the morning I was getting dropped off at the campus about an hour or so before check in time, I started having a little panic attack in the hotel room restroom, and I threw up and started crying. I didn't want my parents to drop me off, and I developed right then and there this fear of the anxiety i would come to feel once they dropped me off for the actual term. While they were holding me and telling me everything was going to be okay, I was having trouble controlling my breathing, crying really hard, and I was trying to keep myself from throwing up. Being out of control of my mind and body made this even worse, and it was terrifying. Eventually, I calmed down a little but I still felt like crying, and I was nauseus. My sister stayed with me throughout the check-in process of the orientation, up until we were lead to our temporary dorms. I was still controlling my breathing in a sneaky manner, but my throat was dry no matter how much water I drank, and I still felt like throwing up. Once our parents were allowed into the dorms they helped me make my bed and they were calming me down because the panicky feeling had started to set in again. Once they left I immediately called two of my best friends who were at the orientation as well. I went to their dorm room and hung out with them for an hour, where I still controlled my breathing and felt naseaus until we were separated by our majors. ALL DAY, like literally, the entire day I couldn't focus on the presentations. I would try to focus in on things to help get my head back, but I found it incredibly difficult. I wasn't hungry at all the entire day, I was fighting the urge to throw up on the people sitting next to me. I felt like going to one of the orientation leaders and telling them to get me help or something, it was really silly. When we got back to our dorms, my friends helped me move my things into their rooms because i told them how i was feeling. that night, my parents called and I kept crying into the phone and gagging and breathing unevenly (to clarify, the orientation started on a tuesday morning, and ended thursday afternoon), and even after their reassurance that they'd see me on thursday, I still felt the same. And to boot, I sleep with the tv on, because I like hearing people talk while falling asleep, and because of the light it gives off. my friends sleep with the lights off, and I was going to turn on the kitchen light and leave the door open a crack, because I already felt like a pansy for being the only one having anxiety that bad. I didn't sleep, and my parents called the following morning. I cried and wanted to throw up again, and I felt the same that day too(wednesday). I didn't feel different until later that night when we were going back to the rooms. I was in a great mood and playing around with my friends. I ate, we talked like we normally do, I was fine. But it was only because I knew it would be over and I'd be with my family the next day. I got everything finalized and when We got home, I ate a good meal, i slept amazingly, until the next morning when I woke up and realized I had to go back in two weeks. I was sick the way I was during orientation for a week and a half straight, until it started getting worse and it got really out of control, and I threw up at Target when my sister left for two seconds to look at shoes. I decided not to go, and I cancelled everything. That was about two days ago. and to boot I had this feeling something was going to happen to me over there, and I had this insane paranoia that I would be abducted at the shuttle stop one morning. I saw this special on E! that I blame for that. I do want to go to that school eventually, hopefully in the spring semester or next fall, but I want to be ready for all of this by then. I was to ease or fix it. Is this a real problem or just me?
Patricia Farrell, PhD responded:
It's not uncommon for students going away to college to have this kind of anxiety. I think the best thing for you to do, since you indicated that you may put off attending this school until next spring, that you now begin to work with a cognitive psychologist on this. Preparation is everything in just about everything we do in life and this can be seen, too, as preparation for school. It's just a good thing to do and you will begin to develop skills that will help you with this anxiety.

Regarding your need to have the light on, that's okay too. If you do have roommates, however, that can be a problem, as you already know. So during this period of time, you can begin to practice having the light off and no TV as you go to sleep.

It is an adjustment and there will be times you think you can't do it, but you can. Begin to work now and your work will all be to your benefit.
An_239841 responded:

I had similar occurrences of anxiety during some of my early college days. Orientation was more than a bit overwhelming during the summer; it seemed as if everyone was on the right track and knew where they were going and what they wanted to do. I promise you that is far from the truth even though it seems that way sometimes. You were not the only one with anxiety that bad, you just felt as if you were because you did not see evidence to the contrary; many others were feeling the same more than likely (really anxious/depressed).

Despite new college stressors, I did fine that first year in the dorms with my roomate from back home. Near the beginning of my 3rd semester (in a single dorm room) I had a lot of precipatory anxiety about starting college again. When I went to move in a few days before the start of classes and planned to stay, I had to go back home with my mom who helped me move in. I had the relief of being home that night, but just like you, knew the clock was ticking until I had to go back. I stayed in college that semester, very panicky and plenty of tears/fears, relishing the end of the week when I could return home (hating Sundays when I returned).

After a very tough semester of burying myself in studies to avoid the anxiety I transferred to a smaller college near home. The anxiety slowly subsided (stay in a situation long enough and it will) and I excelled in the rest of my undergrad career.

Finding activities and groups to belong to help in a lot of ways. It sounds like you have a great support network already (your family) add to that great support network at college; I guarantee you are not the only one struggling to adapt to the new environment.
klb1965 responded:
I had the same reaction you did. I went to orientation, felt a little apprehensive, started feeling anxious and had a full blown panic attack during one of the presentations. I was with my roommate and our mothers. I told my mother I was not going to stay and told her I wasn't ready for this. I returned to my home, enrolled in a college close to my home. I attended one full semester and withdrew half-way thru the second semester. I was a nervous wreck. I finally went to the doctor, was put on an antidepressant and started therapy with a psychologist. I suggest you see your family doctor and schedule an appt with a therapist. The therapy will help you immensely.
rfances responded:
I remember when I first started college, I felt a lot like you did. I went to school out of state where I didn't know a single person. The entire time I was moving in with my parents I felt sick to my stomach and wouldn't eat a thing. Thankfully my parents stayed the night and I was able to do my orientation and see them afterwards. I cried so hard when I had to say goodbye to them. For about a week I was not eating as much and could hardly keep it together when I spoke to them on the phone. I would walk to my classes thinking to myself, I should have done community college so I could stay at home a little longer. But as time went on and I was developing friendships, everything got better. You have to have faith in yourself, and know that the feeling of dread won't last forever. Things got better for me after I developed a routine. It isn't perfect though. Every year moving in was difficult for me, I always cried when they left, but I knew that I was going to be okay. I still get sad because there are times when I want to be home. For you, home is only 6 hours away and you are sure to get to visit every once in a while and for special holidays. For me, it's a 6 hour flight and a $600 plane ticket.
I think it would be good for you during this time at home to talk to someone about how to manage your anxiety. Also keep the communication open with your parents. Let them know how you are feeling so that they can be helpful for you as well.
Also remember that college students around the world are going through what you are going through. You are not the first one to be overwhelmed by it and you are most definitely not alone. In my fourth year at college I still get overwhelmed by these feelings, although definitely not like that very first week my freshman year. You'll be able to get through this if it is what you really are striving for. Know you'll have you ups and downs, your good days and bad days. Find things to keep you distracted when you are feeling overwhelmed. Going away for school has made me just that much stronger, and I am positive that it can do that for you too.
Good luck with school! Don't let anxiety rule your life. I have a feeling that you'll be able to overcome this!
smgraver replied to rfances's response:
Yes! My opinion exactly! I too chose a school far from home (a 3-hour plane ride if you get a direct flight, and those are hard to come by these days...); it's been a while since freshman year (I'm now a senior), but I do miss home occasionally, even now. I would have given those same suggestions, plus a few more things:
-extra emphasis on the connecting with others at school, not just at home-- the move to college is first and foremost an opportunity to transition toward living independently, and although support from home is always appreciated and encouraged, the ultimate goal is to develop some of your own self-reliant strategies (but do SOMETHING! Simply bottling up anxieties will just hurt later, and it will hurt a lot! I have gone through some tough times this way, so I know...)
-keep in touch with yourself, take some of that me-time you always wanted (just every now and then, and not if it interferes with other commitments); being away from home means you get a chance to really discover who you are without any extra family or social pressures.
-Find something you really enjoy, and stick with it! This could be a club, or activity, or organization, or whatever (just make sure it's safe and legal!); the idea here is providing a good consistent baseline, especially since this is also a time of many changes. I find participating in or listening to music (for example) provides that little emotional release point I sometimes need to get through a tough day, but often just taking a walk outside can help too. The key here, I guess, is not distraction, per se, but a safe outlet for those difficult times-- anything from volunteering at the local animal shelter, to joining a sports team (check out the list of intramural sports- ultimate frisbee is usually popular, and, with maybe a few exceptions, pretty much just kids having fun...)
--Do visit home sometimes (e.g. longer breaks, holidays), your family (plus dog, cat, or other pet(s)) probably misses you too, but don't feel like you must go every weekend-- explore your options: sometimes a quiet weekend on campus can be nice, or maybe a friend lives closer and you can stay with them, or even (and I have heard of people doing this, though I haven't done it myself yet) you can get a group of friends together and all go on a road trip over spring break!
- Since I am so far from home, one (or both) of my parents occasionally comes to visit me! There's a couple of reasonably-priced hotels not far away, so they stay there, and we can explore the area out here-- sometimes there's a nice concert, or museum exhibit, or other activity we can do together (my mom even rented bikes once!).
--Think of the distance as an opportunity to get to know a different area, take advantage of the new set of options given to you!

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