Morning, Ladies. As usual, your responses to our post have been real and helpful to each other. ALISHA, thanks for being open with us about how tough it is adjusting to college, and KATY and MELODY, your honesty and support were right on. I'd like to take this whole issue of making major adjustments and run with it, because even if you're not away at school, something in your life is probably changing in a huge way. What are your twenties about if not shifting and transforming? You can stay home and do university courses on line just like you did home schooling in high school, keep the same friends, go to the same church -- and still something inside you will start to morph. If it doesn't, are you really growing at all?
Change is anxiety-producing. Girls who are two weeks from their weddings can have panic attacks, even sure as they are that this is Right Guy. Get your own apartment with close friends -- something you've co-dreamed since middle school -- and whammo, you're lying awake at night wondering what the Sam Hill happened to your childhood. Buy your first car -- who doesn't want that kind of freedom -- and the first time you drive it alone you're overcome with loneliness for your siblings in the mini-van.
Change is harder for some people than others, but I think everyone, if she's honest with herself, struggles at some point with the major shift from that teen still dependent on her parents (at the same time she's chomping at the bit to away from said 'rents) to the new woman taking responsibility for her own life. For every three teaspoons of excitement there's at least one of straight-up fear.
One of the things that can make that change-panic bearable is that it's normal. We live in a society that wants to medicate every twinge of anxiety, wants to make you feel better because feeling bad ... well, we just can't have that. I have a story from my own experience that speaks to that.
When I was in my 40's, I left a teaching career to write full time, my lifelong dream. At the same time, my husband got a job here in Nashville (we were living in Reno at the time) and he came out here to set things up for us while I stayed behind to see Marijean through high school so she didn't have to move in the middle of it. So here's the scene: big career change, away from the kids I'd been with for four years, husband not there, raising teenage daughter virtually alone. I took a serious nosedive into depression. I'd struggled with episodes for several years in my past but it had been 12 years since it had hit me so I was completely thrown. I thought I'd tough my way through it like I always had in the past, but it wasn't working this time. It got ugly.
Couldn't sit still for more than five minutes at a time.
Could only think about the fact that I was surely losing my mind, yet I pretended I was fine with everybody else.
Finally a great friend said I had to see a doctor, and that wonderful doc introduced me to the medication that has surely saved my sanity. But he also insisted that I go into therapy.
I was resistant, but God blessed me with an amazingly gifted woman named Glenda who saved my life. However, things started off a little funky. In order to get insurance to pay for my treatment, she had to make an official diagnosis. On the form she checked off, "adjustment disorder."
I had a "disorder"? I didn't "adjust" the way "normal" people did? Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!
That led to more inner torment about how I just needed to get my act together. That this combination of events in my life shouldn't be throwing me this way. If I couldn't handle this on my own, then I had to admit to being ... gasp ... mentally ill.
As Glenda and I worked together, of course, she assured me that, while I was clearly clinically depressed and that wasn't the reaction everybody has to change and loss, I wasn't, well, nuts. Yeah, it was harder for me adjust to major change than many people, but some kind of reaction to the life shifts I was facing was perfectly normal. That was huge in my healing because I could accept that what I was going through was okay. I wasn't a complete weinie. And if I was, so be it!
All that to say -- we tend to pathologize so many things in our culture. We see grief as a sickness. You're sad? Then you must be depressed (which are two entirely differnt things) You're uneasy in a crowd where you know no one? Let's label that social anxiety and get you some meds.
I am NOT saying that medication isn't appropriate in many situations. I've been taking it for nearly twenty years and always will. It saves so many people's lives and improves the quality of life in countless others. Sometimes people absolutely need therapeutic help to get through tough times or deal with ongoing issues like anxiety, panic attacks, a tendency toward depression, rage, social fears.
I AM saying that whatever your reaction to the big changes of your late teens and your twenties, the fact that you're HAVING a reaction is normal. Rather than beating yourself up, you should reach out like ALISHA has and discover you're not alone, you're not immature and unready for life, you're going to make it.
So keep sharing your "adjustment disorders" here on Cafe Nudge. What is the biggest change you're going through right now? How are you reacting to it? Can you help each other? How is your faith helping -- or not?
It is a good thing to learn how to navigate through change now because the various transmutations your life will go through are never ending. Right now, in my sixties, I'm trying to work my way through the diagnosis that my sister has dementia. Never expected that. But I rely on all I've learned -- from Glenda, from so many friends, from God -- and from you, my young women friends. Much from you.