College Kids, Anxiety And What Can Happen

I’ve been asking for the past semester’s grades from my kid who left University and came home to the local community college in January.  He has anxiety and is on Lexapro.  He has some depression as well after the divorce.  Frankly, he’s been a shell of the vivacious kid who always asked, “Why Mommy?” to everything.

I thought that in his moving back home to commute to the local college that he could have the comforts of home while I watched him.  There have been suicides in my family tree (none close to me), but I am always worried about that even though he’s not shown signs of it.  However,  you never know and I can’t have that on my watch.  So I’m watchful.  I’ll admit, I’m annoying and a nag at times.

He didn’t like his classes, nor the community college.  He’s really bright so he thought the teachers, the classes and the work were beneath him.  I kept telling him that if it’s so easy, he could get A’s and move on to another college in the fall.  At least that was my trajectory.  Instead, he lost momentum.  I nagged him to go to class and to do his homework.  He asked me to stop nagging him and assured me that he would do it.  So I stopped pushing since I wanted him to have the freedom to choose to do his work and he kept saying that he wanted to be responsible.  He told me that he was responsible and to stop treating him like a kid.  So I did.  Instead, he chose not to do it.

Sometimes he was too sick to his stomach to go to class.  He had anxiety and it manifested in nausea.  He would look at me with those sad eyes pleading to let him stay home.  Sometimes I did.  Sometimes I didn’t.  Now I wonder if during those times that he was supposed to go to class, did he?  Or did he just leave in his car and go somewhere until class was supposedly over.  I may never know.

What I do know for a fact is that he didn’t pass any of the classes he took.  Not one.  All F’s.  For a kid who never got an F before, he’s devastated.  As am I.  And I want to ask him how he’s surprised when he knew what was expected in each class and how much work he did.  The problem is that he’s very smart and never had to study before so that wasn’t the issue – the issue were the papers that he couldn’t be bothered to turn in or to do and the classes that he missed because attendance counted.  He wasn’t motivated and he chose not to do it.  Whether it was the anxiety or the depression or just plain laziness or stubbornness, the fact remains that he failed all the classes.  And I am having a hard time with it.

I’m trying not to lose my cool or have a meltdown.  I want to scream though and I want to ask him WHY???  incessantly as he did to me when he was younger.  When I did ask WHY? he shook his head and mumbled I don’t know.  Then he just hugged me.  And what else is a Mom who’s riddled with guilt to do except to hug him back.  Because we all make mistakes.

But that’s no excuse.  I was raised by strict parents who demanded A’s and would have lost their minds had anything lower arrived on a report card.  I remember the first C I received and how all hell broke loose for weeks afterwards so I tried never to do that again.  Part of me wants to let out my inner parental voice that sounds just like my own parents and berate the kid for failing.  Make him feel so bad that he does better.  But he’s not wired that way and I hated it when it happened to me.  It had the opposite effect on me than what my parents intended.  It made me shut down and feel belligerent although I still got good grades because I didn’t want to be hit again.  And I have never hit my kids because I hated when it happened to me.

He sees a therapist weekly and I’ve already informed the therapist of the recent events.  He’s a good guy so I’m sure he’ll be in touch sooner rather than later.  Thanks for reading and letting me vent here.  My ex doesn’t co-parent nor keep in touch with the kids so I’m on my own.  I’m embarrassed that my kid failed.  I’m sad about it.  I’m madder than hell about it.  I feel guilty that I had no idea that he was failing because he wouldn’t let me see the grades and colleges don’t allow you to see the grades without the kid’s permission.  What the hell is that?  I mean, guess who’s footing the bill?  ME!  And maybe, just maybe we could have gotten him some help instead of me realizing all too late that I just threw my money out the window.

I know, I know.  There’s always a bright side to learn from your mistakes.  But damn, I’m sobbing here.  I’m tired.  Overworked, upset, feeling guilty, wanting to lash out because of the situation we are in because his dad left us and all the messy bunch of emotions associated with it.  I feel like I failed the kid too.  I wasn’t on top of the situation enough.  I didn’t monitor him.  I wasn’t a good single parent.  I can’t take away the anxiety and depression that came after the divorce so I’m guilty of everything.  I could go on and on berating myself.  But that won’t help in the long run.

I told him that we need to find something that works for him because obviously, this situation didn’t.  I don’t know what the answer is but we will find it together.  I told him that he’s not alone.  And he’s not.  Obviously a cry for more help?  Help was here and help will stay.  I just don’t know what the next step is except to make another appointment with the therapist.  And I will.  Tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

If you have experienced anything similar, please don’t hesitate to comment.  But if you want to beat me up for being a bad parent etc., please keep it to yourself.  I can do that quite well on my own.  I don’t need to feel worse in that area.  Thanks.

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37 Responses to College Kids, Anxiety And What Can Happen

  1. Sam D.C.C. says:

    All the monitoring in the world wouldn’t have changed his need to go through the process of this part of his life in his way. Kids will test their *own* boundaries at times to see what they are capable of. This is not coming from a parent, it’s coming from a grown man who successfully mucked his way into several degrees after once skipping college classes during the day to write in his car for nearly a year. I was excused from the school on an academic release and being young and stupid (and embarrassed) I even tried to hide *that* from my parents. Point being this story hit close to my heart and I feel for these kids trying to find their way. Nowadays, I can also feel the parents pain, too. My mother could not in any way have been more supportive of me and like you struggled to know how much was too much or too little without pushing me away or making my problems worse. It doesn’t help, but some of this he will have to experience privately in a sense as he works through. I have always struggled with anxiety and, in my case, introversion, and other challenges that made my early college years an actual living breathing nightmare. My mom continued to support me and “see” my struggles and never highlighted my failures even though im sure she put that burden on herself as well. You are doing all the right things for him to hold him up until he sees the direction he’s willing and emotionally and physically able to commit to. Those choices will have to be his. That’s not a tough love BS preach. I don’t believe in that. That’s just a fact of becoming a young man who is learning to self regulate his actions versus consequences. Which is a skill he will need for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. TJ Fox says:

    You are not a bad parent. You have not failed. Sadly, your kid is now officially an adult and you are not responsible for his choices. Yes, you can absolutely be there and can encourage and support all that he will allow, but that is all you can do. You cannot do more than your kid will allow. The rest is on them. Trust me when I say I KNOW how hard that is, but you will kill yourself trying to do it all when that isn’t your weight to carry.

    As far as the cost for college goes, maybe consider the route of having your son take out loans to pay for any future classes, letting him know you will help him pay those loans back after the grades come in and only if they grades are passing (I wouldn’t suggest setting the stipulation they be A’s or B’s, just passing). This is something Hubby and I had long discussions about when OC was still here and how we planned on handling things, but he left and this plan never got implemented. The goal was to attempt to force some sense of personal responsibility on him with him being the only one that suffered the consequences of his actions. I honestly don’t think it would have mattered for him, but that is the narcissist part, so I don’t think that is the same for you.

    It is incredibly difficult to parent an older child when they are struggling. All you can do is be there when they need you. Give encouragement when they want and are willing to accept it. Beyond that, it is mostly out of your hands because your child will do only what they are willing to do. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      TJ thank you. I know you understand and I appreciate your support and sharing of OC’. I like your ideas and hope to implement them if he does want to return to college. For now, I think he is going to get a full-time job and see how that goes.
      It is hard to parent an older child – it’s easier and yet harder in ways that I never imagined. I have had to adjust my thinking as he is an adult and can go to college or not. His choice. But I have told him that as a full-time worker, then he is required to pay a portion of his expenses considering child support will end if he doesn’t go back to school.
      What irks me is that he’s got a partially paid college education now from his parents, but if he doesn’t continue, then he will have nothing. Why do they have to learn the hard way? Or is it I who is learning the hard way that you can’t choose for your adult children? Guess it’s both of us for whom the lesson is designed. I just want my son and me to not be at odds and to join together to help him be successful and happy however that develops. Hugs to you and thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • TJ Fox says:

        One of the absolute hardest things as a parent is letting go of our own expectations of what our children’s lives should be. That sounds like we expect too much, but that isn’t what I mean. We sort of form these… not exactly expectations, but just the way we imagine life will be for them. Grow up, graduate from HS, go to college, get a job to support themselves, fill in whatever idea you may have had when you envisioned your child growing up. Sometimes these are things that we feel are common or just the way things are done, but… sometimes those things do not and will not fit our kids.

        OC especially forced me to completely reexamine every single thing that I’d thought just was. It is one of the things that forced me to look at life from a much simpler perspective. Are my kids safe? Are they healthy? Are they happy? Are they not being a jerk (though I’m not so nice in my head on the term)? If I can answer yes to those on the most basic level, then I really need to let go of the rest of it because it is their life to live. No, the answer to those questions aren’t always simple and we may not like how they get to those places, but it isn’t for us to like.

        It is hard. The older they get, the harder it seems sometimes. The things that would make me happy are not the same things that my kids would find satisfaction in. Sometimes we can find some overlap, but we are all very different people. Ultimately, I want my kids to have all of those 4 essential things in their life. If they are getting those and aren’t impacting others negatively in the process, then I have to do my best to support them in what gets them there even if I’m not a fan of the path.

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      • janieleeds says:

        That’s exactly what I meant…I am having to readjust my expectations and not force what I think is best for him, but without allowing him to be an unproductive couch potato. It’s a delicate balance for sure and one lesson that I am learning quickly through the blog post that I’m so grateful I wrote since people like you have been so helpful. Sharing experiences helps me to not feel so alone and to be the observer and not the single mom who’s dealing with the situation. I had to get out of my own way and yet be true to me and to him. With every comment, I feel like I’m expanding my thinking, incorporating what feels right.
        Thank you – I have only ever wanted them to be happy, healthy, loving and positive people in the world because somehow I’ve found positivity breeds successful people. I’ve got to go back to simple…you are so right. Thanks TJ! xo

        Liked by 1 person

      • TJ Fox says:

        It is so hard letting to of those expectations, especially when they feel like no brainer kinds of things. For me with OC it was simply passing classes to graduate HS. I never thought that would be an expectation I would have to let go of, but it was. I just kept thinking over and over again, “How are you going to survive? How are you going to feed yourself or pay rent if you can’t even get a job?” My expectations of feeding yourself and paying rent and holding a job being the no brainer aspects of life. OC has managed to prove to me that he is quite capable of doing none of those things and still survive. Sadly, that is exactly what he wants. That is the life he wants to live. I hate it, but it isn’t my life. This also means that he isn’t part of our lives (because of so much more I’m not getting into here, but this is part of it), but again… that is what he wants. It is the life he wants. I can’t understand how that makes him happy, but it does.

        You are not at that point and I truly, deeply hope that you never have to get there. This is just the basis I have for why I’m so adamant about expectations. Being forced to look at all of those has allowed me to be less reactive and judgemental in the things my kids choose. I’m also a lot less hurt when they choose something that is different from what I had expected or hoped for. I have tried so much harder to talk to them about their own dreams and goals and expectations and have worked really hard to support and encourage those.

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      • janieleeds says:

        I am so sorry for all you went through with OC and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been/must still be for that is my fear as well. I have tried my best to role model, to encourage and to nag (yes, I do sometimes), but I never tried really letting go. Your words changed my thinking with expectations. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Less reactive and judgmental is my goal. I appreciate your sharing your experiences with me for they’ve been valuable to me in so many ways. I hope you have a great day…

        Liked by 1 person

      • TJ Fox says:

        One of the things that sort of kick started that thinking was one of the school counselors told us to let him fail, quietly, instead of constantly pushing and nagging to not to fail. That learning that on his own would help him. In his case, it didn’t, but I know that is really how I learn most of my lessons (the hard way), so it does work for some people.

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      • janieleeds says:

        That’s what his therapist just recently said to me. So that’s my plan as well. I wanted my kids to not have to learn the hard way, but we all learn as we are supposed to I guess. Thanks TJ.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The V Pub says:

    I felt the same way when I was in school. I felt contempt for the classes and the teachers. Reflecting upon it now, I realized that the courses that I had selected really didn’t interest me. They were my best guess on what I would need later on. I should’ve selected a school and courses that held my interests and it would’ve been a better experience. Just be there for him, he’ll come around.

    Like

    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks Rob. I think that’s part of his problem too – the course selection/college choice. I am there for him. Thanks for sharing your story here with me. It gives me hope. I’m sorry you went through that too.

      Like

  4. Letitgocoach says:

    One of the hardest parts of being a parent is to watch them figure it out on their own. We give them wings that only get strong with each use. My daughter is 19, chose to go to community college and manages her anxiety/depression.

    Every assignment she completes and receives a grade. Always being an A student, it hurt her feelings a bit getting a B, but now she is happy with that because college courses are tough! If you consistently receive low grades the teacher will talk with you, so his grades shouldn’t have been shocking.

    It sounds like to me you are too involved. There comes a time when we stand back and let them know we will always be their Mother, but we stop the mothering. Mothering can be smothering and they need room to make mistakes, learn and grow on their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      Thank you for writing me. I have stepped back from mothering and smothering but I am always here for him with loving support.
      Thanks for sharing your daughter’s story and I am sure you are proud of her! I agree that his grades shouldn’t have been shocking to him. I have contacted his therapist and we will work together with this new information. I have let my kid know that he’s given himself challenges now that I can’t fix. Only he can. He was always the only person who could.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I disagree (respectfully) that you are too involved. It’s what you do. It’s what I would do and still do, even though mine is 38. You are a mom like me. I know you feel his pain and wish there was something to do to take it all away, but he’s having a hard time navigating how his family was destroyed from within. So within, so without. I don’t have any answers other than love. Love for you, and your love for him. Your love is all he can count on right now, the poor angel. Maybe his therapist can come up with a plan? Even a baby step is movement.

    Like

    • janieleeds says:

      Thanks Princess Rosebud for being kind and understanding. It’s all about love and support. I agree. The therapist will be in touch because I know he’s a good guy and wants to help him and my kid wants help which is good. ♥

      Like

  6. Elaine says:

    I feel your pain Janie ❤️ you are still carrying so much displaced guilt from your ex. I know how that feels first hand and counselling helped me at the time.

    Your son bless him is going through a very difficult time, again that is NOT your fault and you can’t carry the guilt of this too. You are a beautiful strong kind, caring, loving mother who has lived through a lot of inner turmoil over many years. Your still healing yourself.

    Going back to your son he is without doubt going through a difficult time and learning lessons, this is his path at this moment in time, it won’t always be like this, this is just a section of his life and you will both look back on this time in the future.

    All you can do is just what your doing, supporting him, loving and not punishing him, encouraging him and being the excellent mother you have always been xxx

    Like

  7. LA says:

    Sending you love.

    Like

  8. stormieday says:

    I’ve been sitting here staring at my screen trying to decide how I would handle the situation if it was my child. I get wanting them to success. I push my child, and she fights me along the way – but she is 13. Sadly, once she is an adult it is her choice, her life. As much I will want to help her and push her, she will have to want it for herself.

    He is an adult. He made the choice not to attend class. Maybe he needs to take a year off and work. Maybe he can help pay back the money for college to see choices are not free. Maybe college isn’t “right” for him? Maybe a tech school?

    When I went to college, I could not wait! I had anxiety and depression, but I knew I wanted to get out of my hometown and college was my escape. My brother is a different story. He hated school. He tried college multiple times. He dropped out/failed out/and got kicked out each time. He lied that he was attending classes. He refused to do the work. Even to this day, he never finished college. He is unemployed. BUT the difference is he has always had someone there to help him out. I did not have that support. Even now, people give him money, food, and rides all of the time.

    So, I’m still trying to decide what I would do if it was my child. I mean, if I let her decide and risk her falling on her face then will she have the strength and motivation to pick herself up and keep going? Would she hate me for not helping her? Would she respect my choice of letting her choose? But, what if I am there to catch her? Would she always expect me to bail her out of her poor choices?

    Ugh, I don’t know. I wish I could be more help! Sending lots of support to you in this difficult time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I understood all that you were saying as I have been similarly going back and forth with how I wish to proceed. It’s all part of parenting I guess but it’s a hard road. I am proud of you for doing it and I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I wish no disrespect to him, but my hope is that my kid doesn’t follow that path. I’d want him to choose to follow yours.
      I appreciate your support. Truly. And I thank you for being so kind. I hope you’re doing ok. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Create Space says:

    Janie you’ve received some amazing comments which I hope will be very supportive and encouraging. Try to be kind to yourself. If parenting is tough, lone parenting must be super tough! You are doing your best. When do you get to step outside the situation?
    What have you done for yourself in the last month? Practice self-care, try to accept the situation as outside your control and just love your son, not his behaviour. My post Acceptance, love & time, might let you know you are not alone. Marie Xx

    Like

  10. mahimajalan says:

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