How I overcame my separation anxiety

Dana Ruby, Editor-in-Chief

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Growing up, I had severe separation anxiety. Whenever I was away from home, I felt this inexplicable panic, almost unable to breathe because I was so anxious about spending the night away from home. In fact, I struggled so much with staying away from my family and my house that it wasn’t until I was in seventh grade when I could spend a night at a friend’s house without any problems. After that, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I could spend a week away from home.

So, how did I end up here? You wouldn’t think that someone with severe separation anxiety could successfully move from Colorado to New York for college. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but during the time between junior year and the end of senior year of high school, something inexplicably changed. I was able to spend extended time away from home without getting overwhelmingly anxious, and I took that as a sign that I could “rip off the Band-Aid” so to speak and go to a school far away from home. I knew that if I went to a college right by my house, I would never grow; I would just go home as much as possible and not have a good college experience. So, I decided to take the plunge in March of 2015 when I committed to Iona.

I remember the weekend of move-in day my freshman year and how nervous I felt. However, I took a strange comfort in the fact that I was just as nervous as anyone else would be at the beginning of their college experience, even if they didn’t have separation anxiety. Because I felt that way, I knew I had made the right decision.

Since freshman year, I have grown in so many ways, particularly in my ability to be comfortable living so far away from my family. During my freshman year especially, I would struggle saying goodbye to my family when I went home or when they came to visit. As a senior, I still am sad to say goodbye to my family–after all, they’re pretty fun to be around–but I now do it with a strength that my past self would not recognize. Moving almost 2,000 miles away from everything you know isn’t the right decision for everyone, but I can say with confidence that it was for me.

Not many people at Iona actually know that I struggled with severe separation anxiety before I  began college. Why would they? I’m the confident girl who moved across the country for school while a lot of my college friends didn’t want to go to school more than an hour drive away from home. However, the fact that no one would peg me as someone who struggled with separation anxiety just proves how far I have come.

Of course, I struggle with missing my family and home like everyone else–the perks of being in New York don’t take away the sting of how many birthdays and other important family events I’ve missed back home. That said, the positives outweigh the negatives: I have been able to experience a culture and landscape that is so different from where I grew up, fall in love with a completely different area of the country and meet lifelong friends that I can’t imagine living without.

My previous struggle with separation anxiety becomes even more surprising when one considers the fact that I’ve decided to stay in New York after graduation. I’m living in Manhattan with a close friend from Iona that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t dorm here, and I am working in the city as well. The fact that I am the one person out of my siblings to relocate and live—as an independent adult—across the country is something that my family and I are still a little shocked by.

While I am not sure if I will continue to stay in New York after the next year or so, the fact that I am living here at all after graduation definitely shows that I am no longer that 10-year-old girl who couldn’t spend a night away from home.