My environment is suffocating...

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2004
My environment is suffocating...
Sun, 03-21-2010 - 10:48pm

Hello everyone,

I am a 24 year old college student still living at home. I am working on my second degree and just paying off bills before I finally make it out on my own. I have one more year until I graduate.

A few factors of where I live actually made me have panic attacks last year. I live in a suburb outside of a major city. My school is in the major city and I have to commute from 40 mins to an hour depending on traffic to get to school. I've already been through two accidents while on the commute. I have been doing this commute for the past 5 years that I have been going to this school in the city.

Also, the suburb where I live I don't have any friends who I would hang out with here, they are all in the city. I feel very isolated and lonely most of the time when I'm at home so I try and stay out when I'm in the city during the week but when I finally get back home on the weekends to relax I feel stuck. The suburb where I live there is nothing really to do and I have always found it hard to connect with anyone here. I have been living here for 12 years and the friends I did have here already moved away and/or are going to college in other states. I travel a lot to visit but I can't do that all of the time of course.

I have been wanting to move ever since I started college but because of finances I can't. My parents are not planning on moving any time soon either. They also are very protective of me and like to act like I am still a young girl instead of a growing adult.

Last summer I went to a summer camp that was 11 hours away and I met some great people that again live far away from me. I am going to visit them this summer.

As I said I have had panic attacks because of the commute mostly that was sprung on by the accidents. I went to counseling for this and learned some great tools to overcome them. Though I feel much better I know that I would get rid of the residual anxiety that I have if I lived somewhere else. I feel suffocated here not only because of the fact I can't move somewhere to be on my own but also because of my parents. My mother would love to be my best friend but she doesn't accept the things that I do and would like to change me. These things do not harm me at all much more they make me feel more at ease and relaxed. The things I'm referring to are my spirituality because I am a pagan. She is a catholic and brought us up as such but I do not believe in the catholic belief at all. I have found a great community who accepts any spirituality but it is over an hour away. I feel as though all my friends who are accepting of me live miles and miles away from me. My ex-b/f who I still love lived a thousand miles away from me and we broke up b/c of this.

I know that I can't change the place where I am for the next year but I have been trying to find ways to make it more positive so that my anxiety will not rise again to cause me panic attacks. I feel as though I'm coming up empty on the positive side of things to find here and really would like some suggestions. Has anyone else been through something similar?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Mon, 03-22-2010 - 12:33am

Hi Hefinca85,

Being stuck in a place where there isn't much to do when one is wanting and needing to do things with friends is difficult. As you said, the ideal for you would be to move out, but financially you aren't ready to do so.

Would it be feasible for you to move near (or nearer) campus and co-share a house or an apartment with someone or a few people or is this also out of reach for now?

I can relate to the anxiety cause by the accident. I was in a few accidents years ago. I wasn't even driving (and I still don't drive), but it was difficult being in a car. For the first few weeks I would break into cold sweats and feel paralyzed. I am glad that therapy helped you. The residual anxiety will go away with time, though maybe right now you need to be more conscious about grounding yourself whenever you feel the anxiety rising. Please be prepared, though, to feel anxiety even when you aren't driving on the same roads where the accident happened. The anxiety doesn't only crop up on that same road, but sometimes also when conditions are more or less the same as when you had the accident.

Do you have any friends in the city that you can stay over at once a month to give yourself a break? This can be your week-end away from home, something that you do regularly. Week-ends away don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money, either as their are always free things to do. If you plan it carefully, you can pull it off.

My friend, your parents will be feeling protective of you until the day they die. What changes is that they will step back and let you fall and figure out how to get back up all on your own, because they know that you already know how to fall safely and how to get back up. I think that the more you take charge of yourself, the easier it will be for them to take that step back.

Mothers... Most mothers will nearly always find something to pick on, whatever age we are. Most also do this because they love us, and they want us to be our best (though in their version of best, which isn't necessarily ours). My mother only really accepted that I was an fully-fledged adult when I owned my own house. At that time, I was around 34. For someone who had had a hard time each time I moved out, this time it took her exactly 2 weeks before she turned one into an office. Our relationship has also been easier since I've put up boundaries, and my feeling more confident about who I am has made me nicer to my mother when she gets cranky because it doesn't affect me anymore or as much. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a "Do I really need to know this? Will it make you feel better for telling me?" when she wants to talk about third cousins 4 times removed or she wants to tell me about her soaps, but I do make sure that I am there when it is important for her to vent because she needs an outlet and a trusted person to talk to.

It's normal that your mother will be disappointed that you don't share her Catholic beliefs, but stay polite, be firm, and gradually start a conversation on spirituality, as well as on other other subjects. Have you asked her if she remembers what it was like for her when she was your age? What her dreams then were, what frustrations she was dealing with, and what her relationship with her own mother was like then? This might be a good step for both of you to discover how much you are alike, and yet how much you are different from each other at the same time.

Hey, have you visited Sisterhoney's board? She the host of the Pagan Paths board (she also posts here when she can).

Are there any volunteer opportunities in your area? You can volunteer for as little as a few hours each week, but during these hours you'll be meeting people who are at least as interested and/or passionate for the cause as you are. You'll be doing good and it'll distract you from feeling stuck for a few hours.

Have you tried Yoga?

Have you tried looking at your town from the eyes of a stranger? For the next few months, pretend that a friend of yours from abroad (me, for example) is coming to visit. Once a week, take me somewhere in your town, or tell me something about your town. Once a week. Sometimes we need to see it again from different eyes, because after a few years we tend to take things for granted. Write about it, take photos, interview people. Maybe you'll be surprised. A lot of people are less boring and conventional than we think they are.

I hope that you'll decide to stay. Maybe someone here will say something that will give you that "aha!" you are in search of :-)

Happy Monday,

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2004
Mon, 03-22-2010 - 10:11am

Unfortunately no I can't move out at all at the time being. I am paying for everything except for of course living expenses. Everything includes my car , cell, food, some student loans, etc. My parents are unable to help with this and I can't work anymore than I do now or I wouldn't have time for school. By the time I graduate I will be done paying for my car note and I will be 25 so my insurance will be lower allowing me to move out because I will have some money freed up and will be working a full time job with better pay.

I did think about staying a weekend a few times with someone. Both my brother and sister live in the city though they live with their significant others they often invite me over to stay because they both have guest bedrooms in their houses. Recently, which I think is another thing that has been getting to me, I have found out people who I thought were my friends are really not. One person in particular who I was friends with has turned out to be someone completely different and she was someone who I used to spend a lot of time with. Now I'm pretty much starting over friend wise because I had to let go of a few friends there. I ideally would like to just start over new somewhere else but of course I can't do that right now.

As for my mother yes I have tried to put it in that perspective for her but the difference between me and her is that she was fine being at home. She grew up in Colombia where things are more conservative in a sense so she lived at home until she got married to my father at 26. Her mother was her best friend and she was very devoted to her family. She did not feel the need for independence as I do and she is very traditional whereas I am clearly not. My mom and I are similar in personality and hobbies but not in beliefs or views.

And actually I have visited the Pagan Path board it's pretty interesting. Thanks for the suggestion! I am fortunate to have a few places to go in the city atleast to find people who have similar spiritual beliefs as I do. There is one place I visit often and they have gatherings and meetings that I attend when I can. One of my good friends introduced me to it.

As for volunteering I'm actually going to volunteer at a humane society in the city for a project that I'm doing for school. That will not be until the summer though.

Also yoga, I have taken classes for it and it is very relaxing. I have a DVD on yoga but I've actually never done it on my own yet.

I do like the idea of looking at my town through the eyes of a stranger. I remember when I brought my ex-b/f to see my town for the first time he thought it was weird and didn't see me living there at all. It is somewhat odd though just because it is very isolated in a way and the main form of transportation is golf cart. I remember when I first moved to the town I thought it was pretty and the golf carts looked fun but after a year it got boring. I missed and still miss my old town that was nearer to the city in a completely different state and my friends lived nearby. It was a very drastic change for us in a lot of ways. But I will try and see my town through a strangers eyes and maybe that will help me find some positive here.

Thank you for your response!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Mon, 03-22-2010 - 10:07pm

If you stay over at your brother or sister's every three weeks, that should be something that is feasible for everyone and you won't have to wait too long to have your week-end away from home, either.

It isn't unusual that parents are different from their children in many ways. My mother, whom I am close to and admire, is different from me. In certain ways, she's less conservative than I am. In other ways, she's more conservative. I think over the years she's become more politically conservative whereas I've stayed the same. She's practicing, I'm totally not. What we have learned is to start with safe subjects and similarities and go on from there. The rewards have been abundant. Not having our differences be a thorn in the relationship have made me a better and more grounded person. It doesn't mean that she won't pick on me, but I'll not shrug, vent to a couple of friends and wait till my feelings pass. I am sure that I annoy her, too.

Did you mother move to the US with her family when she was younger, did she move to go to school or did she make the move with your father? That's a pretty big move, which I know because I've done moves like that a few times in my life. The first time I was 12, we moved from North America to Asia. Apart from the huge feeling of loss, there was also the culture shock. It took me more than a year to not feel depressed, and it took me a very long time before I could work through the feeling that my life had been ruined by the move. Even when I made a move to another country as an adult, one that I was looking forward to, there was a period of adaptation and having to learn new things as well as every day practical things.

That's so very cool that the mode of transportation are golf carts! The air and noise pollution level there must be pretty low then. Is the town very much into green environmental policies? What was the thought behind adopting golf carts? In what way is your town isolated?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2004
Tue, 03-23-2010 - 12:24am

My parents grew up together in Bogota, Colombia. They were 8 and 10 when they met and my dad says that since then he knew she was going to be his wife though my mom of course took years of convincing because they didn't date until a year before they got married. My dad moved to New York when he was 19 to pursue a medical degree but instead started working with the airlines back when Eastern was still running. My dad continued speaking with my mom and then he went back to visit and they started dating. A year later they got married in Colombia. For paperwork reasons to be legal in the states my mom had to stay home for a year without my dad until she could come live in New York. She didn't take the move too well at first of course because her English was not that good and well it was just completely different. It took my mom a long time to feel at all comfortable with Americans not until a few years ago did she really open up and actually have American friendships and she's been living here now for 30 years.

In terms of my town, it was a planned community made by Delta pilots. I live outside of Atlanta just so you know the delta connection. This is the main reason my parents liked it because of the airliner. It's small population of around 30,000 or so. There's a lot of pines and there are two large man made lakes. It's quite pretty but there isn't much to do. Also because people have money here it's very lonely. Not many people outside everyone is inside. I go on walks sometimes and rarely see a soul except on golf cart and in an expensive car. I feel very out of place here for all of these reasons. Im not materialistic and I enjoy being outdoors and appafently thats odd to people here.

I'm going to try the tourist idea and see if I can get somewhere here!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Wed, 03-24-2010 - 4:22am

Your mother's story isn't an unusual one. Whilst hers is unique to her, I've seen variations of the same with men and women that I've met over the years I've been abroad or here. No matter what nationality they are, there are some people who will stick close to home, to people who are similar to them (same nationality, people who speak the same language or have a similar background and experience, etc) and then there are those who will reach out, make new friends from everywhere and integrate into the community. I've seen this in students, wives of graduate students, expats, immigrants and refugees.

And some people are homebodies. I love staying at home... and then I get bored - that's when I'll go out all the time until I get bored with that LOLOL!

On the flip side of this, has your mom taught you customs, told your stories and tales from Colombia? Are you fully bilingual?

Try the tourist idea or approach it as a journalist would. Long ago, I would go out for walks with a camera and take photos of things that I would see during my walks. Because I was on the look-out for subjects, I began to notice a lot things I'd seen without actually seeing because there were things I would pass by all the time.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2004
Wed, 03-24-2010 - 7:29pm

Yep we used to go to Colombia every summer and my Spanish is pretty good though not perfect because I don't practice it enough but I do understand everything.

And actually my first degree was journalism and the degree I'm working on now is photography because I want to work as a photojournalist. Kind of funny you bring that up like because that's exactly the perspective I was going to take at this! Thanks for your advice!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Fri, 03-26-2010 - 4:31am

Now how cool is that!

I've got friends who are photo-journalists, and a work partner-to-be is one, too, with his own photo agency and foundation where he and his partner teach photojournalism. I've also got a lot of friends who are journalists, too.

If one day you put up a blog about your town, I'd love to see it. You can email me through my profile if you should want to keep your anonymity and if you don't mind sharing with me.