In 2006, I was 19 years old and life was difficult. The year began with the loss of my grandfather, one of many breakups with my future husband (should have seen the signs), and I was basically failing out of college. Food was the one thing I could control during this time in my life, and I didn’t even realize that it started to control me. The depression was so dark and heavy in those days, suicidal thoughts came frequently and by spring I had attempted to take my life. Everything as I knew it, at that young and fragile age was falling apart. I had alienated myself from my friends, my church, and my family. But I was getting by. Until one day it all caught up to me. I hadn’t slept in nearly week surviving off coffee and alcohol and nothing else.Standing in a train station on the platform edge when all of sudden it felt like my world was literally imploding on me. Shaking, crying, trying to so hard to breathe I didn’t understand what was happening. Panic Attack. The first of many.
Waking up every day, and barely being able to function, it was not the life I wanted to live.
And that’s when my mother said the words that possibly saved my life.
” Quit your job, and go meet your sister in Italy.”
How could I go halfway across the world? This trip wasn’t meant to include me, how can I impose? I’ve never been outside of the US.. how can I go where they don’t even speak English? How am I supposed to get on that plane…by myself?
So many questions, but before I could argue the tickets were booked and I was packing my luggage.
And somewhere in a beach side town in Sicily, I began to breathe again.
To feel alive.
For 14 days I took in the sun and the ocean waves.
I allowed myself to eat the good food and not feel guilty.
I wore bathing suits, and shorts and i left my self harm scars uncovered.
I did not judge myself, and I didn’t even notice if any one was judging me.
14 days of no panic attacks.
14 days of not staying in a dark room under the covers.
14 days of really living.
And I made the choice to try as hard as I could to love the life I have been given.
I do not travel to get away from life. I travel because it energizes me and fuels me to be able to live the life I want to live. Self care is so important especially within the helping professions. Travel is my self care.
I travel to immerse myself in the music that gives me chills and goosebumps and resounds with something so deep inside. I travel to waters of the oceans, rivers and lakes and find peace and serenity. I travel to places that remind me of the innocence of my youth, before mental illness was ever a factor. I travel to meet new people and welcome them into my tribe. I travel to remind myself of how much beauty and goodness is left in this world.
From continent to continent.
sea to shining sea,
there is one thing that never changes.
the scenery is different, the languages vastly different from my own..
but my heart always feels at home.
No matter where my feet land, I always feet like I have been there before.
and when I leave I leave a piece of my heart there.
But I return with a new understanding and appreciation of myself.
and that is the most beautiful thing.