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Traveling And Mental/Behavioral Health: Navigating The Hard Times

February 18, 2017

There are often times when the amount of things that I want to do (or feel like I need to do) becomes so overwhelming that I can't do anything. The fact that I'm not doing anything makes me anxious and paralyzes me even further, making it even more impossible to do anything at all, which of course makes me more anxious, which in turn makes me more paralyzed, and on goes the cycle.

 

So now that I'm in Spain and I haven't left the apartment we've been renting all day and I'm supposed to be having this incredible adventure of a lifetime, how do I navigate making the most of a trip when I'm facing the very thing that I've feared more than anything: that I would finally buy the ticket, get on the plane, get to the place, and then trap myself to the point where I am not able to make the most of such an incredible opportunity?

 

What do I do?

 

I'm still figuring it out. Yesterday I spent all day in bed watching Netflix, as seems to be my go-to method of self-preservation. Today, I reminded myself that every day is an opportunity to try something different, and every day is an opportunity to start anew.** Even if I haven't been "living as fully" as I might have desired these past two weeks, there's no reason why today can't be the day I start.

 

The big trick is to not go into a self-criticizing tailspin, because as tempting as it is and as easy as it is to do so, that is one sure way to make sure that you wind up doing nothing but continuing to binge watch whatever new show Netflix suggests.

 

And so, today I just tried to focus on the fact that this is a new day. This is a new trip, and my depression and anxiety are a part of this journey. I reminded myself that I've known that all along, even though (thankfully) I can sometimes forget.

 

Today I decided to schedule some things - something I've known would be good for me but that thus far, I have been unable to get myself to do. I opened up my Google calendar and plotted out times so that I could actually be balancing out my work with my adventuring with my studying (I'll get into that at a later time). I also tried to share where I was at and talk through my freakout with my sweetheart. In addition to him being an incredible support, I've found that it's extremely important to keep open communication regarding where I'm at so that he can both know how to help support me, and so that he can plan accordingly to make sure that he is able to support himself and do the things he needs to be doing as well.

 

And then I decided to go buy a pair of pants, because that is how this all began. I have needed pants since I got here and have yet to purchase a pair. So I went out for a walk. Now here I am on the streets of Madrid near Plaza Jacinto Benavente about to enter a store. I've stopped in a couple of places. I've been bold and tried talking. I've set a time to get my hair cut - another thing I've been wanting to do for forever. I stopped into a postcard shop - and that's when the really good things happen, those are the moments I feel like I've been missing. I wound up talking to the person who worked at the shop, and when he found out I was American and that I was against Trump, he called the store owner, a man from Ventura, CA who told me to send him an email so he could connect me to the Democrats Abroad, because they were having a meeting the following day and also on Tuesday.

 

...

 

Fast forward a couple of hours. I have had a successful afternoon. I interviewed someone from a group who were on a hunger strike to protest domestic violence (check back later this week for the writeup, a part of our new series #FeministFridays); I finally found a pair of pants; I finally bought said pants after running to an ATM when I was told I needed identification to use a credit card; and I made it home in one piece. I opened the door, was greeted by my sweetheart and our puppy, aaaaaand immediately began to cry.

 

But Lauren - you might say - it was a good day! You got so much done! You did all the stuff you'd been wanting to do! Why are you crying?

 

I'm crying because depression and anxiety are exhausting. Even when I can get myself do the things, the depression and anxiety are still there. Plus, being around a ton of people in a busy, overstimulating shopping center definitely triggered my sensitivities and left me feeling hella fragile.

 

But crying is okay, as is being fragile. I haven't read Neil Gaiman, but I found this quote and I think it fits here, so I'll include it:

 

“It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls; while the beat of the wings of a butterfly in the right place, we are told, can create a hurricane across an ocean. Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.” (from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders)

 

Or, as my grandma says, "You have to have a spine of steel and a velvet glove."

 

And with that, I'll dry my eyes, stuff some tissues in my pocket, and keep putting one foot in front of another, remembering that each step is a new step and that each second is an opportunity to start something new.

 

 

 

 

**I know this idea is cheesy and cliché, but guess what? Today I found helpful, so I'm using it.

 

 

 

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