To be authentically you, I have realised that it means coming to terms and being content with the good parts and the bad parts of yourself. We often are kindly in tune with the good parts of who we are, and do not like to pay much acknowledgement to the bad. For me, the parts that I do not like to tune myself into are my struggles with anxiety and depression. Talking and writing about depression and anxiety is not easy; it’s a topic that can be uncomfortable for both the reader and the writer. Too often we associate negative connotations towards these topics of conversation, and thusly the dialog is not overtly open. However, it is a reality that plagues more of us than that want to admit. It is a burden that I have bared since the age of 12 or 13, and when the lows come they never hit any easier than the time before.
It is not an easy feat to overcome when you are in a familiar place, a comfortable place. So, dealing with anxiety abroad is an entirely new feat, in its own, for me; it is unchartered waters. It is a feeling that comes on quite quickly and unexpectedly- it is a dark and uncomfortable place. Though, all too familiar. It is a place that can pull me under with crushing waves, and consequentially I tend to take into myself and cut off the rest of the immediate world. I think, like most people, I don’t want to talk about it. I do not want to be in the presence of another human being, or to get out of my bed. However, when I was living at home, I always knew that if I did need somebody, they were just downstairs. Now, living abroad the circumstances are different and there’s a looming nod to the notion that I do not have somebody ‘just downstairs,’ if I need them. It, in a way, magnifies the already there feelings of anxiety.
So, how do I cope? What do I do, if it gets to be too much, and I haven’t got my safety net to turn to?
I know that the friends I have made would undoubtedly be there to my aid, if I went so far as to ask. But, I can’t ask. The anxiety will not let me ask. In my experience, and in the experiences of the people that I have spoken to on the subject, there is a feeling of selfishness around the idea of asking somebody for help when you are in this place. How can I ask somebody to take some of the burden off of my shoulders- how is that fair? How do I cope? I cope in a way that doesn’t really resemble the action to which the name belongs. I don’t find sleep until my body is so exhausted that it has no choice but to give into slumber. If I tried to sleep, the anxiety I am trying to suppress might creep back into my mind. When my body is deprived of sleep, it gives me a different kind of suffering to focus on. It is a lesser suffering, a suffering that is not all consuming and more manageable. Without adequate sleep, the rest of your body cannot properly function and this creates an environment for more anxiety.
I can always find solace in the words of my mom- but, how can I tell her of my ailment knowing she’ll worry 10 times over? Because she is the world away from me and unable to help in the way she wants? How is that fair? How do I cope? I cope in a way that doesn’t really resemble the action to which the name belongs. I have no appetite until my body is so hungry that it makes me nauseous, and my head ache. Even then, I cannot find the motivation to leave my flat and get groceries. When my body aches from the lack of care, it takes precedence over the anxiety corrupted thoughts and worry that pull in my chest and turn my stomach. It does not take a keenly logical person to see the fault in this, however, I have not found anxiety and depression to be riddled with logic.
I am not baring to you my dark places for your pity; I have faith in myself and in my strength. I am baring to you my dark places so that the person with less strength knows that they are not alone in their battle. I am baring to you my dark places so that maybe the dialogue, around this subject, can be opened a bit more. It is uncomfortable, but it is not embarrassing. So, how do I cope with anxiety, living abroad (and in general)? I do not know the answer yet. Though, I do know that the way I cope, that doesn’t resemble the action to which its named, is not a means to an end. I do know that it will, eventually, be okay. I do know that I am being proactive in finding a healthy way to cope, a way that actually resembles the action to which it is named. My daily strides are small but when a new day comes, I take another step towards finding strength during my times of weakness.