sometimes all you really want to do is put on some *read this is in your lowest ferris buellers day off yello oh yeah voice* smooth jazz, drink a little vino, and stare off into spanish hills as the sun sets them into a breathtaking mixture of emerald, gold, and sangria colored embers.
dealing with incomparable levels of anxiety has undoubtedly been the defining setback of my study abroad experience. there were some weeks where it felt like every day was worse and worse. i couldn’t put to rest the stress that rattled the depths of my soul. (also you can only imagine how much of a damn NIGHTMARE airport security is. madre mía. mother of god.)
i have a book (in spanish, opah! never know if i’m reading all the directions quite right but. hey. nonetheless.) with meditation practices intended to calm and soothe the anxiety, stress ridden mind. seriously. shout out to that book. but for all the days that were bastante difícil, it was like driving through a tunnel that never showed a glimpse of light at the end. it was like treading deep waters until your body felt like strawberry jam.
i found an easy way to describe how i felt on a general basis being abroad. it’s like being a lost child in a grocery store looking for my mom but the grocery store is the entire world and i actually don’t have a mom so i’m just wandering around looking for someone/something i don’t know for sure if i’ll find or at least hoping someone will help me along the way. i don’t think i’ve ever felt the true sensation of drowning before, but i imagine it’s something similar to an anxiety attack. your body feels like it’s hurling off a bridge and you’re freaking out; screaming to yourself ‘breathe breathe breathe’ but you can’t and it’s as if aang the last airbender has taken all the air from the earth because you sure as hell can’t find any and you just want everything to stop and the world to just take you out of the game, coach and put you on the bench. you feel an overwhelming sense of dread and urgency and it’s the horrible sensation before you ugly cry (we all know what i’m talking about) but there’s no way on gods green earth it can stop. i never want to sleep (don’t worry mom, it’s better now. i’m too exhausted to keep that going). because that means a day is ending. and that means that when i wake up i have to face another one. and i never know how each day will go. i give myself anxiety simply by worrying i’ll get anxiety.
i’ve been trying to be okay here.
but of course trying means that it is, undoubtedly, only trying.
i let my mess of a life be a joke, like a running gag, most of the time because it’s easier than trying to explain to everyone why i’m always late. why i’m always getting hot flashes. why i can’t physically be in a group of more than 4 people. why i can’t walk in busy streets or crowded areas. why i’ll sometimes go an entire day without eating. why getting lost or going somewhere alone is such a significant occurrence. i’d rather laugh it off and pass it as a quirky personality trait than have to see that look on someone’s face. the expression that’s loaded with pathetic pity and shallow sympathy. but the expression that’s completely void of unquestioning understanding and eager empathy. because, like many of the taboo topics our society is too uncomfortable to openly address (as they shift uncomfortably in their seats and avoid eye contact) unless you yourself have dealt with long term anxiety or a panic disorder, you can’t completely slip on and tie the laces of another person’s shoes.
eventually it becomes all too less sympathy and all too much annoyance and rolling eyes and impatience. which, unfortunately, is exactly the type of fuel that feeds a panic fire. worrying if people are annoyed. worrying if you’ve done something wrong. worrying for worrying and worryings sake. but here’s to setting fire to the rain.
so what i want to address in this blog post is less about my study abroad experiences.
who i want to address in this blog post is entirely anyone that struggles and suffers from anxiety, stress, and panic disorders.
to the deepest part of my core, i loathe how much my anxiety attacks affect my life. but the one (positive) condolence i have is that it’s made me (hopefully) a better person. it helps me try to understand and love other people. once i’m in a place where i’m okay, I can be the mom in the grocery store that everyone here is looking for. i can open up my mary poppins bag and open a world of love and affection. i can offer my snacks and feed the five thousand. i can pull out tissues, lotion, chapstick, a fully equipped medicine cabinet, a complete wardrobe change, a 3 liter bottle of water, a snack bar,and essentially anything ever in the world ever you could ever possibly ever need ever. besides like milk (lactose probzzz). even that’s a maybe.
because when in a constant state of nervous chihuahua like tremor, it’s made me the type of person who will do anything and everything to take care of other people and go out of the way to ensure that their day won’t hold even an ounce of the stress that i fear i’ll face. i’m always wishing on a star that someone could be my mom and take care of me, who can just give me a big ole oso hug and say “i’m here so you’ll be okay” but since that’s something i’m missing that is my life then i try to be it for every other person i meet.
so i want to give my gracias to every person that has ever (even momentarily) taken care of me in any way. but more than that. i want to give my deepest, most sincere gracias to every single person who has let me take care of them. helping you has helped me.
while i’m still trying to get better, every day still isn’t perfect. but i’m always trying. i may have the bag, but i’m not quite mary poppins yet.
let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height
let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
up through the atmosphere
up where the air is clear
oh, let’s go fly a kite.