So I’ve been feeling a huge desire to open up more and share more about my daily anxieties. I feel like for one, it will help me feel better and give me that outlet that I’ve been just craving for the last couple of months. Also, I have many of you guys, my friends, who can’t believe what I’m doing especially because of my past mental health issues. Honestly, I still can’t believe that I’m here doing what I’m doing. I think that it’s difficult for people to see how great my life abroad is and forget that it’s not always sunshine and good vibes. I originally wanted to start this blog to share my travels and to talk about the steps I took to overcome anxiety in hopes that it will inspire other people to not only travel, but even just step outside of their comfort zone and find their own ways to get better. I’m not an expert. What works for me may not work for you. So lets just back it up a bit and start from the beginning…
I don’t want to delve too deep into the darkness, but we are just going to talk about my anxiety today. So lets talk about what kind of anxiety I had/have first. Just like I have been/am continuously evolving as a person, my anxiety disorder has done the same. It used to be very chaotic, riddled with daily panic attacks that would just disable my whole day. In the darkest times I developed some serious OCD tendencies however now I think I’m mostly just dealing with my social anxiety. My biggest issue is being around people I don’t know and having to interact like a normal person. Social anxiety?! But aren’t you travelling and staying in hostels and constantly meeting new people everyday? Yes.
It has taken me quite a long time and a lot of hard work for me to get to this point where I felt confident enough to do what I’m doing. As many of my friends who are still around know, I shut myself off from the world for about three solid years. First thing I did to gain control… I talked to someone. By someone, I mean a professional. My best friend Natalie has always been there for me and I could talk to her about anything and everything. But when it came to my mental health and how I was feeling, I felt ashamed. I felt like a burden and I felt like I was selfish. Going to a professional gave me a few things. 1. I was able to talk to them about everything and never felt judged. When looking for a therapist, counselor or any type healthcare professional, if you feel for a second judged just find someone else. 2. They didn’t tiptoe around me or treat me like I was some delicate, broken thing. Being treated differently was something I dreaded, as if people were scared to say something when I told them how I had been feeling. As if they just felt so bad for me. I wasn’t looking for pity, maybe just someone to distract me from how I felt that day. 3. This kind of goes with point 2, but it is that they were not scared to tell me something that I maybe didn’t want to hear but needed to hear. When you are going through all those things, your head is so wrapped up in your own thoughts. It was a little refreshing (albeit kind of angered me at times) to hear. If I feel lucky about anything in my life currently, it was that I got connected to a great professional and I will truly remember what they did for me for the rest of my life.
Ok, so I saw this person for quite a while, but honestly not as long at I thought I would need to. It was about a year, and then he set me free and the rest was up to me. So here is my number one tip and its something I still practice to this day. Do things that make you uncomfortable, on your terms. I’m not talking big bold life decisions like moving to the other side of the world right out of the gate. Hey, if you are ready for it, go for it. But a big issue I had is that I felt like my depression and anxiety controlled my life. If I forgot my wallet at home, I’d have a panic attack. If I heard we hired someone new at work and I’d have to meet them that day, panic attack. Boxes were stacked improperly or in a messy order at work (I worked as a shipper at a print shop), you guessed it… panic attack. It seemed really triggered by disturbances in my schedule or order that I had in my life, probably because realistically I had no order in my life. So my brain would clutch on to the small things that did and when something went wrong it went into a metaphorical fetal position. So I started to purposefully do things that messed with that “order”. Such as leaving my wallet at home on purpose; I did it because I wanted to. Sometimes, I would take a different route to/from work, because I wanted to. Basically, I wanted to trick my brain into a chaotic situation, but because I did it, it almost didn’t matter to me for whatever reason. I had the control.
Candice, what does any of this have to do with your social anxiety? Well, like I said, I was shut off from the world. I didn’t ever want to go out because honestly, I was scared of even making conversation with my friends. When my biggest feat for the week was that I was able to get out of bed with ease 2 out of the 5 days, it doesn’t make me feel good. Also, they would always joke about me being flaky (because I was), but they never knew or understood why which also made me just want to stay home. But when I was ready, I started going out again. Remember that trusty best friend of mine, Natalie? Well we would start just hanging out the two of us, and only for a few hours. Then gradually, we would go out later and maybe even with some of her coworkers. Then more with my old group of friends back to the point where I was able to go to three events during one weekend and met a whole lot of people I didn’t know. I started to feel like myself but once again, it was on my terms.
I wouldn’t say I’m cured. I don’t think I ever will be. It sounds like 2017 was kinda shitty for some and great for others. To me, they are just years that are passing by. With that being said, I still feel like I gained so much last year and I just want to keep moving forwards. I still want this to be a travel journal but I will be posting more about my anxiety as I continue this blog. We just started at the beginning and I have a whole four (almost five) months of travel that needs to be shared. Yep, I’m gonna rewind to our time in Morocco. Thanks for reading.