How it started
Well, I thought it would be a good time to address the elephant in the room which is - we all haven't actually been able to travel a whole lot since the fateful month of March 2020 (the virus that shall not be named!). I wanted to jump on here and share a little bit about another journey that I've been on these past couple of years. This one has less sunsets and snow sports but is no less important or valuable. When I refer to this journey what I am really talking about is the journey to my true self, which ultimately means facing a lot of hard topics within myself and finding a few truths to what lies underneath. The long and winding road from who I have always been, to who I am now. It's a story of self-discovery, acceptance, courage and great difficulty at times. If topics of mental health themes are triggering for you, please be advised some of that follows. So, let's jump in...
It's March 2020 and I'm couped up in my one-bedroom inner-city apartment about to face the first of many lockdowns Australia would see. I had no idea what was ahead of me but I was finding doing puzzles and boardgames and isolating myself from the world quite exciting. Had I have known what was ahead for the world, I would not have taken it all so lightly.
From the first strict lockdown to the restrictions that followed (masks, no pubs and clubs, time off work etc.) I found myself with a lot of free time to contemplate the last few years of my life and reflect on what it felt like to have lived some of the experiences I'd had throughout it. I'd had a rollercoaster of a few years from the lead up to living in Canada to the experience itself, then ultimately returning home to Australia and planting some solid roots in my city again. This was the first time I'd really slowed down and taken time to check in on how I was feeling and where my personal relationships were at.
What came from this was the decision to go and see a psychologist (woah! we're diving straight in). I decided this as I finally had not only the time, but the courage and determination to dive deep into the depths of my past and how it impacts my present and the decisions I have made as a result of it (some great, some very poor).
What followed in that first year of seeing my psychologist was ultimately really positive, and I understand this isn't the experience for everybody so I am still very grateful for this to this day. She was the first person I just whole-heartedly opened up to, warts and all - no holds barred. I cried, I laughed... I apologised for doing both, all of which she assured me was perfectly "normal".
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of what we dug up together, my biggest lesson from seeing my psychologist was that a lot of my thoughts and actions (both good and bad) have probably been thought or acted out by someone else as well. Ultimately meaning, I am not alone. I feel like it's usually when someone is at their most overwhelmed when they decide to go and talk to a professional, which in and of itself makes it so hard to make that choice... in a world of brain fog, teeth grinding and sleepless nights it's hard to have the courage to believe it's all going to be ok one day.
As the months went on and our chats got deeper and deeper, I found myself falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. The anxious nights spent staring at my bedroom ceiling and checking the clock at 10pm... 11pm... 12pm... 1am... 2AM!! were no longer, and this wasn't even something I'd been conscious of, it just sort of happened. Just from having better sleeps I found myself starting to be able to show up for myself and those around me more.
More time went on and I uncovered a lot about myself that I had been avoiding for a very long time, one of the most significant - the subconscious ways I'd been handling my pain. The more self-aware I got, the more challenging I found it to "let loose" and relax. I didn't want to say the wrong thing and slip back into my old ways, I didn't want to get the 'Sunday scaries' again and dread the Monday to follow and I sure as hell didn't want to embarrass myself. This showed me a lot about how much of my life has been engulfed in auto-pilot mode, reacting to situations out of natural responses from my life experiences, rather than conscious choices leading from the heart.
How it's going
Now I'm experiencing life from a place of someone who not only knows who she doesn't want to be, but someone with a new perspective on what this elusive "happiness" is. Because for so long it was always somewhere else, something else, or being someone else - and this is still something I sometimes battle with (but thankfully, more of a once every six months to a year kind of thing, not once every week). But since being stuck in lock down and a lot of my decisions being taken away from me, it gave me the realisation that everything in front of me was enough. It is enough. It has always been enough. And that everything I am looking for is already within me and no person or place is going to help me find that - only I can. Life just distracted me for a while and pulled the wool over my eyes. But I don't blame or resent that girl, she was doing her best with the information she had. She was still happy and living a great life, but just confused by how some things just never felt right. Now she knows.
So, my journey now starts at tapping back into all of the favourite things about myself and nourishing those. By listening to my inner child and speaking from my heart. Not fearing what people will think about me, not being scared of conflict or saying what I really feel, not living in the shadows of others waiting for permission to live authentically and CERTAINLY not masking any more emotions with toxic behaviour. I'm just going to feeeeel it all.
I am on a journey of acceptance of how I got to the place I am at, while being grateful for my wonderful life and my ability to look my fears in the eye and say "you are a part of me, but you aren't all of me". So much light and love lives within me, it always has. It's been a tough couple of years on this journey of self-discovery. I couldn't have done it without my psychologist, a wonderful physio Louise Agnew who has enlightened me on far more than where my neck pain stems from and an insanely gifted Craniosacral therapist Ken Gordan, who in one session taught me more about myself than I've realised on my own in 27 years. Don't stress though - you don't need all of these people to work through your stuff. Sometimes you only need one, a friend, a family member you can trust, or even just yourself.
I know this isn't the wanderlust filled travel story you may have hoped for but it is a real-life story about my journey between the good, the tough... and back to the good. And how life will always work in a never-ending cycle of good to tough and being lost and then found again, and how important it is to get the tools to learn to cope when you do find yourself wandering aimlessly around thinking who the hell am I and how did I get here.
As far as where I am right now - I am learning to get back to my authentic self (before all of the self-awareness stuff got stirred up), and learning how to differentiate who the real me is and who the version of myself is that was acting out of response to the things that happened in my life. I am so grateful that I finally pushed myself to dive in head first and do the hardest thing some people will ever have to do - which is face all of your demon’s head on. But don't be deterred, the stigma around seeking help is often so overwhelming to people that they never get started. It's too hard, too painful, too scary. I can't guarantee you will have the perfect experience right off the bat but keep trying, there is no cause worth fighting more for than your own mental health and happiness. Without out it, you can lose everything... the scariest thing being your sense of self.
I remember being so pleasantly surprised after my first session of how light I felt. I expected to feel heavy, sad and anxious about talking about myself. Instead, what I realised was that bottling things up and not listening to my heart weighs me down far more than talking to someone about it.
About February last year (almost a year after seeing my psychologist for the first time), I moved into my dream home with Michael. In March... I bought Winnie. Two things I would not have seen happening if you asked me back on my psychologist's couch in March 2020. I could barely see where I would be in a day's time let alone owning a house and the most perfect little dog you've ever seen. I am forever grateful to my psychologist for always giving me a safe place to speak from my heart and work through my crap (as truly trivial as some of it was). But more importantly I am eternally grateful for myself. The girl who walked into those doors feeling confused, overwhelmed and lost. Without her I would not be typing this on my brand-new couch inside my perfect little home with my perfect little Winnie at my feet and my (most of the time) perfect boyfriend Michael, who just called me asking me if I'd like him to bring me home something yummy for lunch. The journey to yourself can be long but it is so, so worth it.
Whatever your journey may look like moving forward and whatever your goal is (how little or big) I wish you not smooth seas... but trust in your captain... you. Because let's be honest, life is never smooth sailing for long, so learning how to navigate through the treacherous waters (whatever that looks like for you) is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, as you are the only one who has to live in your mind, the only one who decides to get out of bed in the morning, the only one who will sit there for an hour every other week and tell a stranger about what's making you feel shitty. No one else can do that for you. Sure, someone may book you the appointment but unless you are 100% committed to starting this journey, you will not show up to that appointment. And don't get me wrong - you may show up! But there's a difference between showing up to the appointment and really showing up.... to the appointment. You want to know you're ready and willing, and if you're not - that's also ok! Mediocre effort and help are better than no help. So don't give up, keep fighting for you, and know that I am always in your corner.