Confession… Abroad + Anxiety= worst combination ever!!!

Since my last post I’ve experienced a series of uncomfortable events and I wish I would have had more knowledge on this subject so when things like this happen, I could be better prepared.  I have yet to find a cure for this and I have felt uncomfortable bringing it up.  But since I have gained a travel following I feel I should share this because this is more than just about my travels and cultural quirk adventures.  So here it goes! I wish people would have told me about the anxiety I would experience before I decided to do this.  Conducting my own research lately on how I feel has been scary and daunting.   I guess I can start from the beginning.

Me looking "normal" ... * Budapest

Me looking “normal” … * Budapest, Hungary.

Well, in the past couple of months after Semana Santa (Holy Week), ironically enough I have not felt inspired.  I did not want to write nor even empty out my memory card from my camera.  I think part of it had to do with my 12 day grueling trip.  I sometimes don’t know what I was thinking trying to visit three countries in 12 days. Honestly, I can’t say enough how honored and privileged and fortunate enough to see what I have seen. The greatness of what people can construct is awe inspiring but at the same time the unkindness and the cruelty one man can inflict on his fellow human-being is disheartening.  (That will be another blog post.)  I have to give a great shout out to the girls that I travelled with.  I will say that being on this trip changed my perspective on a lot of things.  That particular week, once again, the world showed its brokenness with the terrorist attacks in Brussels (where the day before my travel buddy and I happen to be in Brussels airport because the flight was cheaper to go from Budapest, layover in Brussels and take a flight to Bucharest).  I recalled my friend having said very often, “this world is broken”.  Well, so is its people.  So here goes more brokenness, but this is very embarrassing to speak about. A couple of days ago I hit a bit of a low point while simultaneously my anxiety hit an ultimate high. I realized that what I have been dealing with lately is anxiety and it has been intense.  I have been very reluctant to speak about it even with friends and felt quite ashamed. In fact some of my closest friends are probably finding out on this blog post.  Mainly I have been afraid of the judgement. I have finally decided that I need to face this anxiety and to face it head on.  Hopefully, whoever is abroad and stumbles across this blog will hopefully not feel alone.

What is anxiety?

Well anxiety in my opinion is probably one of the worst emotions you can have.  I really would not wish it on my worst enemy.  The movie, Inside/Out should have added a twin to “Fear” and called it “Anxiety.”  The truth is everyone has some level of anxiety. It is just that some people are by nature calmer than others (If you are like this … I am freakin’ envious of you) and some have such high levels of anxiety that they can suffer from panic attacks. These panic attacks have been what I have been experiencing.  I read in Anxiety and Depression Association of America, that anxiety affects 40 million Americans. Why am I concentrating on that?  Well one of the main reasons I decided to move away was to experience a change of pace. My previous lifestyle and work environment should have burnt me out but now looking back I think I never had time to process it.  Since, I have had this drastic change in my life – not just environment, lifestyle, culture and establishing a close knit group (not easy), I have not given myself the chance to digest this massive change and not to mention my last one.  Well I was certain I was one of the 40 million affected, but could handle it… eeehhhh, wrong!  Apparently, I was able to mask it and I was certain I could handle any task thrown at me and not be affected, but sadly it took its toll on me when I finally slowed down and started allowing myself to feel more.

What I really feel inside... Not pretty

What I really feel inside… Not pretty

Panic Attacks 

Well to be straight up I’ve never experienced anything like this … It straight up feels like you are having a heart attack.  You feel as though any situation is a matter of life or death.  One time I was walking down the street and I had heard some upsetting news. I was walking and did not know where I was going and all of a sudden I passed out! Thank God for the señor (gentleman) behind me who caught me as I was falling.  He then walked me home.   I have had moments where I uncontrollably can’t stop crying and sometimes stop breathing.  My most recent episode involved me being so stressed out that I was throwing up several times in a row for several days. Now I’m not trying to throw a pity party of one here.  I just thought I would talk about it because people suffering like me may be ashamed of opening a dialogue about it. Sometimes I am walking to the Metro and I get to the platform and I can feel a panic attack coming on because I am thinking of the worst possible scenario like someone inadvertently pushing me onto the tracks because everyone in Madrid is in a damn rush to get somewhere.  I am basically living in constant fear of that possibility.

The Purpose

Living abroad, no one really told me that I would experience anxiety this way.  In fact no one I had spoken to talked about it.  It wasn’t until I confided in someone and she told me she had experienced it as well.  I figured I would have the case of the blues but never anxiety and panic attacks.  Sometimes it is just hard to cope because you don’t even feel it coming on until you are past the point of no return.  You don’t talk about it with people back home because you don’t want to stress them out. It is also a sense of pride at least for me. I don’t want to admit that I feel like I am losing it, because from the outside I look like I have everything together but in the inside I have this uneasy feeling.

I know many members of my family and friends do not understand me right now, but I will say what you should not say to a person who is having tons of anxiety is to “calm down.”  Maybe tell them to breathe. Start with the basics.  When someone tells me to calm down my panic goes into triple mode.  It’s safe to say I don’t understand myself either.  I feel like I have to give more of an explanation with regard to my silence. People including my family and friends have noticed a difference in my demeanor.  The truth is what you want to hear.  In reality everything does work itself out. I know and have faith in the universe that it will, but in the moment I don’t see the universe and that is just the fucking truth!  I wish I could give tips on this subject but really this post is not how I have overcome.  It’s a real issue I am dealing with now. What is scary about these panic attacks is that I look normal.  I have given several examples where these attacks basically originate and worst of all, they come out of nowhere with no warning.

I hope this serves someone who might be going through this also and just know you are not alone. I am obviously actively working on getting better.  I do not have all the solutions nor techniques down.  I know this will take some time.  I might have posted this because I still feel that the perception is that I am just jumping from plane to train to camels and that I might not have a care in the world but the truth is that it is a very wonderful but lonely experience.  I’m just trying to figure it out.

 


 

First last day

With my luck I end up in Luck.

With my luck I end up in luck.

October 1st – I get off at Las Suertas Metro stop as I have done countless times before, but this time I am excited and apprehensive so I psych myself up by playing  “Dangerous Paradise” by Coolio on my phone.  A fitting song considering the area where I teach.  I know I have not shared much about my school but partly it is because I’ve kept a journal of the shenanigans my kids say and do.

Truthfully speaking, my school is in a tough neighborhood.  However,  that is part of the reason I wanted to repeat the second year.  Nothing has been as rewarding as walking through the corridors of the school and being greeted with the countless “hello’s”, hugs and kisses I receive daily from my children.

The realization has suddenly hit me that this is going to be my last year here at this school.    So this year I am going to be in the moment.

“You’re worried how you’re going to feel at the end of your life?  What about right now?  LIVE.  Right this moment.  That’s where the joy is at.”  – Abigail Thomas

Enjoy all my students’ out-of-this-world comments, faces and stories.  So here is the way I am going to start my year.