Forgive me that I haven’t written to you dear reader. The truth is I haven’t been in the right mind to write to you. My emotions have been unidentifiable. Truth be told, I haven’t felt like myself lately.
In fact, nothing has felt normal recently.
I look the wrong way when crossing the street. I walk on the left-hand side of the pavement. Waitresses find my pronunciation of a café “mocha” confusing and inevitably ask me to repeat myself. My friend’s jaw nearly drops to the floor when I tell her I walk from my house to the local Starbucks café. I cringe when the person next to me decides to make “small talk” or chat away on their cell phone on public transportation. Oh wait, there is no public transport! You guessed it, I’m back in the United States.
Before you criticize my attitude towards the great US of A, let me stress to you that I am first an American and will always be. I love this country more than most people would care to admit.
After having lived in the UK for almost two years now however, I have found myself amidst an identity crisis. To many people’s surprise (except my own), I slowly began embracing British culture. That’s right, I am the secret Anglophile, a traitor to the American dream.
While I will always remain an American sweetheart, I found myself falling in love with the Brits, their uncanny ability to achieve a balance of work and play, their obsession for afternoon tea time, and their general distaste for enthusiasm.
It should come as no surprise to you then to know how difficult I have found these past 9 days. I have felt “lost in translation” ever since I arrived. It’s not that I have a distaste for American culture or regret coming home to the South at the risk of overstaying my student visa. This transition had done a number on my emotions. My ability to handle stress has diminished considerably. Feelings of anxiety have seemed to flare up. Little things cause me to break into tears.
This isn’t about a place. It’s about a state of mind. It’s about progress.
I made progress in Scotland. I learned to manage my anxiety in Scotland. Scotland was a place of healing. It allowed me to finally “move on.” It is there where I discovered more about myself than I ever did during my four years at university. It is there I found a church that for the first time in my entire life, I felt a sense of belonging and unity. It is there that I met the man I am going to marry.
This isn’t about post-vacay blues. This is about the fear of relapse. The fear of not fitting in and feeling left out. This is about reverting back to the way things used to be, but knowing that they cannot ever go back.
A scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King, the third and final book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy springs to mind. Frodo Baggins has just returned home to the Shire after a long and arduous journey across Middle Earth. After a series of adventures, Frodo tries to come to terms with a comfortable and safe life back in the Shire, but to no avail.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when you begin to understand…there is no going back?”
Ever since I left Scotland, I have been worrying about “picking up old threads.” The fear of “going back” has becoming an ever-present threat.
What if I allow myself to go back there, to a place of anxiety and depression?
How do I stop myself from picking up these “old threads”?
I’ve had many readers write to me about “getting over anxiety”. The reality is, overcoming anxiety disorder is a continual process that requires patience and what I like to call “emotional endurance”. I know individuals who have battled anxiety disorder for their entire lives, but over time have learned the proper techniques to cope with the symptoms of anxiety so that they’re no longer just surviving, but they are living. Others may only struggle for a particular season of their lives.
But they all have something in common = at one point or another, all have experienced a setback. You know what I’m talking about. Ever felt like you’ve taken five steps forward but one step back? Don’t let a small setback ruin your sense of victory. Don’t allow one panic attack to rob you of a good day. Don’t think that you’re not allowed to ever feel sad or anxious again. Give yourself a break. The reality is, most people who battle mental illness ill experience a setback at one point or another, especially during the recovery phase.
But the key is this.
Don’t let a setback get you off track. Don’t allow yourself to go back to that place you once were. Often, I have found that the stress of having anxiety is actually greater than anxiety itself. The good news is, we have the power to not wander down that road. We can divert and choose an alternate route.
Because you know as well as I do, there is no going back.