I’ve been in a foreign country for 5 days now. There are 11 days to go.
The day that I arrived, I felt incredibly proud of myself. I did something scary!!
I walked out of the airport, into a totally new country. The air was heavy with humidity and exhaust, but I elatedly boarded the bus heading for my host home.
I quickly realized that I was no longer in the US. The traffic was crazy, with motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic. Stop, go, stop, go. The houses were packed tightly together, surrounded by security bars. Poverty was evident.
The bus pulled to the side of the road and my name was called. “I’m here!” I thought.
I eagerly got off the bus and made my way up a hilly alleyway, stopping in front of a very small house.
The guide yells, “Hola! Cómo estás!”
Suddenly, someone excitedly yells my name and I walk in and get a hug. My friend from college is there already, and after ten years apart, we have lots to catch up on.
After a long day of traveling and running around the airport, I settled into my bed for the week. We turned out the lights, chatting the way girls do at slumber parties–filling in the space of ten years.
Finally, after talking for awhile, we settled into bed and got quiet. As I laid there, I marveled at what I had accomplished in one day.
I boarded two airplanes, despite my fear of flying, and flew to another country. No anti-anxiety medicine needed. Anxiety reared its ugly head a few times, but I concentrated on breathing it away.
And now? Now I was in another country. A beautiful country. I did it.
Then, with very little warning, a panic attack hit me like a train. I was exhausted from traveling and sleeping poorly the night before. My bed was uncomfortable and my pillow was hard. There was no fan and it was hot.
Waves of heat and and panic hit my body.
Suddenly, I wondered how I would survive being trapped here for 16 whole days.
16 whole days away from my family. From my kids.
The weight of it hit me hard. The reality of it.
After laying in bed and panicking for a good, solid ten minutes, I finally got up and took an Ativan. I breathed. I told myself I was okay.
I was okay.
The next morning, I awoke, still nervous. Still unable to communicate with my host mom due to different languages.
I was–I am–determined not to let the fear win.
As I walked to the Spanish school that morning, I felt such complicated and beautiful feelings.
Here I am, walking in a foreign country, so far away from anywhere I’ve ever been…and yet, I feel like me.
My world looks different, but I am the same.
I am in control. I am growing. The anxiety, the baggage…it is all still here.
But I am conquering my fear. Staring it in the eyes.
Today, on day five, I am struggling with homesickness. I miss my husband. I miss my kids so much that it feels like a huge hole in my heart. When I video-chatted my family, my youngest cried, because he misses me so much. It felt gut wrenching.
I miss my friends. And the women who have shown me love and helped me believe in myself. I miss my therapist. I miss my support people. All of them. I feel faraway and alone, at times. I worry that I am a bad mom; or that others are glad to have a break from me. Are they thinking, “Thank god she isn’t bugging us anymore!”
That, is anxiety. Worry and that mean, critical voice.
But, I am also having a great time. Laughing more than I have in years…experiencing new places, people, and foods. Learning a new language. Bonding with an old friend. Feeling free.
It is amazing.
It is hard. It is wonderful. It is so very personal.
And I am doing it. Imperfectly…Which is how it should be.