Why I Travel

Traveling serves many purposes. It allows for a chance to see the world outside of your hometown perspective. It gives people the opportunity for vacation, and gives those working in the field of tourism a job. For me, traveling has become something different.

Travel has become a prescription for my mental health.

The first 18 years of my life were spent fighting demons, both internal and external. Mental health was never a concern of mine, because I had already accepted the fact that my home, my reality, and my “comfort zone” would always be one of mental anguish. One where a good day is “just good enough.”

That’s a really sad reality for a someone to accept. Let alone a child, an adolescent, or a young adult.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and let me tell you, I’m pretty damn strong. I feel proud to tell my story, because it is one of perseverance, of self awareness and self discovery. It is a story of using everything in your power to change your reality, in order to change a mentally unhealthy life, to a life of flourishing, growth, and mental wellness.

The best decision I’ve ever made was going to school for psychology. I would have never sought help otherwise, because my reality was my norm. I didn’t understand how starved for positive mental health that I was, until I learned the true definition of mental wellness. Of abnormal psychology. Of mental abuse.

I’ll never forget the day I left my classroom in tears. The day my professor defined and described my home, my family, and my life, straight out of a textbook. I nearly vomited when I realized all the lies I was forcing myself to believe. I was faking happiness for 18 years.

After speaking with my professor, the wheels that moved the rest of my life began to trek forward. In 2011, my new life began. I sought the help that I needed. The help my family needed. I learned that it is not ok to be mentally abused. Ain’t that a funny thought.

Parents are just people. We’re born under this notion that parents are suppose to shower us with unconditional love. But what if you have a parent that can’t love them self? Or a parent that loves them self too much that there’s no room for anyone else. What if you have a parent with a caring, appeasing soul, born under the notion that they are suppose to do whatever it takes to make their spouse happy. Even if their spouse is incapable of happiness. What becomes of a child raised in such an environment? What happens when a child is told not to tell?

I am what happens.

After 18 years of being constantly criticized, of suffering threats, walking on eggshells, and feeling the weight of a parent’s regular suicidal threats on my shoulders, I learned that this was not the life that I deserved. That is not a life anyone deserves. And man, what a powerful realization that was.

So, why do I travel?

Sure, I escaped the mental prison I once existed in. But such a hellish reality comes with repercussions. Anxiety is a very real part of my life. Once I was able to actually focus on my own mental health, I learned that anxiety is one of the building blocks of what has made Lauren, Lauren. It was one of those “a ha!” moments of that’s what that feeling is!

One of my favorite quotes about anxiety is that anxiety is like praying for what you don’t want. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop. It’s a constant worst case scenario playing in your mind on loop.

I began to test myself, pushing myself further and further out of my comfort zone, until I was on a plane from JFK to LAX with a 2 month solo agenda. I have never felt so alive. I finally felt free to be me. Nothing was holding me back.

I travel because I am strong, brave, and capable. I travel because there is such beauty in this natural world, and I deserve to experience it. I travel to make up for lost time, for those 18 years that I forced a smile on my face, as I carried the weight of my parent’s personality disorder upon my shoulders.

If you are reading this and any of my words feel all too familiar, if you are living a life of accepting abuse, pain, and anguish, and have been forced to believe that you deserve it.. I am telling you, you are so much more than your circumstance. It’s never too late to seek the help that can set you free. Let 2018 be the year that your new life begins.

Happy World Mental Health Day. I love you, life.

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Imagine an alien came down to Earth, and asked you to describe the taste of water. How would you do it?

Trying to describe the nondescript taste of water, to me, is the equivalent of trying to describe what it’s like to live in an unhealthy mental state. There is nothing to compare it to. It just is.

Now, imagine this alien takes you back to their planet, and gives you a taste of what water is to them. Suddenly, you can describe what you have been drinking your whole life by comparison. You have gained a fresh perspective into a different world, allowing you to reanalyze your baseline norm.

I did not have a comprehension of how detrimental my mental state was until I learned what positive mental health was. This is a petrifying thought. For 18 years, I lived in a figurative cage— bounded by the confines of mental health. I went for physicals every year… I was a healthy specimen. I was an honor roll student, had hobbies, interests, and a great group of friends. Yet, I was ridden by anxiety—- but that was my norm. I was use to the apprehensive fears that would keep me up at night, because that’s how everyone feels, right?

My anxious mental state was just a drop in the bucket compared to the bigger issues surrounding them. For 18 years, I dealt with problems that were bigger than myself. They all revolved around one thing—- mental health. But, it was not my own mental health that consumed me, it was my Dad’s.

Have you ever met someone who had behaviors so ridiculous that you just attributed it to, “oh, that’s just who they are.” Well, let me tell you, one glance at the index of a psychology textbook will tell you, there is a rhyme and a reason for everything.

I know of many people who have grown up with a parent or loved one that was ill. Disorders of the heart, brain, muscular or skeletal system are apparent, but disorders of the mind or personality are not so easily recognizable. Sometimes, in the most frustrating of cases, the disorders aren’t even recognized by the person who is suffering. In these cases of denial, the suffering falls upon those around them. Suffering becomes a part of everyday life, but you learn to put on your big girl pants and deal with it, because everyone is dealing with something, no?

I am here to tell you, nobody deserves to suffer. You are more than your circumstance, and there is always a way out. Sometimes, you have to fight like hell, but I promise you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone says that life is short, but I think that discredits time spent suffering. I know there are people who look at me, and judge the life that I live. But you know, I wouldn’t challenge these people to try on the shoes that I have once walked in, because they have trekked through a dark, painful, and treacherous past.

Yes, life is short, and there will be suffering that we cannot control. That is inevitable. But we must recognize the things that we can work at— with mental health being at the top of this list. Sometimes, this means making hard decisions, and doing things we don’t want to do— such as seeking treatment. The ratio of those who would benefit from speaking with a mental health professional and those who actually do is incredibly skewed— which I personally think is a MAJOR underlying reason behind many of the problems in our world as a whole, but I digress.

The fact that #WorldMentalHealthDay is trending is a victory for the entire world. Between the election, clowns, and everything in between, we can scroll through a feed of support for those who know what it is like to fight an internal battle. Today is a day that we recognize the warriors who have overcome wars within themselves, and more importantly, letting it be known that you are not alone. There may not always be answers, but there is always someone who will listen to you. Who will understand you. Who will support you. Who will let you know, you are not crazy. No one deserves to feel that the weight of the world is resting on their shoulders. No one deserves to think that “grinning and bearing it” is any way to get through life. You deserve happiness. You deserve mental freedom. You are entitled to your health.