Just under two weeks ago I left Australia for Greece.
I was experiencing a range of different emotions. I was, of course, excited to see where my family comes from. I was nervous about the plane trip and was running through catastrophic scenarios. What if we lost our passports? Or got separated? What if we lost our luggage or our phones? What if one of us got hurt?
The usual worries and excitement associated with travelling.
But this sense of anticipation was often overshadowed by fear which I have touched on before. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being away from my familiar routine. My daily coffee.My gym routine. All products of an illness I have not yet defeated that feeds off my insecurities.
Before I left for Greece I knew that I would struggle at times. I anticipated that the illness I have worked long and hard to fight and beat would try to return with a vengence. It would try to interfere with my happiness and enjoyment because it loves to suck the joy out of my life.
And of course I was right. It would be ignorant of me to believe that my illness would disappear for three weeks whilst I’m away.
There have been times during this trip where that foul demon of my past has tried to revive itself. The demon sniffs out discomfort like a starving stray and digs. It digs and digs until it sees a scrap to latch onto. All it wants is some oxygen, a tiny opportunity to come back. To ruin something that is beautiful.
It loves ruining special moments.
But I am much stronger now. Once I may have succumbed and given the demon some oxygen. Let it surface and suck me of my energy and enjoyment.
Three years ago I went to Italy and Austria with my school. I was not actively in recovery. Still in school, I was highly self-conscious and still indulging that nasty demon that thrived off my unhappiness.
At that time I was not strong enough to recognise how my illness was dictating my life. How it drew me away from my friends or how it caused me panic and anxiety. I let the demon breathe because I knew nothing else. I did not enjoy that trip like I could have and should have. The memories of that time are coloured by what I missed out on rather than what I did.
It was time, this year, to travel again and to challenge myself. To not be limited or frightened by my past. To recognise the signs of the demon wanting to deprive me of joy and comfort and suppress it by force.
We are over half way through the trip now and I have learned things about myself I never expected.
At home there is distraction. Friends, family, work and responsibilities. Here there is nothing but independence and the murmer of Greek conversation. There is noise everywhere. But that noise is nothing compared to the constant babble and chaos in my mind. Because here I have time to think. About who I am. What I want. I have the time and the space to heal and think about what has happened to me over the past six years. I have time to challenge that demon that has tried to take away my freedom. I have the time and the space to fight back.
I have the time and the space to ask myself questions. Questions that I should have asked myself many years ago.
I needed to be away from my home to do this. Away from my family and my routine.
I needed to stop running away from being uncomfortable. I needed to feel that shock of my routine being completely compromised.
I needed to step well and truly out of my comfort zone.
I needed to feel everything. Raw and unencumbered. Because that is the only way to learn and change.
I was frightened, and if I’m being honest, sometimes I still am. Frightened that I’m ugly. Or stupid. Sometimes I’m still frightened of certain foods.
There are days when the demon is stronger and harsher than others. There are days when I feel foolish about the way I feel. There are times when I am angry that I still have to battle with this demon. Every. Damn. Day.
But these emotions and fears, these feelings of discomfort, are all part of my healing process. Dealing with situations and experiences as opposed to running away from them can only make me stronger and more prepared to face them again.
I feel stronger inside. I didn’t forsee that. All the things I feared before I came here were fabrications designed by an illness that relishes in my sadness.
Nothing bad has happened to me. I am still whole. I am still me. I look the same. I sound the same. The only thing that has changed is my attitude.
And maybe my skin colour, but that’s the sun’s fault.