And an ode to all the lives we live.
I am sitting at the end of a chapter at the minute. It probably makes more sense to call it the end of a book, or even a series of books. I feel like I have lived a thousand different lives, and been a thousand different people since I left home five years ago.
It’s actually around 5 years – and one month to the day – and I am in the same place I landed in all those years ago when I took my first one-way flight. Everything feels as though it was meant to be this way and every decision has led me to where I am now. It really is a full circle moment for me before we start our big trip home.
A few days ago I had the sudden realisation that Lior and I have – literally – spend every day and night together for the two and half years that we have been together (3 years if you count the months we spent as inseparable best friends first) and are now coming to the end of that bubble. There has not been one night we have spent apart and it’s time to come out of our cocoon and step into the next chapter for us – taking three months off work and visiting all of our homes.
This is both a terrifying thought and one that is overwhelmingly exciting. I find myself grieving these precious two years of solitude, that we may never experience again, and trying to treasure every minute of isolation since that realisation. But I can’t wait to get to experience the person she is when she is where she grew up, and I can’t wait to experience her first proper Christmas with her in the best place in the world (Glasgow).
In those quick two years, we have been many different versions of “us”. We have been party people who stay up until 5am just to go to work at 9am. We have been the grafters who work two jobs (the same two jobs) and save up all their money. We have been 6am baristas together (she was the first one to ever teach me how to make coffee). We have been on totally opposite work schedules, never having a day off together.
We have lived and travelled in a van for 8 months together while also working together, we have been unemployed together, we have owned a cat together, we have been through the pandemic together, we have lived in three different countries together, we have been through breakdowns together, we work online together, we are going through immigration visas together. We have not met any of each other’s family or been to each other’s homes.
Having her all to myself for these years has been a special experience, she is the reason that I am the person I am today and has encouraged everything authentic about me from the moment I met her, I am so grateful for the lives we have lived and the lives we will continue to live together. I may miss having her all to myself but I can’t wait for this next adventure because, like the other things we have experienced, spending time with all our family can only continue to make us stronger.
I also had my last therapy session this week – for now – so I have been sitting in a bit of reflection. I started with my life coach in the first week that I landed in Bali when my anxiety was pretty uncontrollable and I couldn’t see this next chapter in sight – convinced it wasn’t reachable. Now I’ve completed my last session at the end of my trip in Southeast Asia and the change in the person I am is something I am very proud of, I am ready and excited for all things coming my way.
Although my anxiety settled massively in Bali, since leaving and landing in Thailand my anxiety has definitely increased. New environments are definitely a trigger for me and being in a busy city lowers my sense of safety and I feel like I am constantly looking over my shoulder. My fight or flight senses are heightened in unfamiliar places, I feel really on edge and it takes a bit of time for my body to relax – something I have only learned about myself since being in therapy.
I feel like when I landed in Bali, those anxieties were taking over me and I was spiralling into uncontrollable worry and stress. Now, I feel totally different. Yes, those anxieties are still there but they are not consuming me.
There is not just one factor why I feel in a better mental health space and in more control of my anxiety, there are many. Therapy has been the base of it and having that one hour a week to unashamedly unload has been key in my healing, but it’s the work that comes after the session that really counts. It’s making the hard changes to your life that just are not working for you. I have had to really work hard on accepting myself.
Once you can accept yourself, it’s easier to ask for help. I used to force myself to do things that would riddle me with anxiety because I felt like I had to do them to feel normal. Now, I acknowledge that it’s better to listen to myself and take action based on what feels right. If there is something that I think is too much, I either don’t do it or I ask for help doing it.
If there is one thing I can pass on to the partner, friend or anyone close to someone who is living with anxiety is to be there to help them if you have the space for it. If they struggle to speak to the cashier at the cafe but you feel totally fine doing it, take the lead on that one. The challenge for me was/is locating my needs and then communicating them.
I have also been practicing exposure therapy. We had a homophobic comment made to us in the lift of the building we were staying in and my immediate reaction was to stop holding hands and dress more “feminine”. I couldn’t walk down the street without feeling overwhelmed with panic and paranoia.
After a few days, I realised that I was living for someone else by doing this and not myself. While I am hyper-aware of the dangers an lgbtq+ person can experience, and just danger in general, I don’t want to hide. We love to hold hands therefore we will do so and I will face this fear head-on.
These are just examples but the past few months have been about figuring out for myself when I need to ask for help with something or remove myself and when I need to not let my anxiety win. Choose your battles, right? In the past I would have been like a deer in headlights, unable to take any action for myself, now I am beginning to listen to my needs and honour them.
Anyway, there is a lot going on in my brain right now as we leave this book behind us and head into the next. I always feel a sense of loss when I move on from places, a loss for the short life I lived there. My life is split up into sections, the one where I went to Uni, the one when I travelled Southeast Asia all those years ago, my life in Australia, my life in New Zealand, and the past year of living out of a suitcase.
11 days until we step on a plane toward something new, just in time for my 27th year around the sun. In 37 days I fly back to Glasgow for the first time in four years.