From an outsider’s perspective, everyone thought I was living every fresh college graduate’s dream. I was seeing the world, moving to foreign countries and finding love along the way; a lifestyle everyone envisions as being the best way to live out your early 20's.
But I harbored a huge secret: I was really, really depressed.
Little did everyone know, I had just escaped a verbally abusive relationship. I kid you not, up until I went through TSA, he was there, the boy that left me as a shadow of myself, waving goodbye.
I also hid the fact that I decided to forgo checking into rehab for my eating disorder. Against my therapist’s wishes, I thought exploring the world would solve all my problems. Or at least, I wouldn’t be able to have such strict food rules if I was in a foreign country.
I tricked myself into believing that moving across the world would allow me to let go of the parts of myself that I hated. I really thought I could reinvent myself; that these foreign lands held a new life for me. I could escape everything back home that made me so unhappy. I would finally just be myself.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I arrived in my first home abroad, China, I quickly gave into letting all of my restraints go. I ate all of the food I saw; I partied with all of my new expat friends; I said yes to every trip people invited me on.
The veil I put over my issues only covered them for so long though. Before I even realized it, everything I hated about myself was back and worse than ever.
I went through a vicious cycle of binging, purging, and restricting. I endured countless issues with my stomach since my digestive system wasn’t used to normal patterns of eating. I tried to hold on to the thin body that anorexia gave me but to no avail.
I sought comfort in the men I met. I quickly accepted the attention I received from the first guy that gave it to me. And then the second. Then the third.
I spent Christmas paralyzed with fear because of a panic attack in my apartment in Chengdu, instead of enjoying the night and drinking eggnog with my friends.
I hurt the guy that eventually became my boyfriend while I was there— countless of times.
I started to blame China for how I felt: I was depressed because of the weather; the skies were always grey due to the smog.
Not knowing how to cope with all the pain and self-loathing I felt inside, I sought happiness by, once again, moving to another country. I left China behind and moved to Barcelona to work as an au pair for a family; everything got exponentially worse.
Spain ended up being my rock bottom. I arrived in Barcelona with a pit in my heart, a mind filled with self-hate, and absolutely zero understanding of what was going on with me.
Living with that family in Spain, I felt like an outsider and isolated from everyone. A perfect little mixture to perpetuate my depression.
When the sadness became too much, I decided to leave the family for a few days and take a weekend trip to the town of Girona.
It’s hard to think about this trip. At the time, it was the closest I came to ending my own life. My depression and isolation filled me with so much grief, it was hard to see any hope; I didn’t want to suffer like this anymore.
After I arrived back in Barcelona, I knew I needed professional help. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure, but I moved back to the United States. I couldn’t try to run away from myself any longer.
We all go through different paths and learn our lessons in our own time. I can see clearly now that checking into rehab would’ve been a better choice than moving to China, but I guess I just wasn’t ready to realize that yet. I needed to really hit rock bottom until I was open to doing the inner work.
But now I know that the saying “The grass is greener where you water it,” is true. Run all you want; travel to foreign lands; keep seeking comfort in new places — you’ll never escape your pains.
Pain is deep-rooted. Each of us carries our own scars deep within us. We can’t escape them — they’re part of us.
Embedded within our subconscious are all the traumatic events, heartbreaks, and toxic narratives. Hopping on a plane won’t magically rid you of them.
Choosing to be vulnerable with yourself and beginning the deep work is where the healing lies.
Depression is a tricky bastard to overcome. Actually, I’m not sure I’ll ever “overcome” my depression — I think it will always be something lingering below the surface. Ready to manifest at the slightest misstep.
Seeking help with a therapist and checking into rehab taught me an arsenal of tools to combat the days when depression starts to creep up though.
My outlook on myself, love, self-confidence, boundaries, and how to live authentically all drastically changed when I started therapy. I finally allowed myself the time to stay put and dig deep. There was no more running — this is what needed to be done.
Sometimes I wish someone could’ve shaken and handcuffed my younger self to a chair when I decided to travel instead of dealing with my depression. I know I would’ve enjoyed my first year abroad so much more if I wasn’t trying to run away from my pain.
Maybe I would’ve made more meaningful friendships and would’ve hurt fewer people along the way. Maybe I would’ve stayed abroad longer.
But all we can control is our next step. And whether you deal with your problems now, or later, you’ll eventually have to confront them.
So will you choose to heal or will you decide to run away?