CN: mental health, eating disorders, past suicidal thoughts
I’ve been in India for just over a week now, and I couldn’t be happier. I feel so sappy; every time one of my friends sends a message asking how I’m doing, my reply is always the same. “It’s great,” I tell them that because I don’t have the words to explain what it’s like to be free again. I enjoy university, I love my course, the city and my friends, but I have somehow learnt to place my home in experiences rather than places.
I feel so much more laid back on this second visit to India, but I’m being sure to avoid becoming careless. Returning to Delhi has been special – read about it here! In a country where a wrong foot could put you under a rickety bus on a busy intersection, you can’t always afford to make mistakes. Errors are par for the course when travelling, but you’ve got to use your common sense. I know what to do now. My travel rhythm is just under my skin when I’m back in England – here it’s a static energy which makes the hair on my arms stand up. Even just after a couple of days, I love Mumbai differently to how I love Delhi, but it speaks to me like not many other places have.
Sometimes I am just hit by a wave of overwhelming relief, and I just really want to cry. Because I am living my best possible life here, and I’m doing it all on my own. But I don’t feel so distant from my life back in England this time. I don’t so much have my head in the clouds. I think it’s because I’m not running this time. I’m grounded in myself because I am not unhappy. Travel doesn’t solve everything, but I think it helped me put my pieces back together last year.
Time for some real talk.
Sounding preachy is never, ever, my intention. I had dinner and drinks with some guys from my hostel in Mumbai just last night, and as I was talking about my previous and current travels, it really struck me that I’ve managed to do quite a lot in the last year or so. And I am always so grateful for it, even though I seem to most people like I’m taking it all in my stride. I’ll never take this for granted.
Not that much more than a year ago, I was lying awake at night in my first-year halls at university, trudging through a course I hated with barely the motivation to get out of bed in the morning, thinking of the most painless way to end my life. So I cannot be anything but overwhelmingly glad to be alive whenever I step outside. Because I want to be here. I want to live. Not everyone gets a second chance. I don’t believe in a higher power. Even if I had some help along the way, from family and friends, from wherever that final kick to change might have come, in the end I gave that chance to myself.
I will challenge anyone who would criticize me for that, for taking off in the middle of the academic year and leaving a degree which would surely have given me a lucrative future career. I didn’t go travelling for a laugh, or to “find myself”, even though I guess I ended up doing so. I’ve never said this so publicly, or even to anyone but a few close friends. But anyone who knows me will tell you that I value honesty over nearly everything else. I left because I couldn’t see a life for myself in the next week, never mind in ten years’ time.
Deciding what to do to change my situation was hard. But I guess a part of me thought it was better to be clueless and without direction somewhere new where nobody knew me. Rather that than back home under the weight of my and others’ expectations. I was sick at heart, and I don’t think that depression is something I can ever truly shake. But it’s alright – it’s manageable. A history of mental health problems which will probably follow me for years to come isn’t a reason to hold any part of myself back from going where my heart tells me to go.
I am not looking for anything now. I take joy in being able to eat until I am full without fearing that it will stop me from being able to feel the bones at my hips, or linking my fingers around my wrist. The colours of my life are so much more vivid now that I am not trying to shrink myself into a space smaller than who I am supposed to be. At the end of this trip, I’m going back to a life which I’m happy to call mine. Even though it’s not always perfect.
I have embraced the parts of me which I used to hate for making me weak. And I know that makes me a bit intense, too much for some people, a lot of the time. “Wow, she’s forward. She speaks her mind. Ever heard of over-sharing?” Well, yeah. But I’m not going to dull my colours or file my edges for someone who doesn’t know what I’ve experienced. Someone doesn’t know why I’ve decided that being completely myself isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s not weak to admit you’ve been through your own personal hell, and come out alright on the other side. Shame on anyone who’d say it’s wrong.
You always think your problems are the end of everything, when you’re in the thick of it. Even if I’m crying a little bit for writing this and putting it out for anyone to see, I can’t deny it’s pretty cathartic. I’ll always laugh when people say I’m brave for travelling alone. After everything else, that’s the easy bit.
If anyone is looking for a sign that they should stick around, this is it. There’s more to the mortal coil than you think.