I know, I know....I've been quite "absent" lately. No blog posts for three+ months and not posting much on social media. Believe me, this is not the blog post I want to write, however, I do believe it's an important one. So let's talk about mental health.
First of all, I know I will be ok. Brad is a wonderful, patient, caring, and supportive partner. I also have an amazing support system of wonderful friends and family members. Additionally, I recently visited with my doctor on our trip home late September to discuss my options. In summary, I have been dealing with feeling isolated, depressed, lonely, sad, lost, and a bit numb to name a few recent emotions. I feel fortunate to recognize that I'm struggling. I know I can work through this and get back to feeling like myself again.
Second, I am always incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to live life on my own terms. I know not everyone has the means, ability, or choices I currently have. I also understand there are always going to be bigger problems going on in the world. I am simply sharing my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences here. I am not ashamed of how I'm feeling and I hope anyone reading who can relate will also know that your feelings are valid. You matter.
"We don't wear signs that illustrate our personal struggles. Give every person you encounter a break. You have no idea what their struggles are."
Brene Brown (author, researcher, podcaster, and one of my all-time favorite people in the world!) said it best in her podcast on comparative suffering: "Without thinking, many of us rank our hurt, pain, and suffering in order to deny or give ourselves permission to not feel. We tell ourselves that our emotions do not score as high on the suffering board. Other people have it so much worse than me." She goes on to say, "The entire myth of comparative suffering comes from the belief that empathy is finite. False. In contrast, when we practice empathy with ourselves and others, we create more empathy. This is the last thing we need to ration in the world. Your friend with cancer doesn't benefit more because you reserve your kindness for only her and withhold it from yourself and your sister-in-law who just lost her job. The surest way to ensure that you have a reserve of compassion and empathy for others is to attend to your own feelings."
Why I am telling you this? Not just to explain my absence. You see, I'm known as the cheerful one. The one everyone else comes to when they need a shoulder. The one who listens, tries to never judge, and wants to understand. I'm the one smiling, laughing, and described as bubbly. Anyone who knows me well would say I'm a positive, look-on-the-bright-side kind of person. I exude warmth and am considered "strong". I freely give my love and attention to others in distress but find it difficult to ask for the same. I find it easy to hide my own pain from others, but realize this isn't healthy. It's a work in progress - I'm a work in progress. Not everything you see on the outside matches how someone feels on the inside. Everyone struggles at some point in their own life. I never want to portray a life that is perfect or always amazing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don't need help." - Glennon Doyle
In search of answers, I've been journaling and looking inward to find anything that may be contributing to my feelings of depression. As anyone who struggles with mental health will tell you, it's never just one thing. I've had several big life changes in the last year, in addition to a million smaller things. Factors at play for me include:
No longer working full-time/retiring: who knew that selling everything, quitting your job, and moving to multiple different countries would make a person feel THIS way!? I couldn't have predicted it.
Grief is likely playing a role. In the last 18 months, Brad lost his best friend and one of my best friend's daughters died. Those are hard things for anyone.
Speaking of grief, our beloved dog Libby died in April. Anyone who loves animals like we do knows how heartbreaking this can be.
Missing our children, family, and friends back home takes a toll. We have basically lived our lives in one place until last year, so feeling isolated from our "people" is very new to us.
Figuring out what works for us & what doesn't while traveling. We now know that moving too quickly is a definite NO from both of us. We like to settle in, unpack our suitcases, and get to know a place for at least a month, if possible. Unfortunately, we only understood this by doing the opposite, which was incredibly stressful.
Lack of social interaction/connection/community. While we've had friends visit (thank you!!) or who we visited along the way, it is very different than having nearly daily interactions with people who know you well.
Menopause. Oh God, do I need to say more?
Over the last few months, I've found some things that help or at least make me feel a little less "off":
Establishing routines: this is difficult on the road, however, we are both working on maintaining more of these.
Having pets around as often as possible: we prefer to pet-sit because having animals around brings us so much joy!
Finding "community" wherever we are: we have started joining meetups with fellow nomads and it has made such a difference.
Being grateful and counting my blessings every day.
Journaling: writing down my thoughts and feelings always helps me understand them more clearly.
Listening to my body and just letting myself do nothing if that's what I need.
Cultivating more nomad friends.
Joining expat groups in cities we're scheduled to visit: Facebook is great for this and has been a helpful resource prior to arriving in a new place.
Reading motivational books. I just finished "Everything is Figureoutable" by Marie Forleo. Excellent read. Another recent favorite is "The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life" by Dr. Edith Eger. She is a holocaust survivor turned psychologist who writes about stopping destructive patterns to find freedom and joy in your own life.
Reaching out to friends for video chats over coffee or wine. It's nice to keep in touch with people from home!
Always remember that not everything you see on Instagram, Facebook, or anywhere else online, is real life. You're only getting a highlight reel - most of the time their "best self". No one likes showing up as their worst self. The photos to the left show this perfectly. The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy is one of the most beautiful sites but the online photos never show how utterly crowded it always is. I couldn't wait to get out of that area! The second two photos are of me - one I've posted on Instagram and the other, well, not so much. HA! HA! HA!
I may not be the best version of myself right now, but I know she's still in there. I'll wade through these weeds and find her eventually. Until then, I'm planning to let myself just be. Give myself grace to sit in these uncomfortable feelings. In the end, I know this growth will be something positive I look back on years from now. After all, my 2023 Word of the Year was GROW!
"Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be." - Sonia Ricotti
Where In The World ARE We and What's Next?
Much has happened in the last several months. We left the UK the end of August and headed to Split, Croatia for nearly a month. This gem of a seaport on the Adriatic Sea, directly across from Italy, captured our hearts immediately. Some dear, amazing friends met us for a week's vacation and we enjoyed exploring all the city and islands had to offer. Did you know Croatia has 1,244 islands? Me either! Only 49 are inhabited, but still. The water was so clear, you could see down 30-50 feet in places. We've already decided to come back one day to explore the rest of the Dalmatian Coast as well as the interior of Croatia since we only scratched the surface.
The end of September, we left Split, boarded an overnight ferry, and woke up the following morning in Ancona, Italy. After a short layover, we boarded a train, which took us across Italy and arrived in Rome by lunchtime. This was our first taste of Italy and we didn't even scrape the surface. We spent 3 days in Rome before flying home for a quick 4-day visit with family & friends. It was a whirlwind, however, it filled our cups for the next several months.
We have been in Mexico City, Mexico (CDMX) since October 1 and are thoroughly enjoying this cosmopolitan city. It is a magical mix of old & new, traditional & colonial. As you can imagine, the food is outstanding. Some interesting things I didn't know before arriving here:
It is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of over 22 million.
It sits at an elevation of 7,350 ft (2,240m). So although Denver, CO, USA is known as the mile-high city, CDMX is known as the mile & a half high city!
Chapultepec Park inside the city is twice the size of New York’s Central Park.
Nearly 1.6 Americans live in Mexico, making it the largest population living outside the USA.
While any major city has crime issues, as of December 2022, CDMX is safer than Dallas, Miami, and Denver when comparing homicide rates per capita for these US cities.
CDMX is the 8th wealthiest city in the world.
The city is built on top of a lake that is constantly sinking. Estimates say it has sunk almost 30 ft in the last 100 years.
It has the largest number of museums in the world - over 180!
We'll spend 6 weeks in CDMX before moving to Oaxaca City for a month. After that, we head to Costa Rica and then probably Guatemala. We plan to stay in Central America until May, then head back to North Dakota for a couple weeks visit.
Speaking of North Dakota, I hear you got your first snow this week?! I can honestly say I don't miss that one single bit!
Cheers, Peace, Love, and Kindness,