Headspace #21

This week’s anonymous mental health blog is another one that focuses on the challenges that we face after graduation. After several years of intense work and intense friendship the sudden isolation and lack of external purpose can be a bit like jumping off a treadmill at full sprint. In this case the anonymous writer spent 5 years stuck in call centres before discovering that the challenge and opportunity of travelling helped them find freedom from their anxiety. Please be aware this blog references self-harm.

(PS sorry for break – this was meant to be uploaded last week but I’ve been struggling with a bout of flu. I’m hoping normal service will resume now!)

How travelling transformed my mental health

I was born with a ptosis (droopy eye) and dyspraxia (coordination problems) so from an early age this caused self doubt and anxiety. It took me ages to be able to learn to ride a bike, to learn to drive, to walk, to swim, to write, basically everything took a lot longer and made me frustrated with myself. At Secondary School I was severely bullied throughout the 7 years I was there, however I did not realise it was bullying. As a result of all this, I had problems with self esteem, depression and anxiety. I haven’t told anyone this but I cut my arms on occasions. At school when I asked for help not much was done and very few people stuck up for me.

I went off to university, having felt like I hadn’t fitted in at school, I was afraid of going to university for the same thing, to be treated like I had been when I was at school so in order to fit in for the first couple of years I drank very heavily to fit in, I will fully admit now that I had a binge drinking problem and I used drinking as a way to fit in. For the first couple of years I was the drunk, the party guy, the one you knew to count on to be drunk most nights and that gave me identity. However during that time I met some absolutely incredible people who tried to get me back on the right path and I only appreciated them towards the end of university in my third year, as my social circles decreased because I was no longer drinking and no longer ‘fun’.

I have always struggled with new things but leaving university was at that time one of the most hardest change I had to encounter. I felt so lost and confused about what to do next and I missed the people I lived with and befriended incredibly. I still do to this day. I started a masters and I really struggled with my mental health as I was so anxious about leaving university and my life behind there, that I rarely went outside and I quit after 6 long weeks of depression as it was hard to get used to a new place.

From there I got very stuck working at Asda and various call centres for 5 years. I felt like that was what all I was good at or was possible for me to do. I got afraid of change and new things even more, like someone moving teams, adding a skillset in the call centre and meeting new people. Moving jobs to my second call centre job was very hard because it was such a change. I find most of the time when you leave people’s routine you do in essence leave their life for good. Call centres are very hard as you do tend to get a lot of abuse from customers. I got stuck in this anxious rut and thought that was it this was it: anxiety and call centres – that’s adulthood for me. A lot of friends tried to get me out of this rut but I just stayed in my rut thinking this is adult life just stuck in a rut.

Nationwide, the second call centre job I had, offered a career break
opportunity. After a particular bad day I decided to ask my manager to go on one these things and it changed my life.

Travelling taught me a lot of things- no matter whatever the problem faced, you are the only one who could solve it- wherever it is a cancelled flight, an earthquake, a typhoon. You are the only one who can make these decisions on what to do, I also learned that I should love myself more, I should value myself more. I felt so lost in the UK and weirdly travelling I felt so at ease and able to make decisions like this.

My anxiety lessened throughout my first travelling trip and when I came back, I think it was the day I came back I booked a TESOL course in Vietnam because I did not want to get into that rut of anxiety again.

The watershed moment that I had was sat on a hill in the dark at 1 am in Gilli T during the earthquake and I just thought to myself no point being worried or anxious whatever happens here on out is just going to happen regardless of whether I worry about it. I have taken that attitude and learnt to just go with it whenever there is an problem.

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