On my Facebook this morning a memory popped up of a blog post I’d shared two years ago, when I was living in Melbourne. That year, I lived on Rae Street in Fitzroy North, and kept a blog titled Sophie Rae Street, where I wrote about settling into a new city, not dissimilar in title or intention from this blog I’m writing on now.
The post that popped up was one of the first times I’d written about my experience of living with anxiety, which I acknowledged in that post had been a years-long experience I’d only properly named since seeing a psychologist in 2015. For me, that diagnosis was freeing — I had a real condition that paid professionals are deployed to treat, I wasn’t just being a weakling incapable of navigating normal life — but I appreciate that for others it’s not necessarily the same.
Something I believe to be universal, though, is the comfort, the validation, the affirmation that comes from sharing another’s experience.
Here’s an extract from that post:
It started off fine. It was my first day back in Melbourne after a whirlwind trip to Perth, and with the time difference and the night flight I slept in until 11. I did errands and washing – I didn’t see anyone I knew – and I filled in my eyebrows, and thought to take a photo. As I stood in the bathroom, I started thinking, and this sense of uncertainty and unsteadiness just crept over me. My lip trembled and my energy drained and I felt flat, limp, weak; scared, and then I teared up. Hot little tears and ragged short breaths and gasping, and with my thumb still on the camera button I got a shot of my panicked, pinched face. If I was a thousand times braver I’d have posted that several hours later, as I lay in bed debating whether to offer the internet the coy, half-smiling, cute version of that person in the bathroom mirror – on the other side of a fast ride to work, a few very fun, happy hours in the Oaktree office, a bowl of stir-fried noodles and an afternoon in my favourite jeans.
I shared the memory post on my Facebook with the caption: I will share this every single year, and although most of the readers of this blog are Facebook friends of mine I know several are not, so I’d like to share this here, too.
Here’s my first go at writing about living with anxiety.
Without allowing this Timor-Leste blog to descend entirely into being a dear-diary experiment of my mental health, if you’re interested in the intersection of living abroad and living with anxiety, here are links to a few (just a few lol) more posts you can read:
Is my anxiety better or worse in Timor-Leste than it was back home?
On being easygoing and not needing to control everything in sanguine Timor-Leste
Ethical questions I don’t know the answers to in a new context: Who tells Timor-Leste’s stories? and What do you do when a stranger on the street asks you for money?
Despair over the thought that I’ll never learn another language
Living with a different diet and a history of disordered eating: Fear foods, and (tongue-in-cheek) Diet tips from the tropics!
On having high expectations for myself and forgetting I don’t need to know everything: Everything I haven’t done, Toppling over, Linocuts + nut milk, A week la diak
The time I thought moving to a tropical island was a prison sentence, not a privilege
Related: forgetting it would be fun, being jealous of a friend with a life identical to mine, on FOMO and self-pity
A favourite topic! Perfectionism. The time I fucked up Korean pancakes. The time I fucked up a reading list. The time I fucked up a list of goals. The time I fucked up a driving lesson. The time I fucked up a work meeting. The time I fucked up filling my car tyres.
On setting arbitrary rules to feel in control (and should I move to Jakarta?)
A comparison: what my life looks like on the outside versus what it looks like on the inside
A classic foreigner-abroad problem — the six-month slump, and what helped me out of it
On protecting my ego and being a know-it-all
Grappling with privilege and guilt and expectations
On feeling present: OJ calm, Unspectacular but adequate, Keeping your balance,
And finally, one of my very first posts on this blog: A weekend in between. In which I remind myself, for the first time of ten thousand times, to exhale, to slow down, to let it all happen to me and to turn down the volume in my head for the things Timor is telling me.
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