So why did I come to Europe? Why is my blog name kraezfernweh? Why am I not liking it or having as much fun as I thought? Why is traveling and all these new amazing experiences so difficult for me?Well, let’s start with the easy question. My blog name is two different words. Kraez is a nickname I got in college after I got a little crazy on a sugar high from eating a chocolate treat and a chocolate shake. It’s a play on my first and middle names, Kelly Rae. Fernweh is a German word for homesick, a longing for a place you’ve never been, at least according to Pinterest. I thought the two sounded good together and WordPress said all my other ideas were taken already.
I came to Europe to try to get rid of anxiety. I had hiked the Appalachian trail and through hiking, God had healed me of depression. I wanted the same thing for anxiety. I struggled with depression for much of my high school, college and adult life, at times pretty severe. I resisted getting professional help, thinking that counseling was silly and refusing to experiment with antidepressants which could have all sorts of side effects, most of which I didn’t want to mess around with. I do not think antidepressants are wrong to take; I just knew that they weren’t for me.
Then, some bad stuff happened to me in college in Texas, parts of it from within the Christian community I’d become a part of. I remained calm, determined, and fearless, enough to finish my degree. I still struggled with my health and a cough that wouldn’t go away. I went to the ER when I couldn’t breathe and was dismissed with a diagnosis of panic attack. I laughed at that, thinking how wrong they were, that it must be allergies or something. Oh how wrong I was. Fast forward a bit, to when a guy at a church event complimented me. I couldn’t breathe, I was sweating and my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly hold onto my plate of food. I would later realize this was my first panic attack. As time went by, normal things got hard. Grocery shopping became incredibly difficult. I couldn’t decide between vanilla or strawberry yogurt. My brain would freeze and just not make a decision. I would usually end up not deciding and just walking out. As I tried to find a job, moved back home to where I had no community, things got worse. I had trouble sleeping at night and could only sleep as the sun broke across the horizon. It was difficult to make any decision in a reasonable amount of time, what to wear, to eat, how to compose emails, whether to go left at that green light, etc. I found two churches that I liked and tried to get involved but I was too weak to do anything but sit there. I bought a dog and she quickly became my best friend, needing me to get out of bed in the morning to feed her and walk her.
I decided to thruhike the Appalachian trail and it was the second most greatest decision of my life. The first being to follow Jesus. I believe I was healed of depression the instant I set foot on that Trail. I had one goal, to reach Mt Katahdin. This was easy to focus on and while it required great physical and mental strength, it was also quite simple to walk north through the wooded mountains. I finished feeling quite accomplished but knew life after trail would be difficult. It didn’t take long for the endorphins to wear off and for my troubles to come back tenfold. I had trouble getting used to society and civilization and my anxiety made it worse. I got a part time job doing cashiering and packaging at a UPS store. Trying to work more than 28hours a week absolutely exhausted me, to the point where I couldn’t even chew the food my mom had cooked for me. My arms and legs would feel like lead, too heavy to move. My neck would feel like it could no longer support my head. Going to church every Sunday made me shake so much I couldn’t breathe. Going to small group bible studies made me shake so hard I couldn’t speak. The place where I should’ve felt safest I felt terrified of. It got worse, I would shake so hard and have trouble breathing, I didn’t feel safe driving, making myself late to social events, making the anxiety even worse. I would try to be me, but would be unable to speak, leaving people bewildered.
I refuse to live like this anymore. I refuse to be silent. I struggle with (social) anxiety and PTSD like symptoms. When I get a panic attack, I shake (unnoticeable to most unless you are touching me), I can’t speak or have trouble forming sentences, I can’t make decisions, and I have trouble catching my breath. Please don’t tell me to just breathe or calm down. It’s not that easy. I don’t know what I want you to do. I don’t always have panic attacks but I do still feel anxious most of the time. I feel like I’m fighting with my body, against my body and mind most of the time. I know I should learn to work with my body in harmony, but that still looks like a fight. I know it’s irrational. It doesn’t make sense.
Traveling helps. It forces me to live in the uncomfort every minute. I must make a choice or risk losing much more. I have no choice but to meet people, in hostels, tours, and restaurants. I meet some amazing wonderful people, some friends for life. There are times when it’s just too much and I stand on the street corner and tears flood my cheeks. I back up into the walk of the nearest building and pray. God, fight this for me! I have no idea where I am or how to get to food, shelter or smiles. Traveling solo is difficult. Traveling solo dealing with anxiety is insane. I’m glad I came across the oceans, trust without borders.
The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
Pray with me.
Cry with me.
Walk with me.
Do messy with me.
Eat with me.
Laugh with me.
Be alone with me.
Fight with me.
Be still with me.
This doesn’t quite articulate all that I want or need to say but it comes close. I write this at 4am as I’m about to get on a plane to home after almost 3months of traveling so it might be more rambling word vomit than inspiring or thought provoking but that’s all I got.