Tonight, I write this blog; a slow ballad playing through my headphones singing songs about loneliness. One particular line is “run, run away lost boy.” The household has fallen silent as it is nearing midnight; my phone is shut off, as I only want to speak to the computer screen on nights like this, the only sound to be heard by anyone is the typing of this keyboard. Tears brim in my eyes, until they break free and run down my cheeks. The sound of silence reminds me of the silence I feel when I travel alone. I have mentioned how wonderful solo trips can be, and they are, but that’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks. Tonight, I reminisce to New York City.
January 1, 2016. It is just past 7 in the evening, the streets below me are buzzing with New Yorkers racing to their destinations as the tourists desperately soak in every moment and every sight. I lay in my bed in the hotel with tears in my eyes. All day, I had been receiving texts and messages from family, friends, and complete strangers telling me what an inspiration I am. I laugh until those sad chuckles become sobs of pain. Here I am in the greatest city in the United States, and I am crying in a small hotel room.
Exactly four years prior, I became involved with a man who emotionally and physically attacked me repeatedly, and had made an attempt on my life; I lived in fear for years, afraid he would find me, or worse my family. I was diagnosed with PTSD 2 years after the worse attack, which had occurred January 1, 2012. I tried to drown my PTSD with an eating disorder; I needed something to control, so I chose to punish and control my body. In 2015, I hit rock bottom. I knew I had a choice to make: exist in this world constantly looking over shoulder drowning in fear, or forgive him for his actions and live. I slowly began to recover. While it wasn’t easy to forgive him for his actions, it was damn near impossible to forgive myself; I never fought back, and instead of blaming him, I had blamed and punished myself for years.
My family had their suspicions about the man I had been dating, but did not know what to do; they did their best to help me, but I continued to lie about his actions. For years, they asked questions, wanting to know what happened; I felt like I would have disappointed them for not leaving right away. It strained our relationship for years, and I desperately wanted to have relationship with my family again. In the Fall of 2015, I came home one day and set my parents down and told them some of the things that had happened. My mother, with tears in her eyes, and my father just blankly staring to the side, sat quietly as I told them what had happened. I could see the pain in both of their eyes, but for the first time I felt safe.
As I lay in my bed in NYC, the sobs becoming quieter, I let out a breath and whispered to myself “I did it. We did it. I’m alive. I’m going to be okay.” For the first time, I believed it. I called a friend, someone who had recently learned about my attacks, and I couldn’t explain why I was crying. To try to put into words would be this: for the first time, I had been able to feel free from the chains that had been slowing dragging me into an abyss.
Traveling alone allows you to reflect on situations and memories that can be difficult. When I am at home, I try not to think of the attacks; it is hard to process and heal when you are being pulled in all different directions from family, friends, school, and other obligations. It is scary, and it is very lonely to hear nothing more than your own breath. If you plan on traveling alone, please be aware that it is not as easy as it looks. While it is good to spend time alone, I still try to call a friend or my immediate family once a day, so that I can know that I’m never truly alone in this great, big world.
Side note: today, March 1, I celebrate my one year anniversary of being clean from all eating disorders.