When we first moved overseas and started our Slow Traveling journey through SE Asia, I noticed an almost instant change in my sleeping habits. I finally could sleep at night after years and years of self-diagnosed insomnia. I was able to lay down at a reasonable hour and fall asleep in minutes instead of three hours later, if ever.
It took me six months after the move to realize that I had been suffering from internalized anxiety and that it had started affecting my sleep patterns right around the time trauma entered my childhood and continued into my life as part of my daily existence. So much so that I normalized it, similar to how my trauma was normalized by my family. And if I'm being honest it is still being normalized today in my family with the younger generation. I can't imagine what the youth that are being raised today will do.
This blog isn't about that though; it's about me realizing that moving abroad saved my life.
In simple terms, moving overseas allowed me room to breathe. Moving abroad gave me space to allow my mind to rest, my soul to release. And so many other things. Moving overseas allowed me to open up to my wife about things I thought were long buried, to accept my truths, to acknowledge how I was hurt and where I am currently hurting.
I'm one of those people who proudly and loudly say if I don't know myself I don't know anyone else. Because in my mind, I took lots of time for introspection. Yearly check-ins, yearly changing of habits, good and bad. The reality is that when you are living daily in a high stress environment that is centered in racism, misogyny, and having to code-switch to survive, you don't have the time really needed or the inner healing space required for true introspection. And this after 10 years of building and living in my LGBTQI Women of Color retreat (Shades Retreat).
We've been on the road for two years, and the first year was me adjusting to living abroad and recognizing my stress levels decreasing gradually. Never totally fading while becoming manageable and more normal everyday ones that I'm assuming most people experience--those who aren't Black, or come from a history of abuse and all the rest of isms.
Moving abroad, I really took the time to get to know me better, to delve into why I responded to certain things the way I did, where I could improve, and maybe where I was just okay.
Soon after arriving to Mexico, I started noticing that my body wasn't liking things anymore, well they weren't liking the things they didn't like in the past a lot more. My allergies, which had been manageable on my journeys so far, went to 10! Certain foods didn't settle right anymore, and my skin turned into an enemy with constant outbreaks from hives and contact dermatitis.
At first I thought it was just getting older, living life, new surroundings, work issues. The usual deflections that have worked in the past. They didn't work this time.
One day in the middle of it all, the switch flipped! It was really a simple matter of my body, which had done "good" by me so far, finally giving in. Giving in after supporting me and my internalized stress and releasing the support at the exact moment when I had "relaxed" enough. Enough to handle all of the issues that were now cropping up.
Issues that I'm tackling one at a time, with plenty of time. Less stress and less expense if I'm being brutally honest. I'm thankful that my recent medical issues didn't happen in the U.S. I can only imagine the bills and the added stress if in the U.S.
Don't get me wrong, these issues would have eventually popped up in the U.S., but I personally think much later and worse. Worse in terms of health and my capacity to deal with and heal from without being placed on 50/11 pills a day. Add to the stress of finding a good unbiased doctor to assist me a plus-sized Black woman without only focusing on my weight and the idea that I'm only there for the medication. Although I guess we should be thankful for that bias when it comes to the ongoing opioid epidemic that currently has the U.S in its grip and that affects significantly more whites than Blacks.
I wanted to share my story as a cautionary tale. Not a bad one, mind you, but one that says, "Hey Sistas and Brotha's, once you reach true peace, your body might act a fool." Be prepared and mindful that although your health isn't the greatest, you may be at the most peaceful point in your life. Take your time healing and remain at peace. It was hard won.