Thanks for the photo, Luke!
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed some tweets of mine including the hashtag:
. At this point, these tweets have all been excitable bursts sharing my preparation for the trip - but now I'd like to share what the trip is in aid of, as well as the importance of it - particularly as I know it is guaranteed to change my life.
, where I listed twenty-five things I aim to complete before I reach twenty-five, I included that I wanted to 'show anxiety who's boss'. I have suffered with some form of Generalised Anxiety Disorder for as long as I can remember, but in my last round of CBT, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety. I've always seen myself as a quiet, shy and introverted person, so thought my concerns and the choices I made to isolate myself had come from that, but I was wrong. Learning I was suffering with Social Anxiety opened up a whole new world to me. It made sense of all the worries I had, the times I shut myself away, and my avoidance of social gatherings; even those with close friends and family, because of the inexplicable, yet overwhelming sense of dread I experienced at the thought of it all.
As I began to understand my once seemingly natural reactions, feelings and thoughts as symptoms of an illness, the more I realised that I could do something about them. Admittedly it felt terrifying to face them at first, but I found it scarier to consider just how long I'd been living in fear due to this undiagnosed disorder, as well as how much it had dictated my life and the person I had become. It made me into someone I didn't want to be; someone who was constantly on edge, withdrawn and terribly self conscious. I knew that it didn't have to be this way. I knew that mental illness did not define me and that I could change this.
Now I was ready to tackle Social Anxiety head on, I began coming up with ways I could face it. It started off with meeting friends I hadn't been able to bring myself to see for years, and ended up with going to Manchester to meet a bunch of rad bloggers I'd met on Twitter. Attending
felt like the biggest thing I'd ever done in my entire life. I remember sitting on the train home trying to hide an almighty grin and fight back tears of pride. I couldn't wrap my head around how far I had come.
Yet there has been something inside of me that has wanted to go one better. One bigger. I wanted to do something I deemed "scarier". And so, I did the thing I never thought I would be able to do... I booked a holiday to a destination over 5,000 miles from home, where I'll be flying solo (for the first time) on a long haul flight, and travelling across California with a bunch of strangers at the other end of it.
I'm every emotion all at once.
This trip is such a leap from my comfort zone - but that's the whole point. Whilst the symptoms of Social Anxiety do linger, as I have become more confident with facing it, the obstacles it creates for me have thankfully become fewer and farther between. Although I have already noticed old thought patterns and behaviours resurfacing, there is no better time to put them right back in their place than now.
I'm determined not to let any aspect of this trip slip me by, and so I am journalling every single detail, and will be sharing updates through the hashtag #siantreksamerica on
. I'll be jetting off mid May - which isn't too far off now at all! Wish me luck!