She's waiting. Sitting on the hard, formal, chairs of the airport lounge with tears quietly running down her face. Others, talking excitedly, walk past but as they see her they turn their heads away to avoid eye contact. Pretending she's not there. Not one person offering even the kindness of a smile. The reassurance of a gaze.
To others, she doesn't feel she even exists. Invisible. Just like her thoughts. If only they knew. If only they could see. Would then someone be kind enough to smile? To offer a kind word? To just understand?
Life with anxiety. Where even a positive happy experience can be turned into a mountain of fear. Terrified of what could possibly go wrong. Trauma reoccurring. Just as it did before. Those experiences that over time shaped her into what others see as a nervous wreck.
"Sitting here waiting... waiting... I'm waiting for my holiday but inside I'm sitting here waiting for brain surgery again. Waiting for something where I have no control of the outcome and am terrified at the possible prospects.
So now, I'm overthinking all the 'what if's' and just feel scared. I don't know what will happen. I can never know.
I just have to trust. Again.
Accept that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has reared in ugly head again and in that acknowledgement it's a kind of release.
A fear still, but a release.
I might be crying at an airport terminal, or tears streaming down my face on the plane. But it’s OK.
I trust it’s OK.
I have to.
There is no other way.
I've won far harder battles before."
It doesn't matter if her anxiety is caused from nervousness, excitement, or downright fear. Her body just feels the same, it responds in the same way. Blank. Empty. Full of terror. Her fuzzy brain magnifying once again into the floaty, wobbly feeling she has been accustomed to for the last 6 years.
The invisible injury of a cerebellar brain tumour and the surgery to remove it. The resulting brain fog, loss of balance, coordination, and fatigue. A brain injury. The loss of words when her brain feels like its shutting down. Unable to explain to even to those who love her and will listen.
Other people, most of the time, think she looks vibrant, healthy, and well; they cannot see the inside injury. Her scar is invisible, some of it hidden by her trademark red curly hair, the rest is internal. Her trauma is in her brain. But then there is the judgement of her looking and sounding like she's drunk, when in fact she's just tired. Sometimes physically tired, but others just emotionally.
An invisible illness.
A life where she often doesn’t belong.
Only a few understand the fight every day to keep going. Finding the joy and happiness in life rather than be drowned by the fear, getting frustrated by the parts of her she lost in exchange for her life.
Yet, most days she smiles, talks to anyone, especially those that she can feel also need the comfort. She can tell. She senses their pain. She knows the frequency they are resonating. Always there for anyone who needs her. Others saying she's the only one who cares. Who understands. Thanking her for helping them deal with their own anxiety and trauma. Thanking her for her support and encouragement, her advice and experience. No matter the cause.
She's the one who tries to be there. To stop others feeling that pain she's felt far too many times before, when she felt all alone and that nobody else understands.
A life full of anxiety. Anxiety that was only able to be acknowledged by others when they classed it as a 'traumatic experience'. Her thoughts and her life before that didn't count. No one saw her pain, even those that knew what was happening. They turned the other way, although they knew the traumas she endured, but they never uttered a word, never gave her support. Never said sorry. Her pain has always been invisible. So, she just kept silent. She learnt that no one listened when she shouted anyway.
Her emotions never mattered to those they should have. They were a nuisance, not easy to face. It was easier to say she was too emotional and distract her. So as a consequence, they stayed bottled up inside until they could no longer stay hidden. When she had a valid ‘excuse’ to be upset. When it all exploded.
The release from finally being allowed to cry.
So now, once again, she sobs, tears releasing the memories hidden in her cells. The feelings that need to be expressed to be able to move on from.
She may look weak, crying, and pathetic. Yet she is stronger than many in allowing others to see the real her. In keeping going when she wants to stop. Caring when others can't see pain. Loving when others see hate or anger. That’s stronger than most of those people that walked past her blankly, grabbing a beer on the plane, a drag on a cigarette, to keep them going. She’s facing her fears head on, letting them wash through her to be released.
As she fights every day, both from people not seeing her struggles nor those invisible fears and demons in her head.
The ones she wants to remove from the rest of the world too.
The strange thing... when she sees others in that same place as herself. She smiles, asks are they OK. She listens. She cares.
Silently she sits on the plane, eyes shut, listening to a meditation on her phone, taking it one breath at a time. Allowing the physical discomfort in her head from the altitude of the plane to wash over her, along with the discomfort of her mind. Reminding herself it will pass. It always has.
Her husband is holding her hand, but right now she can’t even explain it to him, she can’t easily explain it to herself, plus her thoughts are too painful to say out loud, then there are others she wouldn’t want to hear what she says. She doesn’t need the judgement now. So, she smiles at him, says she’s OK and needs to zone out, while fully appreciating the strength and support his presence brings. She couldn’t do it alone.
She keeps going. She has to trust.
She's more than halfway there when she gets off the plane. The heat hitting her like a wall to bring her back to reality. Once again, she's fought the demons in her head, so now she’s feeling blank, exhausted, and empty. Yet still trying to act normal and not draw attention to herself when really, she just wants to sit down alone. Maybe get some sleep, the easiest way to be able to restart again.
In the car ride, she can feel her soul start to relax... that familiar smell, the sound of crickets chirping, the warm air, the amazing views, the sights she's missed so much... she knows the way although she hadn't been back for years.
It's been so hard to travel for a while. Brain surgery, having to be cared for, fatigued, not able to cope with planning or change. Not to mention that having no money from her husband losing his business while having to look after her and the family, playing a rather large part! Then lockdown, isolation, rules she couldn’t agree with…
Now, for the first time in decades, its just the two of them alone.
Eventually, she arrives at the village she's known for 37 years... loved since she was 11.
The place that as a child she never wanted to leave. Where she dreamed of living in a villa with an olive grove, being able to fall asleep hearing only the sound of the sea, of nature, of her joy.
Not much has changed. She just appreciates it even more now.
As she finally sits down in the sun. Feeling the much-needed warmth on her skin, hearing nothing but the sound of waves, leaves rustling in the breeze and the crickets. Swallows and butterflies flying all around her.
She cries a bit more. But this time it's tears of joy.
They are welcoming her home… once again she feels she belongs in this world.
Her soul can finally start to heal.