**Trigger warning: Sexual trauma**
As I write this, I sit in the middle seat of Row 23, glancing out the window at the clouds below as Flight 807 leads me home.
I’d never been to Chicago before, and I wasn’t disappointed. I caught Lake Michigan on a windy day and felt waves bigger than the ocean. I found the biggest rubber duck I’ve ever seen (we named him Aqueductus, and yes, I brought him home with me). I had a pumpkin hazelnut sundae, the best gluten-free muffin I’ve ever eaten, and chocolate banana tea, and I sang karaoke for the first time in years (my Diva self had never been so elated).
But the most significant part of this trip wasn’t the waters, the nightlife, or even seeing my best friend (love you so much). The most significant part of this trip was that I made the journey alone.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presents itself in so many ways and is unique to all of us who experience it. Overall, I’ve tended to be much more public about my mental illness experiences than my PTSD. Mental illness is an alteration in brain chemistry, and because of that, I hold no self-blame around it.
With trauma, I find it much easier to ask myself,
“Could I have prevented this?”
“Why did I stay?”
“Was this my fault?”
I’ve hesitated to talk about the way PTSD manifests in my day-to-day life, because a part of me still does believe that I could’ve prevented all of it, if only I was stronger, if only I didn’t love so deeply, if only I chose to walk away. I’m working to heal that beautiful part everyday, and this is part of that process. When we tell our story, we prove there’s nothing we need to keep in the dark; there’s no need for shame.
The last time I traveled by myself, I was 17. When I was 17, I experienced my first rape. I took one trip by myself shortly after the rape occurred, and when I came home, I dropped out of school, fell into a crowd that left me spiraling, and slipped into reckless behaviors. Any trip that came after that had me turning immediately to my family or significant other for companionship.
It didn’t hit me how strong my beliefs surrounding travel had become until my long-term companion and I parted ways over the summer.
All of the sudden, I found myself thinking, “Great, now I’ll never get to see this place, or that place. I would never be capable of going without them.”
I’ve wanted to travel for years. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from my own mind: That having a partner to keep me safe was the only way I could let myself see the world.
The beautiful thing about beliefs, though, is that once we’re aware of them, we have the power to change them.
I asked myself what I wanted my beliefs to be.
“I am capable of traveling independently,” I answered myself. “I love seeing the world on my own, and I keep myself safe.”
I began implementing mantras around travel and independence into my life, and I finally felt my thirst for sightseeing returning to me.
And on Friday, November 2nd, I took my first solo flight in 8 years to a bustling city full of beautiful sights and beautiful people.
I’ve begun creating my travel schedule for the coming year and have four trips planned so far.
In winter of 2020, I plan to travel internationally.
I used to accept my beliefs as facts. I’ve recently learned that beliefs are just that: beliefs. They are changeable. Those changes aren’t easy - but they sure as hell are worth it.
What’s your dream reality, babe? It’s time to create it. The power is yours.