Last week, after almost six years at the same company, I quit my job to go travel. It’s a scary feeling, I loved my job and I was good at it but something just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t living my own life. I didn’t even know what living my own life means. For as long as I can remember I’ve been living the life others expect of me. I’ve been adjusting myself to the expectations of my parents or the needs of my past relationships and friends. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost the power to look after my own needs because I don’t know what they are anymore.

3 years ago I’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression. This basically means I’ve never been able to be happy and probably never will. Hearing this was such a relief. I felt like I finally understood why I’ve been the way I’ve been. For as long as I can remember I’ve had the feeling of being  by myself. I was always convincing myself I wasn’t good enough and had to adjust myself to fit in, resulting in situations that would psychologically exhaust and damage me. Even though I have some good friends and a family who supports me, I’ve always felt lonely and had panic attacks when social occasion occurred. Now I knew what it was and could stop searching for answers and start working on it.

Through therapy I’ve learned some tools to deal with those anxiety attacks and go through life more peacefully. Still I often feel alone and lost in this world. I realise that this is something I’ll have to work on for ever because I will probably carry it with me for the rest of my life.

Doubt and panic is part of my daily routine. I hide it well.

At work and among friends I’ve always been the cheery one, the one who jokes a lot. This has been a big part of my protection shield. If I made people laugh, they wouldn’t know how unhappy I was. When I told people about it they often didn’t understand and told me to “just act normal” or “be more relaxed”. As if they’d think I enjoyed acting like that to get attention. I can tell you, when I’m having an anxiety attack, attention is the last thing I want. I just want to be left alone and disappear.

In relationships I’ve always been attracted to strong personalities. Which made me even more insecure about myself. A lot of my past partners where  guys who’d tell me I wasn’t manly enough, smart enough, interesting enough, beautiful enough, … to be their boyfriend. I was just a nice fuck they wanted to keep a secret but never boyfriend material. At one point I didn’t even dare to go on dates anymore. Because why would I? This guy would end up using and hurting me anyway. That’s what I believed. Why go through the trouble of sitting in a crowded bar with someone who will hurt you if you can also see a good movie by yourself.

To create a safe space for myself, I often go to the movies by myself. Sitting alone in the dark, being carried away by a great story is my ultimate happy place.

Ever since I was a child, movies have played a healing part in my life. At school I didn’t have any friends because I wasn’t very socially. So when the other kids would start going out and have fun, I was at home watching a movie.

Until this day there is nothing that makes me happier.

As much as I love this, it is a dangerous path for me to be on. Excluding myself from social events has always felt safe. If I was by myself, there was nobody who could disappoint or hurt me. But at the same time it’s also a habit that feeds my loneliness.

The point of my travel plans is to find out what really makes me happy and teach myself to be more open to people I don’t know. I believe that ripping myself out of my comfort zone and adding some radical changes to my life will also make me appreciate it more. I want to be happy with who I am and not care about what other people think of me. This is advice I’ve already been giving to friends but never learned to master myself. That’s why I want to get away of the things that have been holding me back in my life. At this point I don’t know yet where my plans will take me. It could happen that I’ll miss Belgium and come back in a couple of months. It could also be that I’ll discover a joy in life I never experienced before and stay abroad. I’ve always thought I needed to move to The Netherlands to find my happiness but then I thought, why not go even further and go see some of the places I’ve always wanted to see before I decide to look for a new job and settle down again somewhere. I don’t know what will happen in the next six months and that is extremely scary and has given me several sleepless nights. Especially the financial aspect worries me at this point.

But for the first time in my life I feel happy about a choice I’ve made because it is my own choice for my own life.