I asked myself the question, “Why am I alive?” nearly every day for most of my life up until about three years ago. I know I am not alone in this. In fact, September is the National Prevention Suicide Month.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. 47,173 Americans died by suicide in the year 2017 alone. The number for actual attempts is a lot higher and still many attempts and suicides go unreported. There is so much stigma around mental illness and it is still grossly misunderstood. People are scared to get help.
Each time another celebrity or public figure commits suicide, all across social media you will see posts about how happy they seemed. People are confused as to how individuals who seemingly had it all could take their own life.
The truth is that there is no face of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.. are illnesses that do not discriminate based on race, age, or status. Everyone is fair game.
I could not understand why I couldn’t just be happy. I desperately longed for happiness and I sought it out in all the wrong places. Surely, if I got married, got a degree, bought a house, and had another baby I would be happy. Wrong!
The truth of the matter is that happiness is within. It is with you. You have to quiet the distractions and noise of the outside world in order to truly experience happiness.
There are some of us have to fight on a daily basis just to get out of bed, brush our teeth, take a shower, and get dressed. Happiness seems to be this foreign concept that is totally unattainable. Surely happiness is in the next job offer, new home, new car, new lover, or goal weight, right? NO!
Travel Heals The Soul
Our travels didn’t start big. We started with small stateside trips. First, we went to Port Aransas in Texas. It was a small beach town about a 4 hour drive away from Austin, TX where we were living at the time.
It was Valentines day back in 2017 in the middle of the week. Both girls were supposed to be in school but I said screw it we are going on an adventure.
I remember arriving at the ferry late at night and driving my car on it. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time.
The Airbnb we rented was actually a yurt on a campground.
We were pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the campground was. That night we stayed up late laughing without any cares in the world.
It was the first time since I had left my then husband, that I felt joy. The months prior to that small trip were tough.
Most days I struggled to get out of bed. I had a newborn and two other kids that needed me but I was struggling. It didn’t feel worth it to wake up in the morning.
I felt alone.
I felt ashamed.
I felt broken
I was still trying to understand what happened to me during my marriage.
I had met with my therapist only twice before that.
Why Am I Alive?
As I sat in the small dimly lit room telling a complete stranger the story of my marriage while fearing judgement and shame, I thought to myself, “Why am I alive?”.
Surely life is not supposed to hurt this much. I didn’t want to spend even one more second with that feeling of darkness.
The darkness and I had been close friends since early childhood.
In fact, I remember when the darkness first started visiting me. I was only nine-years-old.
It was another day of me feeling alone and misunderstood. My mother was a single mom of three and she was dealing with her own struggles.
I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I didn’t have many friends.
That day I was over living. I walked to my bathroom and took out a bottle of cleaner from the cabinet under the sink. I opened up the cap and drank the bathroom cleaner.
Instantly, I regretted it as it burned in my throat. All these years later, I can still feel the pain of the cleaner slowly burning as it went down.
I went back to my room and laid in my bed. It would be years before I ever told anyone.
This pattern would repeat itself over and over again in different ways for 20 more years. I tried everything to get better. I saw multiple psychiatrists, psychologists, and tried nearly 40 different medications in order to make the darkness go away.
Sometimes, the darkness would go away temporarily only to return with vengeance each time making me ask the question, “Why am I alive?”.
Finding Joy Through Travel
I wanted to feel the joy I felt on our very first adventure when we went to Port Aransas. I wanted to hear my kids laugh and I wanted to laugh with them so when I spotted cheap tickets to Vegas, I thought let’s do this!
My girls screamed with excitement when I told them they were skipping to school to fly with me to Vegas for a few days.
The school wasn’t too happy with me understandably but with everything going on, my girls and I needed excitement and adventure. Port Aransas had shown us that we could forget our problems for a little while and just live.
Vegas was exhilerating. All of us loved it and it is surprisingly kid friendly but when we returned back to Austin, the darkness once again welcomed me with open arms.
A city I had once loved so much, turned into a prison of bad memories. I knew I needed a major change if I was going to pull myself and my girls through the heartache of our lives being flipped upside down seemingly overnight.
Your Life Has Meaning
It took me getting out of my abusive marriage, getting rid of all my possessions, and setting off on a journey of full-time travel with my three daughters to finally discover the joy that was always deep within me.
This is why I think travel is so important.
Traveling to countries where people had so little material items yet had more happiness than I had ever experienced in my super privileged life would change me forever.
These beautiful people we met during our travels didn’t need a degree, nice car, or big fancy homes in order to be happy. Maybe I didn’t either. They found joy in the little things.
Think about it.
Did you sleep in a bed last night?
Do you have food in your refrigerator?
Do you have clothes to wear?
If you could answer yes to even two of those questions, then you already have it better than 3 billion people in this world who live on less than $2.50 a day.
The fact that you are even able to read this blog post means you are more privileged than a whole bunch of people around the world.
For nearly three years, my family and I lived out of three backpacks. We realized very quickly just how little we actually did need to live happy and healthy lives.
There is something so freeing about getting rid of it all and I truly believe getting rid of stuff as opposed to accumulating stuff played a direct role in me discovering a whole lot more joy in my life.
Finally, after what felt life a life long search, I found the happiness and meaning for my life that had been buried inside me since early childhood. I documented our journey right here on this blog. It was more than a journey of just travel. I documented my journey with finding freedom and joy. Two things I thought I would never find.
You are alive for a reason. Even when the days seem long and dark, there is a reason why you are here. So many people think that you have to go out and do these grand things in order to have meaningful life. That is simply not true.
Each day you wake up and choose to be the best version of yourself you are giving your life meaning.
My days are slow here in Mexico. Some days I just sit in bed and binge watch my latest Netflix addiction.
Other days I work long hours in a business that I love.
It doesn’t matter what I do in a day I know that my life is full of meaning.
I know that by sharing my stories someone out there is listening. A story I share might just be the inspiration they need to change their life so as difficult as it is at times to be vulnerable, I do it.
Even with finally finding the happiness that was hidden within me, the question of, “Why am I alive?” still crosses my mind every once in a while.
It is rare now because I am so intentional with my days.
In these last few weeks, I have felt the same familiar darkness I thought I had forever escaped. It came back so strong that I was sure it would break me this time.
I was triggered.
It got increasingly worse as each week went on. I knew I needed to act fast. Here are some of the things I did to pull myself out of the darkness. These might work for you too.
I started with gratitude. I wrote a list each day of all the things I was grateful for. Things like sunshine and toddler snuggles made the list. Sometimes, we need a reminder of just how wonderful our life is even when everything seems to be going wrong. Give it a try! Right when you wake up make a list of all the things you are grateful for in life. This helps shift your mindset into more positive thinking instead of our default of negative thinking.
Human connection is so important. I don’t think I realized how important it was until my marriage ended and I had very little friends to lean on. I was alone and lost. The truth of the matter is that all relationships take work. I struggled with friendships prior to traveling and living abroad. When we moved to Merida, Mexico we got so many invites to spend time with people that I actually felt overwhelmed in the beginning and had to turn invitations down.
Now, I understand not everyone can up and move to the amazing and super hot Merida but you can download the app Meetup and start connecting with like minded individuals. If you are like me, this might really take some mental prep to get out there and meet up with strangers but you CAN do it. Meetup is a great place to meet others in your city with similar interest as you. You never know. Your new BFF could be at one of the outings you go to.
Check out the video below of some of the friendships I have created in Merida.
Social Media Break
I had to step away from social media which I thought would be impossible considering social media is a huge part of my work. I receive a lot of positivity from my readers and members of my Single Moms DO Travel Facebook group but sometimes people are cruel. I mean really cruel.
Recently, I had to walk away from social media for a bit while I took care of my mental health. I deleted all social media apps off my phone to make it easier. I felt better almost instantly. I took time to love on myself. When you love yourself fully, it doesn’t matter what others have to say about you. That is on them. Stepping away from social media helped me to be more present and to get back to doing the things I loved.
I slept better, laughed more, and had a lot less anxiety plus felt a whole lot happier.
Give it a try. Delete all your social media aps for one day. Just one day and see how you feel. Let me know in the comments if you noticed any differences in your life.
Journaling is a from of mediation for me. It has played a huge role in bringing more joy into my life. The specific way I journal is by using law of attraction. If you do not know anything about law of attraction I high recommend you read the book The Secret and watch the movie.
Basically, I write out everything I want in life as if I already have it. For example, I really wanted more friendships in my life so back in March of 2019 I journaled that I have tons of amazing and loving friendships. That month I took a trip to Merida, Mexico where I met tons of loving and kind people who would later would become friends since we decided to make Merida home base.
Now, we have tons of great friends right here in Merida. This happens all the time in my life. I apply it to every little detail in my life. You are manifesting the things in your life both good and bad at all times so it is important to be aware of that and be intentional in your manifestations.
Journaling helps me envision, believe, and take action in my life.
If you ever find yourself questioning why you are alive, know that you are not alone and that you are alive for a reason.