The Anxious World Traveler – by Maya Kuiper
It is astounding to me how one can easily think that they know another person quite well, only to find out that there are multitudes of experiences, emotions, and troubles that they will never know about. Over the years, this has become quite evident to me through interactions I have had with others regarding aspects of my own life that are not immediately visible. From the outside, I’m the outgoing girl who talks so much that she can scarcely take a breath between thoughts. I’m the passionate girl who will have a debate with anyone if a topic that I feel strongly about comes up. I’m the girl who, starting in October, will spend 9 months living out of a backpack and traveling to India, Malaysia, and Zambia. To most, I’m not the girl who has been plagued with a severe anxiety and panic disorder for most of her life, but that is actually who I am.To most, I’m not the girl who has been plagued with a severe anxiety and panic disorder for most of her life, but that is actually who I am. Click To Tweet
It was around 2003 when I first began having trouble with anxiety. It all started with terrible stomach aches and a fear of clouds (a bad experience with a huge storm sparked that delightfully irrational fear), and built up to my first real panic attack, which landed me in the hospital. After seeing a psychologist, I was given a diagnosis of a severe anxiety and panic disorder; a diagnosis that would lead to horrible struggles, an abundance of breakdowns, suicidal thoughts, and most importantly, the close relationship with God that I have today.
My anxiety disorder had always been something that I saw as a hindrance. For many years, I saw it as a flaw in my personality rather than a flaw in my brain chemistry. This was perpetuated by the stigma surrounding mental illness that tells those suffering things like: “It’s all in your head!” or “If you really wanted to you could change it! Just think more positively!”
Despite being made to feel as though I was weak because of my disorder from those around me and society in general, I found someone who made me feel like I was stronger because of it: God. Once I realized that Jesus Christ was my true saviour, I stopped thinking about what I couldn’t do because of my disorder, but what I could do despite my disorder. Through this mindset, I did not look upon the opportunity to travel to 3 countries in 9 months helping those in need with doubt, but with faith in myself, and more importantly, in God. I have complete faith in His strength, and know that even when I am riddled with anxieties, He will be there to comfort me and lift me higher. I have seen that His plans for me are more amazing than anything that I could imagine, and that no matter what I believe my flaws are, He will use them for greatness.
In the Church, I often hear it said that if you truly have faith in God, you will be free of all worries and anxieties. Although I wish this was true, a strong faith in God is not synonymous with a complete absence of worry. In fact, it shows a greater faith when a person’s mind is filled with fear, yet they continue down the path that they are on by trusting in the Lord and His strength. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the power to press on even when fear consumes you. This is apparent in the countless leaders of the Bible, who clearly felt great fear and worry when faced with the tasks that God had given them. Even Jesus, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, felt such great fear that he sweat blood. If Jesus, the son of God, who was blameless and free of sin, can feel a fear so great that blood drips down his forehead, I think we are allowed to be afraid sometimes. If Jesus, the son of God, who was blameless and free of sin, can feel a fear so great that blood drips down his forehead, I think we are allowed to be afraid sometimes. Click To Tweet
When I think about the journey that I will embark on in October, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel nervous. I will be thousands of miles away from my family and traveling to foreign lands where the unexpected can always be expected. It will be intense, incredibly difficult, and full of the unknown, which is both a nerve-racking and exhilarating thought. Although I know that I will feel anxious before and throughout my trip, I can’t help but be excited for the incredible plans that God has for me. When are God’s amazing plans ever within our comfort zones?
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Maya Kuipers is a writer and soon-to-be world traveler. You can follow along with her adventures here: http://mayakuipers.theworldrace.org/