Forward

Routine-altering tragedy doesn’t wait until we’re ready, unfortunately. It usually seems to strike when we’re most un-ready. At least, that’s how it felt for us.

I was stuck in a dead-end job with a toxic culture. My husband and I were struggling to recover from a sloppy accountant and an envelope marked ‘IRS’. And then tragedy struck. In the words of J.K. Rowling, “Everything had shattered. The fact that it was all still there — the walls and the chairs and the children’s pictures on the walls — meant nothing. Every atom of it had been blasted apart and reconstituted in an instant, and its appearance of permanence and solidity was laughable; it would dissolve at a touch, for everything was suddenly tissue-thin and friable.” 
 
I grew up in the Evangelical Church all my life. I heard people speak countless times about how they experienced “peace beyond understanding” or “God’s presence” in their moment of crisis. I’m happy for them. But all I felt in the midst of our tragedy was abandonment.
 
Well-meaning people gave me reductionist, Christian buzzwords when they found out about our situation. It was like sand in an open wound: it burned and it was abrasive and it did nothing but remind me how absent He was. It made me angry because, deep down, I felt like He had abandoned me or that He had lured me into an arena to face an opponent I never expected to fight. 
 
My days were filled simultaneously with surging panic and crippling helplessness. I was plagued with intense nightmares and obsessive nihilistic thoughts. The days when I got out of bed and showered like a “normal person” were huge victories. I dreaded leaving the house and made every excuse to stay in. 
 
I felt like I had spent 26 years writing my magnum opus only to permanently lose everything as the program crashed. I was left staring, slack-jawed, at my life and my identity: an empty, white screen filled with nothing but a maliciously persistent blinking curser.
 
How could I even begin to rebuild, reestablish, reclaim all that just evaporated before my eyes? Anxiety said, “What if you never get back what you lost?” Depression said, “What does it matter anyway?”
 
In hindsight, it’s easy to see there was definitely something very wrong with my mental health. But I was like the gradually boiled frog. In the moments when I caught a glimpse of how desperately I needed help, I explained away my symptoms or minimized my suffering, “Why can’t you just move on? Other people have experienced far worse than you. Get over it.”
 
It took about six months for me to finally come to grips with my condition, get help, and begin my healing journey. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and PTSD-related Anxiety and Depression. 

//

One of my favorite books is Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi. A young Indian man, Pi, is stranded at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s a beautiful examination of faith, courage, and the human spirit.
 
By the end of the book, you realize that, maybe, there was no tiger after all. Pi was the tiger. He became a tiger with all its ferocity and courage and strength. He became what he needed to survive.
 
As I drifted in my own metaphorical lifeboat, I willed myself to become a tiger like Pi. I struggled to pull myself out of fear and despair and into courage and ferocity. Finally, after working with my therapist, I realized that maybe I would need to start acting like a tigress before I felt like she had arrived. And that was terrifying.
 
It was at this point that my husband, Tim, who regularly checks the cheapest airfares, said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we went to India? Flights to Delhi are super cheap, and this amazing tour is on sale. But we would have to go in the next two months. What do you think?”
 
Before I could even wrap my head around the idea, I heard the tigress growl, “Let’s do it.” In an out-of-body experience, I watched our tickets get purchased, our time off requests get approved, and our bags get packed. I clung to her tail as the tigress ran headlong into a whole new, foreign world that would aggressively rub up against some of my most tender wounds.
 
With a very real fear and a thousand reasons to change my mind, I was about to trust fall into the arms of humanity.
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Suggested Soundtrack: The Deepest of Sorrow by Pathiena
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This is a story about travel, trauma, recovery, and spiritual rediscovery. It’s being published one chapter at a time. You can navigate between chapters by clicking on the book at the top.