by Jessica Milne, a member of the SkillCorps® Czech Republic February 2019 team

When I decided to sign up for SkillCorp I didn’t really think about how traveling would affect my mental health. I knew I wanted to join because I love ABA and the work I do at Florida Autism Center and that there are so many kids out there that need the help. I knew I would grow and learn so much about ABA and myself as a person, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how it would affect me mentally and emotionally.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was a teenager and it took me a very long time to be able to understand it and know how to take care of myself. I learned that not only do I need medication, but therapy and self care as well. Sometimes one forgets these things especially when you are on a high and feeling good.

My expectations for this trip was mostly learning about ABA and sharing my knowledge of it with others as well. However what I learned surpasses that. I learned that even though I was “feeling good” at home this wasn’t the case when traveling with four other strangers I barely knew and are around 24/7. I was comfortable at home because I wasn’t pushing myself.

Coming to Prague was a big leap for me and pushed me outside my comfort zone. This was the best thing I could have done for myself.

Having anxiety is what I call “my hamster wheel”. You latch on to one idea or phrase or look someone else says or gives you and my brain constantly turns round and round making up scenarios; why don’t they like me, did I say something wrong, are they talking about me when I’m not around, why don’t I fit in?!

This negative way of thinking is hard to change and kept me from really enjoying myself and fitting in with my team while abroad. What I did learn from my team is that they were more concerned about how I was feeling, was I ok, was there anything they could do. What I was thinking was completely false. My brain makes up scenarios that are not true and I found this out by talking with my team about it. I felt uncomfortable at first, but I have learned to try and reframe my thinking into positives and when I don’t my team helped me realize this.

I kept telling myself on the bad days that maybe this international work is not for me and just isn’t my cup of tea. What I have learned is that this can be my cup of tea, it’s all about perspective and positive thinking. I am hopeful this is my first trip of many and I can continue to overcome my fear and anxiety.