Today I am going to talk about traveling depression. This is something I feel is not an easy thing for many to talk about. Mental health issues in themselves have a lot of stigma surrounding them. I feel there are many people who are struggling with things like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bi-polar disorder etc. They feel because of their struggles that they will never be able to live a happy and fulfilling life. Many of them have travel dreams and places they want to go to. Many people who struggle with mental health issues are not able to work and therefore can’t afford to travel somewhere. I’m here to prove that travel depression doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying all the world has to offer.
Let me be the first to say that I have had my share of battling with depression. For most of my 20’s I battled depression that left me paralyzed and hardly able to function. When I was about 20 for a period of 6 months or more I could hardly get out of bed. Everyday I woke up I was afraid of another day. Another day of living in the pit I was trapped in. For much of my early 20’s I would have times of victory and times where I was in the absolute depths of depression. I have had time where I was battling with traveling depression.
Despite having depression in my 20’s I managed to travel to Australia, England, China, across Canada. As well I have also completed my diploma in music. I may not have had the epic, awesome I quit my job and traveled to 50 or more countries in my 20’s kind of life. In many ways I am a late bloomer. I can say though that despite my struggles and battles with traveling depression, I have accomplished a lot. I have a great support network here in Vancouver. I have my own place to go rest when the world gets too much. I have recorded and released a 5- Song Album and had an awesome CD release party back in Spring 2012. I may not have everything I want in life. Things may not have always gone the way I hoped but I have everything I need.
I feel I am in a better place than I have ever been before. I have been at my current job for almost 3 years. I have been at my schooling for about 4 years. I feel that these things have made me stronger. I am more ready to take on the world.
Tips For Coping With Depression While on the Road
Depression is not an easy illness and traveling depression is even harder! It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Before you know if you are struggling to feel motivated, having a bout of negative and self-doubting thoughts and even getting out of bed seems like an arduous task let alone traveling the world. Believe me I’ve been there and know the feeling. I know that I am strong and I’m a fighter and won’t let this disease win. So here are some tips for dealing with depression on the road:
Make Sure You Have All the Medications You Need
Yes I will admit that I take medication for my depression. It’s a small dosage and it helps me stay balanced and stable. Book an appointment with your doctor before you leave. Make sure he/she knows of your travels plans, how long you’ll be away etc. Make sure that they give you enough medication for the time that you will be out of the country. Also make sure that you have a note from them stating what the medication is and what it’s for. When I went to China I made sure I packed enough medication and then some extra. I also had a note from my doctor explaining what is was. It’s important to take enough medication with you because medication can’t be sent through the mail. Make sure you get good health coverage should you have to go see a doctor overseas and get medication from the country you are visiting.
Pack Your Own Personal Care and Comfort Kit
When you arrive in a place that’s unfamiliar to you it’s nice to have something that is familiar. Put together a kit of things you love that can comfort you when you’re feeling down, homesick, overwhelmed etc. Maybe its a picture of your loved ones, your favourite coffee mug, letters from friends back home and cozy sweater or blanket? For me I like to have some of my favourite snacks a warm blanket, a good book and my iPhone with music and podcasts. What ever helps you relax and feel at ease. Get creative!
Be Open and Honest With Those Around You
Should a funk strike you abroad its important not to bottle it all up. Do tell you family and close friends but more importantly confide in someone whom you’re traveling with. If you are traveling solo this can be harder. Tell your host you are having a down day and tell them what you need. Maybe a little encouragement? Sometime alone? Be open and honest but also be careful whom you share your deep feelings with. If you are traveling solo then getting some Skype time in with a trusted family or friend can be comforting. However don’t spend the whole day tied to your phone or laptop. Try to push yourself and embrace your surroundings. You don’t know who will be put in your path to cheer you up.
Self Care is Key
In addition to having a Care and Comfort Kit, caring for yourself is something that can have great effects on your wellbeing. Have you been bunking in hostel dorms all along. Why not splurge and treat yourself to a comfy private room. Take a bath and have some quiet time just to yourself. Go for a walk and enjoy the scenery. Treat yourself to something beautiful or something delicious. Even the smallest things can give you a huge boost.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
And most importantly don’t beat yourself up. Depression can come with a lot of negative self talk. Remind yourself about how amazing you are. Write out your good points. Reward yourself for being willing to take the risk, travel and be out of your comfort zone. Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best and dearest friend. Would you call you friend stupid and say negative thing about them? Then why do it to yourself.
Well dear readers above all don’t let depression hold you back from living your travel dreams. You may have to plan and prepare more, take shorter trips and travel slower while abroad. And yes there are times when you may need to post pone a trip if your depression gets severe. Bottom line your life and dreams matter. So venture on.
*Disclaimer, I am not a doctor or mental health professional so its important you check with your mental health team for their advice on your situation. I can’t give medical advice over the internet.