Depression is a pretty vulnerable and sensitive topic that people refrain from talking about.
I am no different. It is pretty sensitive to me too.
I partly don't want to talk about it because it is difficult for people to understand. And the other half the time, I don't want to talk about it as people think showing sympathy works.
It is a rough and weird phase. But I see many people hesitating to travel, especially if you have depression and are worried about how it will turn out to be. Well, it is not going to be rosy, but it is not an impossible task either.
So, here I am to tell you how it is to travel with depression and give some tips on how to go about traveling if you have depression or anxiety, or panic attacks.
Below is a snippet from my diary dating 9th April 2017, exactly a year back, Just for you to know what it is to have depression.
"9/4/17- I hope to look back a year from now on this page and say, "wow, how much I have improved or what a long way that I have come from."
Today was a terrible low. I woke up at 7 pm. You heard that right. My mind went super tangled or numb. I was totally fine yesterday, and I remember going to bed too fine. So what made me or what made today a bad day? I was don't know. But I could not wake up and just lay there in bed. I did not drink water nor have food and did not even feel hungry. I lay in the bed with no urge to pee. I lay in the bed with no urge to change my napkin. I was bleeding and staining the sheets.
But did not feel like doing anything else apart from just lying there. When I finally realized I had to get out of this bed, it was 7 pm. I then pulled some willingness to live, brushed my teeth, took a bath, and ordered food. I mumbled a sentence to see if I can talk. It looks like I have developed a sore throat. My friend tried giving me a pep talk. Honestly, that did not help me much because I have no idea what made me feel or bound to my bed. So that's the End of today."
It does moisten my eyes when I read this page even today. This was not the first off incident, but this was the worst. I had many callings which I chose to ignore. The night that I could not sleep after hearing about something terrible happening to someone close home was one of them. I prepared for the VMware certification that night, hoping that studying would put me to sleep. But the dawn broke, and there was no sign of sleep, and that was the first time I freaked out looking at myself. It was a clear indication something is wrong, which I chose to ignore.
The next came when I was on my trip to Europe in 2012 with women travelers. The first day, I was in Prague, and there was this overwhelming feeling that came over me that I silently wept through the streets. I was carrying too much baggage in my mind that I could not enjoy the beauty of Prague, and the thought that, "Girl, you are on a dream trip, and you are not able to enjoy it", made me weep. But I pushed it aside in another couple of days and enjoyed my trip. Callings like this came to me many times. And I conveniently ignored it as it came in bouts, and I was able to put on a brave face and march through the world, excelling in my career too.
Sleepless nights became days that I did not want to get out of my bed. Sometime early last year, I lost my interest in traveling and writing. The two things which I loved the most and which kept me going were no longer my pillars. I did not write anything in my blog posts. I would travel to places and stare point blank wondering why am here!
My episodes of "I don't want to get out of bed, face the world, be nice to people" were increasing day by day. I finally decided to find my mojo back and the will to live. I quit my job last year to take a break, heal myself and get back into things I love to do. Because it is the thing that you love to do that keeps you going.
You can be in a tough job, tough marriages, deal with cranky kids, whatever may come, when you have a purpose, then looking forward to doing the stuff you love to do, it will help you keep moving forward.
How I landed up here is something I am not going to be writing about. It is something built up over many years, and I am working it out with my therapist. All through those many years, I was, and I am still, the same confident, independent girl who was doing good in many fields that I was working on.
I say this because things like depression or anxiety can strike anyone, and you might tend to ignore it between your successes until it cripples you. And people around you are never going to notice cos it is not a physical pain for them to see. Even if they notice, they might ignore thinking that you are sad and not depressed. So don't ignore your callings and work on it.
First and foremost I want to tell you that "Travel is not going to heal you from depression". Shocking?
Take the analogy of physical pain.
If your leg is broken, traveling to a new place will lessen the pain because you are excited to see new things, and the distraction of the mind is good for you. But the leg is still broken, and you need to fix it! Travel is not that fixed. My Thailand trip of 40 days was an ambitious itinerary. I did not find it so while drafting it, but when on the trip, I learned that I need to listen to my mind and body many times because I was still dealing with depression.
So from that experience, here are few tips on how to travel with depression.
1. Take it Slow
Keep your travel's pace slow.
Don't rush through the places.
Halting for just one night at a place will exhaust you, and you need energy.
I had a group tour booked on one of the days in Thailand to Erawan Falls. That day I had no willpower to wake up. How I wish that at least by the time you go to bed, somebody should be able to tell me if my next morning is going to be a good one or not. We never know. That morning I pushed myself out of bed, my stomach churned, and my whole body just wanted to pin me down to bed.
The idea was to hike a seven-tiered waterfall. I decided to anyway go along with the group, maybe watch one or two tiers and sit somewhere. I walked up to 5 tiers that day which was a great push from my side!
When I say take it slow, I mean check how you are that day and then plan it out. If you cannot do something one day, let it go, take it slow and do it another day.
Give a lot of time to yourself, not just a lot of time to see the attractions.
Insert days in your itinerary that says "REST."
2. Choose your Company
One of the many reasons why I started going solo was to avoid people !!
In this phase of my life, I have put myself in a cocoon many times.
Because people don't get it, there are days you don't want to meet people, there are days you want to cancel plans, and many times not pick up that call. So on days like that and when you are traveling, if I am by myself, it is easy, and I am not compelled to socialize as against a group tour. So choose whom you want to travel with.
If you have a set of friends who can just let you be and travel with them, that is the best.
3. Have your comfortable stay place
This might sound repetitive. And this might differ from person to person. Anything that is dingy, not cleaned well, moody, dark will change my mood immediately. So I don't prefer a cramped place to stay, even if it will save me a few bucks.
I go for rooms with views and plenty of air.
The other alternative I find convenient is AirBnBs. Staying with families puts you at ease. It is like coming back home.
Whether you are having a bad day or a good day, being at home feels right. You get to interact depending on how much you wish to. Plus they give all tips for local sightseeing.
4. Know your Limitations
Know what your body and mind are comfortable doing. You will not prove anything to anyone by challenging your body and mind when it is not good. It asks for rest and not to think much, so don't put it through tough things if it does not wish to.
Know what your trigger points are, and don't do things that will kick in Anxiety or Depression.
You can always come back to the destination at some other point in your life and do what you could not do now.
Take care of yourself first all the time, every time.
5. Be in touch with your support group
Let people who care about you know where you are and what you are doing, and keep track. Have a support group for yourself, and it could be just one or two people. The people who can understand what it feels like to go through depression/anxiety. If ever you feel like giving up at any point in time, reach out to them.
Ask for help.
They might not be able to cheer you up, but it is good to be heard and someone hearing you at that moment makes a lot of difference.
6. Have at least a rough plan of your trip
As much as deciding what you want to do on the go sounds exciting, at least have a rough plan of what cities or places you want to cover in your trip and how to commute, etc.
You don't want to spend your time and exhaust mental energy overtaking decisions on the go. This might sound funny to some, but I cannot tell you how much it simplifies life.
7. Things will go wrong. Let it go
Even a well-planned trip is bound to go wrong. So if something goes wrong, don't take it to your heart and stress yourself about it. If you have planned a tour or booked something for the day but cannot do it, then pick a book or have a drink and chill it off.
Just give it time to cool off, and tomorrow you might be all fresh and ready for the day.
8. Are you taking medication?
If you are taking medication to treat panic attacks or anxiety, stick to your routine and be mindful of what you are eating.
Check with your doctor too if you can visit certain places, especially those which are at an altitude. Don't skip your medicines, more importantly...
This is not an easy phase of life. I did and am still taking the help.
My therapist helps me connect the dots and allows me to grow.
My episodes are far less now.
I write more, create videos, and wake up at beautiful destinations...
Depression, anxiety, panic attacks are not the same as sadness or loneliness.
Take help anytime you feel you need one. This is a competitive world, and I see many people competing with each other to show off that one is happier than the other. Don't stress out on things unnecessarily. Taking care of oneself is more important than anything else. Slow down whenever you feel it is important to.
Traveling with depression can be nerve-wracking at times. But it is not impossible. It's okay to be afraid. Just book a ticket, go to a destination, sit in your room all day, and come back. That's perfectly fine. You will improvise on that.
Collect the simple happy memories you made along the way and not just about the days you sulked or your plans went terrible. Know your limitations, do what you are comfortable doing, and feel happy that you did it.
At the End of the day, happiness is all that matters. And one last thing I would like to add, you have already seen the worse / worst by going through depression and panic attacks and anxiety, so traveling will not be as bad as that.
Cheers and happy traveling.
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