Depression is a topic not many people talk about, it is a sensitive and vulnerable topic to me too. Half the time I 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 cos people think showing sympathy works. It is a rough and weird phase. But I see a lot of people hesitating to travel, especially if you have depression and are worried how it will turn out to be. Well it is definitely not gonna 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 whatta long way that I have come from.” Today was a terrible low. I have woken up at 7 pm. You heard that right. My mind went super tangled or numb. I was totally fine yesterday, I remember going to bed too fine. So what made me or what made today a bad day I dunno. 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. Bleeding and staining the sheets. But just did not feel like doing anything else apart from just lying there. When I finally realized I have to get out of this bed, it was 7pm. I then pulled some willingness to live and brushed my teeth, took a bath and ordered food. Mumbled a sentence to see if I can talk. Looks like I have developed a sore throat. Bairavi 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 at all after hearing about something bad happening to someone close home was one of them. I prepared for 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 a group of Women travelers. The very first day I was at Prague and there was this overwhelming feeling came over me that I silently wept through the streets. I was carrying too much baggage in my mind that I was not able to 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 cos 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 to travel and write. The two things which I loved the most and which kept me going was 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 the bed, face the world, be nice to people” was increasing day by day. I finally decided to find my mojjo 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 things that you love to do keeps you going. You can be in tough job, tough marriages, deal with cranky kids, whatever may come, when you have a purpose, the looking forward to doing the stuff you love to do, it will help you keep moving forward. How I landed up here is something am not going to be writing about. It is things built up over many many years and 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. Why am I saying this is, 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 a 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 mind is good for you. But the leg is still broken and you need to fix it! Travel is not that fix. 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 learnt 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
Travel 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 at Thailand to Erawan Falls. That day I had no will power to wake up. How I wish that at least by the time you go to bed, some body should be able to tell me if my next day morning is going to be a good one or not. We never know. That morning I pushed myself out of the 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, may be just watch one or two tier and sit somewhere. I walked up to 5 tiers that day which was a great pushing from my side! What I mean when I say take it slow is, 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 lot of time to see the attractions. Insert days in your itinerary that just says “REST”
2. Choose your Company
One of the many reasons why I started going solo was to avoid people 😀 This phase of my life I have put myself in a cocoon many a times. Because people don’t get it, there are days you don’t want to meet people, there are days you want to cancel plan and many a times just not pickup that call. So on days like that and when you are traveling, if am by myself it is easy and 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 can travel with them then 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 cramped place of stay even if it is going to save me 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 to home. Whether you are having a bad day or good day, being at a home just feels right. You get to interact depending on how much you wish to. Plus they give all tips for local sight seeing.
4. Know your Limitations
Know what your body and mind is comfortable in doing. You are not gonna 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 of time 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. Have a support group for yourself, 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 of time, reach out to them. Ask help. They might not be able to cheer you up but it is good to be heard and someone hearing to 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 over taking decisions on the go. This might sound funny to some but I cannot tell you how much it simplifies the 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 not able to do it then pick a book or just 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 that which are in a altitude. Don’t skip your medicines, more importantly..
This is definitely not an easy phase of life. I did and am still taking help. My therapist helps me connect the dots and helps 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 just to show off that one is happy than the other. Don’t stress out yourself 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 wrecking 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 that you sulked or your plans went bad. Know your limitations, do what you are comfortable to do and just feel happy that you did it. End of the day happiness is all that matters. And one last thing I would like to just add, you have already seen the worse / worst by going through depression and panic attacks and anxiety, so traveling is not gonna be as bad as that 😀 Cheers and happy traveling.
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