It has been two days today that I literally threw all my life online. I feel relieved actually; no longer hiding anything and no longer lying about how I am doing. I also believe that more people are allowed to do this, because in order to break the stigma, we have to talk about it first. Besides the friendly messages, I also received other kind of mails: namely how I travel with a depression. An important question if you ask me. It is difficult, but not impossible.
Traveling won’t cure you
You can see them popping up everywhere like mushrooms: articles about the healing effect of travel. My first message to travel with depression is therefore to accept that travel can never cure a depression. Painful to hear. At least, that was it for me. I was young (still by the way), naive and saw traveling as an escape from reality. Full of expectations, I climbed up that airplane to Spain and waited for it to finally happen. It was going to happen. Spain and traveling in general are going to heal me and I wanted to be ready for it. But now that I look back on it; how can you run away from something if the “problem” lies within you? That is impossible.
Now I know better. Traveling alone can not cure you. It can help you to relax, to see everything from a different perspective, to make you happier and so much more. But unfortunately, it can not cure depression. You need something more for that.
Plan like hell
Now the heavier work begins: planning your trip. Start with this as early as possible so that you do not create unnecessary stress because you don’t know what you are going to do. When I see people leave on a journey, without planning, I get all the creeps. Everyone’s travel style, of course, but it gives me too much stress. Maybe you see yourself going on a journey without planning; but keep in mind that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
So plans. Plan the first time literally anything you can imagine. From hotels and plane tickets, to excursions and where you are going to eat. Dramatic? Think twice! This gives a secure feeling before you take off. And gradually you can leave some loose items in your planning, which you can fill in according to your wishes at your destination.
Emergency plan, make it!
In the psychiatry we had to draw up an emergency plan and I remember that I always forgotten it. No problem, I did make a crisis plan – at the end. However, only a handful of people will know the meaning of such a plan. An emergency plan is a document that you take everywhere; traveling, to the store and even to the toilet. You never know. The document serves to store your contacts in need, how you can recognize your behavior when it will go “wrong”, how you can look for alternatives to focus your thoughts on something else, and so on. You can do it the old-fashioned way (via a paper and pen) or via the digital way. And certainly the digital way is useful to take with you on a trip.
Medication, oh that medication
In my opinion, medication is one of the biggest, irritating things on the planet. Okay, it can support you and help where necessary. But when you travel, it is simply a hassle. To be honest is fair. I have had so many problems with medication: I had forgotten my medication, was being stopped by the security on the airport or I had brought too little medication for my entire trip. In order not to make these mistakes, I have already found some good solutions. For example, stick a post-it on your fridge so that you do not forget the medication, take a prescription from the doctor stating that this medication is not a drug and is yours and only yours and take extra medication so you do not fall short. Life-saving tip here!
What is so important while traveling with depression, is setting goals. Do you have a mental disorder, but do you want to travel like… the whole world right away? Do you really have the kind of feeling in your stomach to explore the world and come home only months later? Or do you want to become a digital nomad so that the world becomes your home? That ambition sound fun, doesn’t it? But is it also feasible and therefore realistic? If someone said to me, “Hey, Sanne? Otherwise, start in Europe with a short city trip.” I was completely devastated. I wanted to go beyond Europe, I wanted to see the world. Yet I understood it, very deep inside, that Europe is also the world.
Set clear, realistic goals. Start with a short city trip close to home. And it may sound just as unattractive as I thought it was, but believe me: with small steps you make long distances.
Have patience with yourself
Completely exhausted. That’s how I felt after three days Vienna. Wait, back again: three days in Austria and I was exhausted like hell. Not that I have done much, I have traveled with a bus (a certain hop-and-off bus) in the day that took me to all iconic parts of Vienna. In the evening I locked myself up in the hotel. I told myself when I got home straight away that traveling alone was not for me. And that traveling may never be something for me. I have Borderline, depressive characteristics and am anxious too. Yes, Vienna was the end of my travel dream.
Yet I continued. I can travel. And if I do not realize that, I realize that I really want it hard. Have patience with yourself. If you do not want something, you don’t do it either. Not here in our own country and certainly not in a foreign country. But if you are patient with yourself, and don’t put too much pressure on your shoulders, you will get there. A few months after Vienna I left for China. Just so you know!
Don’t compare yourself
Do not think that you can immediately discover the entire world, 196 independent states, right now and in this state of mind. But if I can give you one last and perhaps the best advice: it is to not compare yourself to others. Perhaps another person may be further than you, but it is not a game that you could win. Do at your own pace, and do it on your terms.
Sanne Grieten is the travel blogger of Mostly Abroad. Just like any travel blogger, she loves to travel and discover new places. In addition, she also fights every day with her mental health. To end the stigma, she also writes about this regularly.