Today has been a bad day for me. My dark cloud is refusing to abate and my get-up-and-go has officially got up and left. That’s what mental health illnesses do to you, they sap you of your energy. Currently my husband (who has been at work all day) is calling me for tea, since I’ve been too unwell to even feed myself (let alone him) as the depression has crawled in and made itself at home yet again- and yet, despite his generosity, I cannot seem to even lift myself from the sofa to go to the table.
Eventually I manage the ridiculously arduous walk from sofa to kitchen table, but derive little pleasure from the food placed before me.
“Luckily” for me, travel- along with creative tasks- seems to be one of the few things that can help to alleviate these issues: no bills or mortgage to worry about, no tactless boss exposing you to the Spanish Inquisition, no children hammering on the classroom window.
Despite this, it does come with other issues: large crowds, language barriers, unfamiliar transport links, but there are ways around it and the positives far out way the negatives. Here are some of my hints for travelling with anxiety:
Make sure you’re with at least one person who ‘gets it’. My husband is my absolute saviour and although I feel a burden upon him and although he can’t empathise first hand, he knows when to step in. He can recognise when going into ‘foreign territory’- if you pardon the pun- will be just that step too far for me. He also knows when it’s safe to push me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to try new things. Equally, if I had an anxiety attack, he’d know what was going on and- to a certain extent- how to handle it. If you’re travelling alone, or even with someone who doesn’t know about your condition, think how terrifying and dangerous the situation could become.
If you take tablets for your illness, make sure you over pack them! For me, I will always travel with far more than I actually need. One pack will go in a pocket on my travel outfit, one in my hand luggage, and if I’m taking hold luggage, I’ll put a pack in there too. And keep them separate! This way, if anything goes missing or is stolen or- I don’t know- spontaneously combusts, you’ll have enough to keep you going. Not only will it stop you stressing in the first place, it will mean that you never have the issue of running out.
Find ways to minimise things that you know (ahead of time) will be stressful. I mentioned in an earlier post about how I normally fly in a bikini. Going through airport security is stressful. For everyone. I don’t know what it is about it that gets the pulse racing, the sweat flowing and the nerves twitching, but anxiety-or-not, everyone suddenly feels like the guiltiest person alive.
“Did you pack this bag yourself?”
You know you did. You know you’ve got nothing to hide and yet from nowhere you start doubting yourself. I don’t know? Did I? Did I pack it myself? And if I say yes and then they find something dodgy in it that’s magically teleported into it, then will they take my ‘yes’ as a confession?
Really, it’s the perfect example for anxiety disorder for anyone who doesn’t experience it on a daily basis. Think about that completely irrational sensation you get when going through airport security, now imagine you feel that way in EVERY situation EVER.
Anyway, I digress.
Basically, I know I’m going to feel like sh*t when I’m in this situation. I’ve also learnt over the years that the wire in my bras have a habit of setting off the metal detectors when I walk through them.
By travelling in a metal-free bikini, not only am I more comfortable (no wire digging into me! Bliss!) and ready to hit the beach as soon as I get to my chosen location (provided there is one), I also dramatically minimise putting myself into a situation that triggers my anxiety.
I’m sure there are more examples of subconscious ways that I adapt, so I’ll make sure that I make a note as and when I remember them and post them at a later point.
Take a roadtrip. I really cannot recommend this enough, especially as I am in the AMAZINGLY honoured position of having a husband and best friend who don’t seem to mind (too much!) doing all of the driving. As we’ve established: public transport, be it by tube or train or plane, is stressful. You have times to keep and connections to make and routes to manoeuvre. I guess you have all of this in a car too, but you also have freedom. If you get completely lost, you can just take the ‘scenic route’ and if you don’t get somewhere in time, you’ll always have some sort of roof over your head. For me, and my illness, it is the perfect mode of travelling. It wont always be possible, or feasible, but for now it’s working for me. It’s meaning that I CAN do things and I CAN enjoy them: thanks to cars, Adam and Will, I’ve seen a huge chunk of Europe; I’m going to explore the corners or Scotland; and next year I’ll tour a decent chunk of West USA.
Plan and book ahead. Not only does this- I feel- save you a decent chunk of money in the long run, but it also prevents stress. Okay, so you’re not the spontaneous, care-free travel butterfly that you always dreamed of being, but if you’re suffering from a mental health issue, then you aren’t managing any of this in your normal life either! At least this way you’re seeing things, and spontaneity can still occur, whilst also knowing that you have a hostel or hotel or guesthouse booked for the evening and somewhere safe to keep the car. If we had just rocked up in Berlin last year for example, we could have found ourselves in serious trouble, as our car wouldn’t have been allowed into the centre due to it being a designated environmental zone (in which only vehicles that meet certain emission standards are allowed to be driven). By planning ahead we sorted ourselves with a convenient ‘park and ride’ and prevented what could have been a VERY stressful drive.
Is there anything that any of you do to help you through the rough days- travelling or otherwise- that I’ve missed here?