Depression doesn’t stay at home as we jetset to new places, unfortunately it travels with us. It’s also not the baggage you can check or leave in the hotel. It’s like your fanny-pack clashing with your best travel outfit. It’s like a backpack filling up with goods in which the weight makes your whole body ache.
It was day 9 when I started to feel it, and finally by day 12 I am able to start writing about it. Traveling with depression and the search for maintaining a positive frame of mind on the road.
I am getting lost in my head and I am not liking it. I know things are good. It’s my thoughts though. It’s a feeling like when your stomach cramps or your head aches for what seems like no reason. My anguish is a discomforting sensation similar to that.
Everything is especially heightened when I travel, the beauty, the inspiration, the enthusiasm and often a state of euphoria. As any of us with depression knows though, with great highs can come great lows.
This is the first time I have traveled out of the country alone. This presents a different set of obstacles compared to when I spent 60 days with a travel partner in Europe. Traveling with someone you have someone you have to perform for or at least minimize your anguished feelings for. You feel responsible to not bring them down with you in your sinking ship. To counter this, when there is that other present you have the advantage of someone else to throw you a life preserver. Someone to keep you from sinking as all your weighted thoughts pull you below sea level.
As I stated I am alone in this journey. Most of the time I really like that. Other times the idea of drowning sounds more appealing than struggling to swim.
Look for land.
I often compare depression to drowning. If that is the case then my advice is to find land. Find something you can hold onto. I couldn’t imagine getting out of bed on day 9. The guilt started to become me and my thoughts argued “I’m traveling, I can’t waste a day”. However, it isn’t a wasted day to reflect and relax to be able to continue on strong. Rather than diving into the unknown sea of culture that is Oaxaca, I grabbed a pillow and moved my bed to the balcony of my hostel.
This offered me some grasp and familiarity I needed to regroup. I did some internet wandering which lead me to reach out to some friends back home. I asked for something to remind me I was okay.
Ahh, the downside of the solo traveler…loneliness. I feel that all of the things you just mentioned are what’s causing the anxiety you’re feeling. I feel that some of it’s valid- you are alone and courageous and solitary, but I feel that those things (hungover, overwhelmed, depressed, sad, scared) are magnifying your feelings.
Maybe you can hang out in a cafe reading for the day…or find some ex pat volunteers or workers to say hey to, just for the day. A friend who had spent time in Prague just recommended to me today (for my Ireland gig) to find expatriates, as lame and corny as it sounds to find Americans in a new country, just to find them. Maybe you could do something like that. Or WWOOF, where you get to know a family for a week or so while staying with them
I’m thinking of you, doll. This is the inevitable underbelly of traveling alone, and it sucks, but you’ve got this 😊 -Mary Marvels
So that’s what I did.
Find your routine
Back home I wake up, take a shower, and try and relax with some coffee or tea. Sometimes I connect with a friend to go on an adventure or get some work done. So that’s what I forced myself into.
I managed to get up from my bench and catch breakfast offered by the hostel, I took a shower and by the time I was ready the door opened and a woman from Houston I had met a few days earlier walked into my hostel room. I took this as a sign to push my thoughts away and go on an adventure.
Eventually we separated. This was a perfect time to have my coffee and relax with those thoughts I just disregarded. If I don’t take the time to handle them incrementally I know they start to pile up.
It may seem silly to say this, but if you are traveling with depression the best thing to do might be to just travel. I walked around and looked at art. I took in the architecture and the people. I distracted from my old depressing thoughts with new life and culture.
Depression has it’s agenda and is pretty good at tricking you into feeling it. Counter this with habits to distract yourself out of it. Reach out to familiar voices back home, find a way to recreate a safe routine or just dive into something that offers distraction from the same shit.