On Traveling With Mental Illness

Talia here, and it's time for some real talk.

I have depression. I've been "dealing" with it for about 6 years now. It's hard. It sucks. It's miserable. It hurts people close to me. In short, it's a big bummer that I'd really rather do without.

Living with depression is awful. Traveling with depression is...odd. I wrote about it during our last trip but thought I should address the topic again. It's true that I have some worries about embarking on a long trip while having this mental illness. No - not "some worries." I'm absolutely terrified.

Depression, for me, includes fatigue, lethargy, and easy frustration. I feel constantly tired and on edge. When I have my episodes my body and brain are just too drained to deal with simple tasks so I just don't do them if I can get away with it. When I can't, I tend to have breakdowns of ridiculous proportions. Everything seems impossible and when I can't accomplish something or if something doesn't go according to plan, I get very angry.

Day to day, this is difficult. On days when my depression comes crashing in like some overbearing relative I tend to sleep a lot. My willpower is drained by early afternoon so as soon as work is over I snap for a few hours. I try not to interact with people because I know my patience is low, but it can't always be avoided (re: being married). Usually I can push through work and then sleep for the rest of the day.

Traveling is different. Trains won't stop because I'm feeling down. The miles to the hostel won't get shorter because my body is too tired to walk them. I can't nap when we have buses to catch. Traveling is frustrating enough, dealing with language barriers, foreign currency, hard-to-read maps. It's doubly so when working with a patience level set close to the floor. And emotional catastrophes don't know when it's not a good time to happen.

 If I'm lucky, we're already in a city for a few days and I can rest or avoid social situations in restaurants or bars.  If I'm extra lucky, we'll be parked on a beach for a week or so where I can soak up some sun, get a massage, and worry only about sand in my book. But it's just a matter of when my depressive cycle decides it's a good time to strike. So mostly, it's all about trying to prevent episodes from happening in the first place.

This trip, I'll be managing my depression a bit differently. Last time I was on antidepressants and Adderall. Since then I've gone through a few iterations of these medications and am now only taking SAM-E and DHEA (nonprescription supplements). I find that they work about the same for me now. It's nice not having to see a doctor or get prescriptions each month.

I've stocked up with as much as I need for our anticipated length of traveling. I also had a bit of a cry when my Amazon package came and it was just bottles of pills. I liked to think that I was better off not being on prescriptions, but I realized my life, and my sanity, is still ruled by powder-filled capsules. But it is what it is, I suppose.

In addition, I plan on paying a lot more attention to exercise and diet. Last time, I didn't exercise at all. I also ate everything under the sun (and Ricky's ice cream addiction didn't help matters!). This time I want to continue with the yoga that I started a few months ago (nothing extreme here yet!) and eat less meat. I think giving myself some kind of dietary restriction (sometimes) will help me choose food more consciously, and choosing food consciously helps my brain to focus on, well, focusing.

Though when we get to Thailand all bets are off because they have the BEST fried chicken ever. Seriously.

I'm so excited to leave for our trip in FOUR DAYS! And yet, this thought keeps trickling through my brain. What if I can't do it? What if it gets too hard? What if my brain can't cope with the stresses, the frustrations?

Then again, what if it can?

We'll go as far as we can and I'm determined not to let my chemistry define my life's journey.

If you or someone you know also struggles with depression, or just needs to talk to someone, here are some helpful numbers to call or text: 


  1. My heart goes out to you! As a natural anxiety ridden traveller, I total identify with some of your worries. I think being conscious of your triggers and focusing only on one thing at a time often helps me. Thank you for sharing. It's an often neglected aspect of the challenges of travel. It will be well worth it though!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Anxiety is a killer when it comes to travel! It's so hard to enjoy life if our brain just won't let us! But we carry on :)


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