Marika is the face behind the blog Clumsy Girl Travels. She writes about unique experiences around the world all while overcoming the challenges of traveling with ataxia, a hidden disability. Follow her on Instagram.
When I describe to people what having depression is like, I say, it’s like being suffocated by weights that are too heavy to pick up. They are stuck in place, holding you down.
You can’t breathe or move, and so the easiest thing to do is just lay there and hope the weights become lighter. They rarely do.
I have had depression on and off for several years, and for the most part, my symptoms are controlled, but sometimes I go through phases where they come back, and it can happen at any time. I have been on trips where one day I feel great and the next I am in bed, not able to get up. It’s an unbearable feeling, and when it hits, it’s tough to snap out of.
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What is Depression?
Depression is a common mood disorder that is caused by a chemical imbalance. It creates a continuous feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of interest in pleasure
- Loss of appetite
How is Depression Treated
I treat my depression with medication and therapy. When I first started my medication, I needed to take my meds every day for about a month before I would start seeing results, and I honestly can say, being on anti-depressants has changed my life in the best possible way.
If I stop taking my meds, my symptoms come back.
Therapy has been a game-changer for me. Therapy helps by working through your thoughts and feelings to try to make sense of them. Unfortunately, when I travel, therapy isn’t an option, but I try instead to meditate or find other calming activities to do.
Travelling with Depression
Travelling with depression hasn’t been easy, but I have been lucky not to experience many depressive moments while travelling. One of the worst times of my life was a few years ago when I was living in London.
I was visiting home after living in London for a little over a year. A few days before returning to London, I shut down. I couldn’t fathom leaving my family. Even though I had a place waiting for me in London, I didn’t want to leave.
I almost missed my flight because getting on that plane felt like the worst possible idea. The moment I got to the airport, I cried. I was scared to leave and go back to London. Once I got on the plane, I put on my sunglasses so I could cry without anybody noticing and slept for 12 hours straight until I landed in London.
Before going through customs, I found a corner of the airport sat down and cried. I needed to let it out. Once I got back to my flat, I didn’t bother greeting my roommates. I went straight up to my room, where I didn’t move for the next seven days. I didn’t eat. All I did was sleep and talk to my mom, who told me after a week that I needed to get out of the house, so I decided to visit York. A place I have wanted to visit for a while.
That trip made me feel as good as new. I visited for a week and had the best time. My depression was gone, and it was all thanks to my mom, convincing me to travel somewhere. That time in London was one of the darkest times of my life and one I would never want to repeat.
Travel, along with the medications my doctor has prescribed have been life-changing for me when dealing with my depression.
The Hardest Parts of Travelling with Depression
Moments of sadness and worthlessness: These are moments you can’t escape. These feelings are so overwhelming that they can ruin a trip for me. I end up staying in bed and can’t muster up the energy to do anything.
Being so far from family and friends: Being so far away from the people I love is definitely one of the hardest parts. Yes there is Skype, but when I need someone to drag me out of bed, Skype, unfortunately, can’t help.
Tiredness: When I am depressed, I can sleep for 12 hours, and that can be hard, especially when I meet new friends, and they want to go out and party until the early hours of the morning.
Anxiety about travelling: Travelling is anxiety-inducing enough without the added anxiety that comes with depression. I try and meditate in the mornings and evenings to lessen my anxiety, or if I am feeling particularly anxious, I will listen to some music or watch a movie or TV show.
The Best Parts of Travelling with Depression
Those feel-good days: I definitely have more good days than bad ones, and those days are the best. Those days when I can wake up early and take full advantage of the day ahead.
New friends: When I travel, I always meet loads of new people. Although my depression isn’t something I am entirely comfortable opening up about, I never have to worry about being lonely, and some of the friends I have made have even become some of my best friends!
Freedom to explore a new place: Being in a new place is sometimes all it takes to get me out of bed in the mornings. The excitement of getting out and exploring my surroundings makes me feel great.
Travelling with depression has not been easy to deal with. I have had many ups and downs, but the one constant in my life is that I have an incredible support network of friends and family that are always around if I need them, even if it is over Skype.