Flicking through my photos, I realise that I’ve made a mistake, and that is that I don’t feature in pictures on my “down days.”
In these incredible places usually the traveller is in the photos with a happy smile. Instead, you’re behind the camera, on the brink of tears, usually over something trivial or a comment a local didn’t think you understood.
People have a tendency to think that travelling is the time of your life, that you have so many great moments and meet awesome people. True, you absolutely do have a blast and would trade anything to be back in that moment with the special people that existed there with you. However, simultaneously, the reality is that travelling while experiencing depression is incredibly difficult .
Not only are you travelling with the black dog tagging along behind you, you are mostly physically alone, or with one or two other trusted people at most. You feel guilty about the dog – that it is detracting from your experience as it barks at your glacier or bike ride, that you put a lot emotionally on the only person you can, that you keep things inside until the sponge overflows.
People ask about the pills you take when the alarm goes off each afternoon, and are often surprised that a “smiley, happy, laughing woman” like you can have such a thing. That’s the thing, isn’t it? The average person experiencing depression does not jump out and say “Hey all! What an awesome view. I feel desperately sad. Let’s go and have a cry, yeah?” They allow the true self shine through for moments in the presence of others, the lively self that so often becomes buried under the weight of the dog.
Furthermore, when time differences allow you to Skype with people back home, they ask about physical health, but not mental. They mostly want to hear that you’re safe and enjoying yourself. Don’t get me wrong, indeed you are! But, travelling is also unstable, unfamiliar, and isolating. You don’t always have your normal comforts like hot showers or internet to distract you, and you can’t always go and have a walk at times when you need to (sometimes for safety reasons). You know that people love you and care about you, and you appreciate them fiercely (thank you friends!) but the nature of the monster leaves you feeling down regardless.
I want people to understand the challenge of the monster and the importance of support far from home. To not be disillusioned by the photos they see on Facebook, and to do what I can to reduce the social stigmas surrounding the dog (which often can be simply the improper absorption of happy chemicals).
Some days you will simply have to manage. Some days you will have to do some self-research online, or have a rest day. Commit to making a change once you are settled and stable for a while. Practice meditation. Talk to others as you travel, who knows who you will meet? Every person has the ability to change your life. Even you.
Depression doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t wait for you to come back. It’s a daily battle to maintain it and move forward, even when you are having “the time of your life.”
Keep walking forward.
Don’t let it hold you back from anything