What was your experience with depression before you began travel?
Well I’d say I was almost born depressed, and I started to travel when I was 16, so it’s hard to say. That first trip (to France and Yemen with my best friend and his father) made me realize I needed to keep traveling and see the world. It helped build my confidence and lower my anxiety.
How has living with depression impacted your life?
It decided what type of work and schedules I could keep. It meant I didn’t always have a job or one I liked. It took me an extra semester to finish university because of my depression at the time.
What types of medications or medication alternatives have you used to try to treat it?
At some point I took Wellbutrin, then Celexa and then Zoloft for one day only. I ended up in the emergency with serotonin syndrome after taking one Zoloft, so that was no fun.
There was also lots of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), light boxes and tons of vitamin D and essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Was it hard to consider travel during depressive episodes?
I have a tendency to want to run away from stress and problems, so people knew me for being flighty. I say “knew” because I’m much more grounded now and don’t do crazy things anymore, but in the past, I always found a way to escape, even if it was just a weekend away.
What have you noticed about how depression has affected you during your travels?
I can’t say I ever really traveled while clinically depressed. But in general, when I’m away from home, I realize home is not really that bad, and I come back more able to cope with whatever I was running from.
If you have long time periods when you don’t travel, do you tend to experience a relapse?
No, I don’t believe there’s a correlation between needing to travel and my depression. I haven’t suffered from clinical depression in probably 7 years at least, so it can’t be the explanation for my wanderlust.
Does living with depression change how frequently you travel?
I think living with depression, or living with the extra effort of working to prevent another depression, as I do, changes how I live life in general. I don’t drink. I keep a very strict sleep schedule. I make sure to eat well. Those things alone can be very isolating since I don’t go to bars or party. When I travel and someone offers me a drink, it can be seen as insulting to not accept, so that’s another issue. And we all know how hard it can be to get proper sleep or food while traveling! It doesn’t change how frequently I travel, but it certainly changes the WAY I travel.
Have you found any non-travel-related activities that have a similar impact for you?
No, nothing beats getting out there and meeting new people, seeing how the other world lives and looking at special landmarks in person. Travel uses all the senses – taste, textures, colours, scents – it makes me feel alive. If you have something comparable, let me know!
What advice do you have for other people who are dealing with depression?
Talk to someone who will take you seriously. This might mean you have to try a few doctors first, but don’t give up. If your work has an employee assistance program (EAP), use it! There are support groups out there! Mostly, there is hope. It will get better (not overnight), but you will feel better eventually. Once you do get better, don’t live your life in fear of it coming back, just take care of yourself the best you can. Find out what works for *you* and stick to it. Like I said above, I need adequate sleep, stress management, a good diet and good friends. That’s *my* recipe to stay well and I accept that I have to stick to it for the rest of my life. Find your recipe and don’t fight it. We’re all different. Just do what works.