As I wrote when I shared about my long-term battle with depression, I am introducing an interview series from fellow travelers who have dealt with depression to share not only their experiences, but what also helps them deal with the condition. I hope sharing their stories helps others. I’d like to thank Forrest of The Other Side of the Coconut for sharing part of his journey with us.
What was your experience with depression before you began travel?
My clinical depression started with the death of my seven-year-old son. He was not only my son, he was my sun. He died due to a combination of an incompetent MD and a greedy insurance system. Four hours after the doctor told me to go home and give him some Tylenol, he died in my arms.
This led to divorce because the life I was leading was all about raising this boy, and I saw no sense in jobs and mortgages and being in the neighborhood where all his friends played.
How has living with depression impacted your life?
I asked my wife to let me go so I could pursue lifelong dreams of seeing the world without any responsibilities to the mundane.
What types of medications or medication alternatives have you used to try to treat it?
I tried two different anti-depressants, but they both made me careless. By that I mean I couldn’t care less. I was doing stupid things that could well have led to a not pretty death. They made me suicidal.
Was it hard to consider travel during depressive episodes?
No. Travel was my ultimate medicinal remedy. The idea that something different was beyond the horizon, or a plane ride away, kept my will to live alive. Still does.
What have you noticed about how depression has affected you during your travels?
I find that I am intolerant of people who cannot control their children on planes, in restaurants, or anywhere else. I get seriously saddened by children in poverty or begging.
If you have long time periods when you don’t travel, do you tend to experience a relapse?
No, because I am always planning that next trip. Studying my next destination.
Does living with depression change how frequently you travel?
Oh yeah. I must take a trip sometime in the foreseeable future or I get lost in my despair.
Have you found any non-travel-related activities that have a similar impact for you?
Writing fiction. Reading adventure novels. Blogging.
What advice do you have for other people who are dealing with depression?
I tell them it will not go away. Avoid meds. Speak to a decent shrink often. Find diversions that occupy your mind.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Being a depressive is no fun, but burdening others with your state of mind or your sad story is not fair to them. Find a partner like I did who loves to travel (or shares some other love) and work with that person towards a lifetime of peaceful happy diversions.
Forrest has written about this topic on his blog a couple of times. You can find those posts at http://theothersideofthecoconut.com/2011/01/17/a-flash-from-the-past-costa-rica-y2k/ and http://theothersideofthecoconut.com/2012/09/20/easter-island-easter-bunny/.