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5 Questions I Ask Myself Before I Vacation While Depressed

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When I’m depressed, I often dream of running away to an exotic place in the hopes that it would help dissolve the hazy fog I find myself in.

Last November I found myself in the deepest, darkest of depressions. I actually attempted to take my life. I couldn’t shake the fog. It darkened everything I did. I had the chance to go to California and see Tony Robbins live, which is quite the experience. I still came home glum, depressed and blue.

So, I stayed this blue for another week and a half until my husband took me to Disney World. Now, I love Disney. All things Disney. And I’d never been there before, even though I’ve visited Disneyland a few times. You’d think this was enough to kick that depression’s ass, but no. I tried my hardest, my very hardest to enjoy the trip. And sometimes it worked. There were glimmers of my old self at times, but they didn’t last.

Going on vacation, even to those two amazing places, didn’t pull me out. So once I got home, I thought of some questions to help me decide when going on a vacation while depressed would be right for me, just for future reference. I want to share them with you.

1. What does my treatment team think?

For me, I didn’t make the decision to go lightly. I discussed it with my treatment team beforehand, and had they been absolutely opposed to me going, I would’ve missed my trips. So, I would recommend discussing a change of scenery with those who care about you before booking the next flight out. Making an informed decision is almost always the best course of action.

2. Where do I want to go?

If you’re normally a partier or a thrill-seeker, you might think New York City is the place to be. But if you’re not that person while depressed, NYC could potentially make you feel worse by reminding you at every corner that you don’t feel well. Also, a high-impact vacation may wear you out and leave you drained, much more so than a nice relaxing vacay by the beach would.

I know this because I was fighting this depression with everything I had in me. I knew I was super fortunate to be in these awesome places and that I shouldn’t feel depressed, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop it. In fact, I was beating myself up even more than if I’d been at home because who gets depressed at Disney World?

Now, I didn’t take a vacation to Jamaica or Hawaii or another relaxing sandy beach. I can’t speak for what vacations to places like that would be like. I imagine that depression is depression is depression, as in, you’ll be depressed no matter where you rest your head at night. I could be wrong though. Maybe it’s worth going on that trip even if you’re feeling blue.

3. What’s the end game I’m trying accomplish by going on vacation?

Am I trying to “snap out of it” by being somewhere new, or am I going simply because I think it’d be a nice change of scenery?

Your mindset as to why you’re going matters. If you’ve got pie in the sky hopes of magically feeling better just because of where you are, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment.

4. Are the travel plans flexible or stringent?

Do you have to go the week of the 3rd, or can you play around with the dates, just in case your depression is worst around then? Try not to pin yourself into a corner if possible.

I know for me, I’d have much rather preferred to change my dates because it wasn’t a game-changer in my depression. I recognize I had no control over the timing of my Tony Robbins trip and had to go to that happy or sad, but I wish I could’ve waited on my Disney trip. The colors would’ve been brighter, the experiences more memorable,  and I would’ve been better company all around.

5. What’s going to be different once I get home?

Are you going right back to work full-time, or are you easing into it? Will you immediately be overwhelmed with household responsibilities, or can some of it take the back burner? What I’m saying here is that if going on vacation is going to ultimately lead to more stress when you get back, it might not be the best time to go, especially if you’re in the deep dark pit of despair like I was.

I don’t know if these two vacations helped me stay stable or not. I was so depressed I wasn’t looking forward to anything. Maybe if there’s something you’re really looking forward to, it would make a difference, but that wasn’t the case for me. I appreciate the fact that I had a chance to put my coping skills into practice and show I could practice self-care under challenging circumstances (such as being away from family and no one to hold me accountable). I didn’t give into the depression. I still forced myself to get up and go each day, even when it felt overwhelmingly impossible. I don’t know if I would have been able to keep fighting against it like that had I been home. So there is one positive, at least.

All in all, vacationing while depressed is a personal matter and unique to each person. Traveling can be fun, but you always want to be in the best possible health to go.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Thinkstock photo by NAOFUMI KUROKI/amanaimagesRF

Originally published: March 7, 2017
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