I survived! I survived my family reunion – which meant being stuck on a boat (granted it was a cruise) for 1 week with some of who I am quite close to and others who I do not have the greatest relationship with. Even though it was a cruise which had lots of fun activities – I still was required to spend quite a bit of time with family, who as I said, I am not particularly close to and do not have the best relationship with, and was not able to do things I actually wanted to do, which was frustrating.
I did have a good time, but getting through the week was very hard also.
Traveling when you have mental illness is not the easiest thing though. So many things can go wrong. Who are you with, medication problems, sleep issues, why you are traveling in the first place, how long you will be gone, missing therapy appointments, where you will be going, and so many other things! So how do you deal with all of this?
1. Who are you with – Being around people you do not have a great relationship with can be VERY stressful. Make sure you have time for yourself. Schedule time for yourself. You might have to eat meals with them or go to certain events with them. But tell them that you need a nap or have to take a break, especially if they already know about your mental illness, they should “hopefully” understand. During this time, do whatever makes you happy that you can do – read a book, take a nap, draw, practice deep breathing, take a walk, etc.
2. Medication – If you take psychiatric medications (or any other medications), make sure you have an adequate supply. If you will run out during the trip, get an over-ride by your insurance company to get it filled early. It is so important to take all your medications as prescribed. If you are traveling outside of the country, also bring a copy of your prescriptions as some countries will require the copy of your prescriptions when you enter or leave the country as well. While most do not, it is better to be prepared than to run into a problem. Always make sure they are in the prescription bottle. Put your medication in carry on luggage if you are traveling in an airplane as well so it will not get lost if your luggage is misplaced.
3. Sleep – When you are not in your own room in your own bed, sleeping can sometimes become a problem. And if you are traveling across the world, jet lag will really throw you off. Be consistent with your sleep. Lack of sleep can throw you into a mania if you have bipolar (according to my psychiatrist). You can also go into a deep depression. Bring any sleep medication that has been prescribed to you as well in case you might need it.
4. Missing therapy sessions – Make sure you talk with your therapists about what to do since you will be missing therapy sessions. Can you have extra session before the trip if needed? Will you have a session scheduled after the trip or will there be a waiting period to get back in? Is there a way to contact him/her during the trip if you need to? If not, do you have a friend that you trust to talk to if you cannot talk to those you are traveling with about what is going on?
5. Where will you be going – If something happens related to your mental health, do you have a system in place for what to do? Are there mental health hospitals available? Do you have the suicide crisis line number to call? Does your health insurance cover out of state/country medical emergencies (mental health emergencies/hospitalizations) Of course, you do not want to even think about this as you just want to hope for a good time, but especially if you are traveling outside of the country, it is something you might want to think about as many countries have different ideas of how to handle mental health crisis, and many international travel insurance policies do not cover mental health care or pre-existing conditions.
6. Coping skills – These are super important. You need to remember to use these when things get hard. If you need to bring anything to help you, bring it. Paper for drawing. Markers. Coloring book with crayons. Crossword puzzles. A book. Magazine. They are generally small enough to fit in a backpack or luggage. A stress ball. Then there are always the skills that do not need an object such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Simple meditations.