I decided a few months ago to go ahead and book an overseas vacation. I hoped that it would give me something to look forward to, and that it would help to finally put a dent in the anhedonia that’s been such a challenging symptom of my depression. I decided to go to Italy because it was already high on my list of places I wanted to go, and being a Western European country it seemed like it would be pretty easy logistically. Travelling was always a passion for me, so the notion of travelling for mental health made at least some sense.
Now, as the 3-week trip draws to a close, it’s time to review the good and the bad.
- I was having a really hard time just before I left. Knowing I’d soon be able to get away from it all gave me that faintest glimmer of hope to keep on going.
- Present moment focus: It took about a week to really ease into this, but I was able to keep myself mostly in the now for a pretty good chunk of the time.
- It was good to have a break (mostly) from all things work-related. I despise my new employer and I really need to consider whether it’s worth the agitation.
- It was also good to have just a general shift in focus and environment, a way to sort of press reset.
- My energy wasn’t too bad, and I was out and about each day all morning and for the early part of the afternoon.
- Too much choice is a bad thing. I was quite lost when it came to picking out restaurants to eat at, so my go-to became supermarkets. Still good food, but I didn’t get the real Italian culinary experience.
- I’m naturally good at organizing. So it really highlighted a deficit when I struggled to figure out how to structure each day. In the end I managed ok, but it was frustrating to have the feeling of looking at my guidebook and my notes and just totally drawing a blank.
- Negative interpersonal experiences: from perv-y hostel guy to being ignored by staff at a cafe, this trip has definitely not helped to restore my faith in humanity
- The anhedonia firmly stayed put. Many of the things I saw that would normally be considered amazing and beautiful came with an attitude of bland indifference.
- My lithium-related lack of coordination was worse than usual, and I managed to wipe out, sprain my ankle, and scrape myself up.
- I am frequently having the feeling that the ground underneath me is vibrating or rocking. I wonder if it might be due to overstimulation or anxiety (even though I don’t feel anxious emotionally). If it continues when I get home I’ll go see my doctor about it.
So, what’s the final assessment? Is travelling for mental health something that actually works? I think while on the trip I did as well as could be expected. Even though I hoped travelling would counteract the anhedonia a bit, realistically I knew that external circumstances would be unlikely to accomplish that. Probably the biggest thing was knowing I would have an escape from my world, which helped me get through a really rough September. Now I head home feeling ever so slightly more able to face my world again, and that at least is a good thing.
After my third hospitalization, here I am in either January or February 2013 at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. It was a fairly last minute thing to just try to take my mind off of negative hospital experiences. It was okay, but didn’t really do much to change how I was feeling.
This is in Venice, Italy in the fall of 2018. This is the oldest sidewalk cafe in the city, and they had a fancy classical ensemble playing.
This was an experiment to see if travelling would help with my depression. In keeping with past experience, it didn’t. I was indifferent to all the things that I would have loved in the past. After that, I decided there was no point blowing a bunch of money on doing any more travelling in the hopes of a magic wand to make me feel better, because it just doesn’t work that way.