Traveling the world is said to be the best time of your life; offering the freedom to experience new places, meet new people and live your life away from the 9-5 daily grind. Instagram fills your feed with turquoise seas, lapping against white sandy beaches and friends share the highlights of their own journey via Facebook, expressing the incredible and life-changing time they are having.
The Isle of Man is small, and can often feel limited and isolated. I dreamt that when I left the Island all of my problems would disappear, a naive and fallacious hope. The realization that depression resides deep within myself, and is not anchored to the Isle of Man has slowly emerged as I have made my way across South America over the past four months.
Evidently, as with mental illness anywhere, moods fluctuate and there have been blissful times and unbeatable experiences while traveling too (it’s certainly not all doom and gloom) but you cannot help waking up each morning and feeling that niggle of sadness grow inside as you delve into your own mind.
So, what is one to do when they suffer from a mental illness and don’t feel their experience corresponds to everyone around them?
It cannot be expected that when you are feeling the burdens of depression, a stranger in a hostel is going to care about you, and after being on a bus for 27 hours with far too much time stuck in your own head, it is relatively common to be in a slightly negative frame of mind. However, with the pressures of social media lingering, are you expected to fall in line and share your experiences, reiterating what a “great time” you’re having? Even fuelling this façade causes you to wonder if anyone knows how you’re really feeling, lonely in a foreign land and wondering if you even bear the ability to be happy. Worsened by the guilt that you feel you should be enjoying every single second.
Depression is complex and effects people in countless ways. For me, my depressive episodes are all-consuming and can feel like you are stuck within a static bubble as life happens around you, while from the outset the sorrow can be misconstrued as being moody or hostile.
Difficult to discern whether you are gazing at everyone else’s lives through rose-tinted glasses, nostalgia comes forth and presents feelings of homesickness by romanticizing your past life.
The reality is, depression is inescapable and traveling thousands of miles from its origin is not the cure, but now you are without that support system you have cultivated and maintained: your home, your dogs and the comfort of your friends.
You have talked forever about going traveling, how are you meant to explain that you aren’t enjoying every moment?
Friends and family send messages telling you how beautiful your photographs look, how jealous they are and what a brilliant time you must be having, yet they are only seeing 2% of your life – a single photograph selected out of a hundred, a minute of a day out of hours and hours of traveling, stress, and exhaustion.
These individuals have only kindness in their mind but can’t help reiterate that sense of loneliness – how do you tell someone you’re feeling depressed when they think you’re at the pinnacle of your life and they’re jealous of YOU?
I am knowledgeable in that I cannot escape my depression by running away and I am thoroughly aware if I were to return to the Isle of Man tomorrow, I would still be dealing with these emotions there too, the subjects of thought would merely shift to something else.
Traveling causes a complete disruption to your life… you are nomadic, living out of a rucksack, thus the methods of coping are required to adjust. Finding solace within music (Vaughan Williams resonates with me) and more surprisingly, podcasts, which I had never listened to prior to being away.
I understand how fortunate I am to be in this position, able to travel the world – and I am making every effort to savor it.
Depression is a daily struggle no matter where you are and I hope my words offer consolation to anyone feeling similar, notably those far from home, feeling shame over their emotions, ’cause I get it.