Friday, July 15, 2016

Travelling with Mental Illness

July. The month of vacations. Should you let a mental illness keep you from enjoying a trip out of town? Absolutely not!

Travelling brings with it a certain level of uncertainty which can be fun to the adventurous but daunting to the rest of us. Even if you are well supported and stable at home, how can you prepare yourself to travel and ensure your mental illness will not get in the way of seeing the world?  Here are some tips to help you get the most of your vacation this summer.

1.       Be Prepared: If disorganization and battling the unknown triggers anxiety for you (which is completely normal), being prepared in advance can help you feel at ease and you will feel more ready to deal with situations as they come up.

Ensure you have enough medication to cover you for your whole trip and a few days extra just in case. Also ensure you have the necessary documentation for your meds if you are questioned at the border (consult your doctor about this).

Buy medical insurance so you can rest easy knowing that if something does happen to you while you are away, you won’t be faced with a hefty medical bill when you return home.

Make lists! Making lists of what paperwork you need to have with you (passport, Visa, flight documents, etc) as well as what clothing you need to pack and other toiletries you’ll need will help you prepare in advance and ensure you don’t leave anything crucial behind.

2.       Know Yourself: Only you know how your mental illness affects your day to day life. Travelling disrupts your daily routine and it’s important to remember to eat, sleep and drink water as much as possible while you are away to keep your body functioning at its best. Knowing yourself includes acknowledging your limits. Listen to your body and allow yourself to rest when you need it before you get too overwhelmed to function and risk losing out on new and fun opportunities on your trip.

3.       Seek Support: The standards of care and stigma surrounding mental health are unfortunately inconsistent around the world. However, depending on your length of stay and location, it may be possible to seek out support where you are going that is similar to home. For example, if AA meetings are a part of your schedule and recovery, finding an AA meeting to attend while away may benefit you. As well, many cities have their own crisis line or Distress Centres that you can call and many of these are 24/7. This website has a list of many different countries and the helplines available: Your Life Counts

4.       Seek Help Upon Your Return: If you notice that you are unable to settle back into your normal routine upon returning home, don’t be afraid to seek support from your doctor or mental health professional.

5.       Have Fun! Try to enjoy yourself as much as you can. The world is your oyster. Stay safe and have fun!