It’s not a secret that I struggled with depression for 8 years. I’ve always been very open about it, but for those who don’t know might be surprised. How can I, a girl that has been traveling around the world alone for the last 3 years, suffer from depression!?

 

First, lets get something straight – what is depression?

I’m not talking about 8 years of feeling down, a little sad, stressed or tired. I’ve spend weeks and months unable to leave my bed, not wanting to wake up in the morning. A constant painful whole in my chest that made everything seem meaningless. Unable to laugh about anything.

Telling someone with depression to lighten up or just do stuff you think are fun, is like telling a person with a broken leg to “just walk” “just jog a little and it will get better”. Depression is an illness.

“Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity or apathy that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being”

 

In this post I want to answer these questions, and if you have any followup questions or want to talk about anything, comment below or send me an email at evelina (at) utterdahl.se

  • Why was I depressed?
  • How did I manage to travel alone despite having a depression?
  • How did traveling affect my depression?
  • How did I get out of depression?
  • Why am I so open about my mental illnesses with strangers? 

 

 

Why was I depressed?

There is no easy or simple answer to this. But some things are easier to pinpoint as things that made me depressed.

First of all, I started to take on way to much responsibility as a child. I thought too much about what my parents and other grown-ups thought of me and I wanted to please them all, so in a way I lost my childhood. I never allowed myself to be just a child. And that’s been hard for me to accept and I’ve been terrified of becoming an adult and refuse to become one because I mourn my lost childhood. So my depression bloomed when I became a teenager and got close to choosing what High School/gymnasium to go to. That meant leaving childhood behind for good and taking a step closer to adulthood. That’s when I realised I would never have the chance to live as carefree as every child should have. Every cell in my body screamed and fought against becoming an adult.

Secondly, I never felt like I belonged in this society. It has always felt shallow, boring and meaningless to me. What is the point of going to school to get a job to afford buying a house and pay bills, longing every week for the weekend to come and to enjoy only 5 weeks of the year of freedom from a job that you’re only doing to get more money!? I didn’t get it. I never did.

I’ve also spent more time of trying to please other’s that I forgot to focus on me and what I’ve wanted. It was like I never knew myself because I had never listened to myself.

 

How did I manage to travel alone despite having a depression?

My solo traveling started with a broken heart after going alone on the trip that I had bought for the boyfriend I had at that time. First day on the trip was painful and horrible. But when I woke up the next day I felt this weird feeling I hadn’t felt before. It was this strange feeling of being free. Free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. That day was one of the best one’s I’ve ever had.

The feeling of being alone, independent, unknown it a city I hadn’t been to before became addictive. I had no one to listen to but myself, and by doing this over and over again, I slowly got to know what I like and what I want to do with my time.

Being at home with the kind of life I didn’t want I had to get away as often as I could. I was working a job I wasn’t passionate about, I was in a relationship that was filled with love but didn’t make my life more exciting or fun than being on my own, I was paying bills but my mind and the lest of my remaining money went on what I loved the most – travel.

Sure. Not all trips have been fun. If you are depressed, you are depressed no matter where you are. I’ve cried and felt like I didn’t want to wake up in the morning in many different countries. But somehow, a part of me knew that traveling is like medicine to me. It was what I needed. It is what I love. I found out from my travels that I really dislike big cities, that I love early mornings, that I love hiking and that nature is what makes me happiest.

 

How did traveling affect my depression?

As I said above. Traveling helped me heal. It made me learn more about myself. It helped me find what I love and what I don’t like. My depression started becoming more like a roller coaster. Instead of being completely down all the time, I would sometimes get these high peaks of feeling amazing and happy. Usually I would be happy when planning or going on a trip, and then I would get really low when having to go home again.

And just let me be clear – traveling did not cure my depression. But it helped me get on the right path.

 

How did I get out of my depression?

Alongside traveling I also went to a therapist for a couple of years. That helped so much, and I could not have beat my depression without my amazing psychotherapist. However, the traveling helped me realise what I wanted out of life. What I wanted to spend my life doing. What mattered to me.

After diving into the world of traveling and travellers, I saw an option. A way of life that seemed so right. It was like they got it. What life was about. As if they had figured out the meaning of life.

Nomads.

People who live on the road. Who are free. They can go wherever they want whenever they want. Not tied down by uninspiring jobs, paying bills, having responsibility of an apartment or a bunch of stuff.

Going after experiences and not collecting more possessions.

I knew then that I wanted to become a nomad too. As soon as I learned about that option as a way of living, it felt so right. That dream has kept me on the right track and now I am finally doing it. I have told my boss that I am quitting, I’ve  moved out of my apartment and in less than 3 months I will be free. I will have gotten rid of the things that made me unhappy, and will pursuit what makes me filled with purpose and happiness.

 

Why am I so open about my mental illnesses to strangers?

So many people suffer from mental illness. And so few feel like they can talk about it without shame or fear. I want to end the stigma and the tension about the subject. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it needs to be approached and talked about more openly, because a lot of people don’t know anything about it, which makes them bias and it makes it harder for the people suffering to get the help they need.

I also want to show people with mental illnesses that they too can travel alone! And not let the fear of getting anxiety or panic attacks or have a breakdown stop them from traveling the world if they want to. Or chase any other dreams they may have.

I’ve always been very open about mental health because I grew up in a family where we often talked about feelings, so for me it was nothing dramatic, I knew a little bit about depression before I got it myself. But I’ve noticed through the years when I talk openly about it that some people freeze, get very uncomfortable or stiff. Not that I would talk about my problems but just mentioning that I have a psychotherapist or that I had depression in a passby conversation. And that is just as surprising to me every time. With so many people dealing with mental illness, how is it still shushed or stigmatised!?

 

Ending thoughts

Depression is not the only thing I’ve suffered from. General anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety and a great fear of being in crowds are also problems Ive had or still have. Most of the time I won’t be bothered by them at all, but during times when I am very stressed, they pop up again. And that is a sign that I need to slow down. My biggest priority is me. My health, both physically and mentally. As someone who is very aware of her body and mind, I don’t compromise much at all any longer. I spent too much time in my life to please others, but now when I say no I mean it and I stick to it. Time is my most precious belonging and I want to spend it doing things that make me happy – not to seem fun, cool or interesting. It might sound selfish, but I’m not living my life for someone else. The only person I will always have around is me, and I want to treat myself in the best way that I can.

 

 

 

 

If you need someone to talk to or just want to went or share thoughts, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will do my best to listen and support. Comment below or send me an email at evelina (@) utterdahl.se

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. The way that I look at it is from a very personal and subjective point of view. Do you feel comfortable talking about mental illnesses?

 

 

#skaffainsikt mental illness awareness insikt
My bracelets “DPRSSN” and “PANIKÅ”, which stands for depression and panic anxiety.
I ware them to support the initiative INSIKT that works to stop the stigma around mental illness

 

 

 

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Author

Swedish female solo traveler. Been to 6 continents and 60+ countries. Nature, hiking, adrenaline, responsible travel and minimalistic packing.

17 Comments

  1. Wow. Such an important topic, thank you for being so honest! I’m glad your traveling made you find the right path and I wish you all the best on your future travels as well! I hope we’ll meet again sometime, somewhere 🙂 Big hugs from Norway

  2. A big thank you for being so open and honest! I think it’s very important to talk about mental illnesses since, like you said, so many people deal with it.
    I’m happy to hear that traveling helps you and that you are able to listen to yourself and follow your heart and that you are getting rid of the things that make you unhappy.
    I totally agree with you about the whole nomad life, that’s what I want too.
    Good luck now!! 🙂

  3. Thank you! Indeed. And when you’ve been so depressed nothing can make you happy, you realise how unimportant money and belongings are 🙂

  4. Wow I applaud you for being a nomad with your depression. For me the best way to deal with it is cry, stay in bed and wait for things to pass. When I travel, I always feel I should go out and explore and feel guilty for sleeping in and taking naps. I went on a trip once with my anti despression meds and it was a nightmare. I was supposed to stay away for 1 month and came home crying after 6 days. I just couldn’t do it.

    Glad you found a way to make things work. I am curious where you will start your new nomad life and where it will take you. Take care.

  5. Some of my trips have been “destroyed” by my depression. In some places I stayed in the hostel room or hiding in a corner at a cafe all trip. However, sometimes knowing that I “should” go out and explore made me do it, and it made me feel better to be outside, walking and letting my thoughts run around free.
    The fact that I had people following me and knowing that I was going somewhere made me motivated to get out and do and see stuff, which is just what I needed when depressed and not feeling like doing anything at all 🙂

    I don’t even know myself yet where I will start, which is amazing. I’ll take it as it comes. Just the way I want it to be.
    Thank you for sharing, and you take care too!

  6. Thank you so much for your bravery and openness in addressing this topic. It’s so inspiring to see you wear your heart on your sleeve in addressing your depression.

    I can relate to this so much, as I have anxiety and panic attacks, but traveling was really the thing that set me free. To some it sounds counter-intuitive, but being in a new environment and culture is really like a breath of fresh air. It forces you to be away from it all and just focus on the present.

    You’ve inspired me to write something similar about my experiences on my own blog. Thanks again for sharing!

    Alex, mindfulmermaid.com

  7. Thank you for being so open about this important matter. Know that you’re not alone <3 hugs from a fellow solo traveler who have gone through much of the same as you <3

  8. Thank you so much Alex! And that makes me so happy to hear – the more people who talk openly about it – the easier it is for people suffering to know they’re not alone and to feel comfortable asking for help and talk about it 🙂

  9. This makes me really happy. As someone who has struggled with depression in the part as well, I really appreciate the tone of your piece: neither brushing it off nor turning it into melodrama. Depression is an illness. The mark of it stays will you. But you grow beyond it. And I loved hearing your take on solo travel through it. Thanks for the words!

  10. Wow!! Tack fina du. Jag känner igen mig i delar av vad du skriver och det känns så uppfriskande med din öppenhet. Jag har själv länge planerat att få till en terapeut men det är så svårt att erkänna för sig själv att man behöver hjälp. Du är en förebild. Finis

  11. Att be om hjälp är otroligt svårt, men lättnaden efter att ha tagit det steget är enorm. Enda sättet att bli frisk från depression är genom samtalsterapi, men alla psykologer/terapeuter är inte perfekt match. Jag gjorde så att jag bestämde “provmöte” med flera olika psykologer. Gick ett möte med dem och när jag kom till den jag sedan började gå hos så kände jag snabbt att det var helt rätt för mig.
    Jag hade dock lyxen att gå privat. Det är väldigt mycket pengar, men det är det värt i slutändan, då ens hälsa är det viktigaste en har.
    Skicka mail till mig om du vill prata mer om det här, har själv mycket erfarenhet om hur allt går till, både när det kommer till arbete, sjukskrivning, läkarbesök och medicinering t.ex. KRAM!

  12. Oh dear, you are a star. Tack för att du delar, beskriver så klarsynt och självständigt. Med värdighet och utan omvägar. Du inspirerar!

  13. I just came across your site after googling backpacking in Ukraine.I have to say your posts are very inspiring and well written.I sometimes struggle to concentrate while reading ,however I find the way you write very engaging.It is great to see someone living a lifestyle I would also love to have,it makes you believe its possible.good luck with your travels.

  14. Thank you so much Joshua, you have no idea how happy your words make me! And oh do I relate to the struggle of concentrating while reading so it makes it even more worth that you find my posts read-worthy. xx, Evelina

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