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.
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!?
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?