Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Don't let Mental Illness leave you grounded

Recently we took a trip back to the United States from Australia.  For those who have never done that sort of flight let’s just say it’s not for the faint of heart.  A rough total of 23 hours in the air and another 10+ hours in layovers take a lot out of you, not only physically but for those who live with mental illness, mentally as well. 

Preparation is the key to it all, making sure medications are packed and are taken as close to normal time as possible.  That is probably the easiest part, the rest can leave you feeling off, confused, tired, depressed, and manic and in some cases psychotic.  I know it does not seem like it’s worth it, but travelling is a chance to see the world and the sacrifices that are made are worth it if taken care of in the right way.  We were not made to stay in one place, there is so much to explore and experience that our mental health should not keep us from that.  However, having these illnesses can add an element of difficulty, especially when they involve long flights and most importantly a lack of preparation.

Sadly I fell into the latter category; I was ill prepared for the trip, mentally.  I had lists for what needed to be packed, papers printed for hotels, car rental, site seeing, flights and visas.  I had an itinerary planned and ready to go and waited impatiently for the day to come.  We even arrived at the airport 90 minutes before it opened.  

What I didn’t plan for, however, was my mental health. I knew in the back of my mind that it could become an issue, lack of sleep and a disruption of a regular routine has been known to cause me problems in the past.  I told myself that was in the past, I was smarter now and could handle this without a problem.  I knew jet lag would be an issue, but with a little sleep and some down time there would be no problems, turns out that I was only half right. 

Flying to U.S. was OK, jet lag was minimal – though I was tired – I felt good and we had a fantastic time visiting New York City.  I had never been to Central Park or Time Square so I felt like a little kid exploring for the first time.   We visited with friends, toured the battlefields of Gettysburg and did a little shopping.    All this made the fact that I was tired seem irrelevant, there was so much to see and do I was on top of the world.

When the time came to return back Australia, I hoped it be just as easy.  I would love to be able to say it happened that way, but after four days of being back home, I have not slept for more than 5 or 6 hours a night, I’m irritable, moody, depressed, hypo-manic and fear psychosis isn’t far behind.   The emotions of visiting my home left me with feelings of nostalgia and the emotions of coming to terms with who I am now.  I looked forward to returning to work when we returned, but since we live in a resort town winter is very slow and it is possible I will be out of work for the next 3 months.  Put all these things together and I am struggling to find my footing once again.  All the progress I made over the last year seems to have dissipated over the Pacific Ocean.  I am struggling to focus and return to a schedule and routine that I am familiar with and helps me be the person I want to be, the writer, photographer and person who loves life and battles the demons with strength and determination. 

I do not say these things to deter anyone from travelling, it is actually the opposite.  I want people to know that, yes travel can be a challenge if not handled correctly.  There is planning that needs to be done not only with what you will pack and things you will do, but also how you will handle jet lag or a disruption in your daily routine.  These two topics alone should be at the top of the list when preparing for a trip.  It is very easy for a slight relapse to make a huge difference not only in your holiday, but in the return home as well. 

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