Bipolar Babe on Traveling and Mental Health

Bipolar Babe on Traveling and Mental Health
Photo Attribution: 
Andrea Paquette

I am on the plane returning to Canada from my four day stay in Las Vegas and the experience was exhilarating to say the least.  The National Council hosted my friend Natasha Tracy and I in Vegas to attend their awards ceremony, participate in the Council’s conference, and encouraged us to enjoy the sights.  The situation brought about a lot of amazing times, and receiving an award was humbling and brought forth a significant amount of gratitude.  Still, the traveling aspect ignited a lot of questions and concerns.  I learned plenty from Natasha about staying well on vacation while having a mental illness. 

Five Tips to Stay Well While on Vacation

Don’t drink.  There are numerous temptations while on vacation and some of these include the constant offering of alcohol.  It does not mean you have to stay away from the hot spots and the nightclubs, but be aware that you are there to dance and it is not healthy to be interested in partaking with the majority of the crowd.  Since there are so many other amazing things to do, I prefer to avoid this type of scene altogether.  It’s expensive to drink and besides it is not wise to be consuming alcohol while taking psychiatric medications.  Some say ‘a little won’t hurt’ but frankly it is safer to just stay away from it all together as alcohol has been known to nix the effectiveness of these drugs that many of us take to stay well.  Be wise and be prepared that you may just have to say no.

Be organized.  I found myself floundering a lot of the time looking for items or getting lost in the hotel.  As someone who has a mental illness I am forgetful and I tend to get flustered when things get lost or misplaced.  Create a system for organizing your stuff and the outings you plan while on vacation. Creating such a system may deem helpful as you travel.  For instance, remember to put your medication in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost and try putting away your items in the same place each time so they are easily accessible causing you minimal frustration.

Be positive.  As things will go wrong as they sometimes do, don’t get down about it.  If you do find yourself unorganized, try not to be too hard on yourself if you forget your phone charger on the way out of the hotel upon check out, or you realize that you spent too much money.  It is important to learn from these pitfalls and move on, rather than dwelling on the idea that you messed up again.  A positive attitude goes a long way.

Maintain a routine.  It is never easy enforcing a curfew on yourself, but try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every day.  You may find yourself depressed if you don’t have enough sleep.  It is important to maintain the majority of the healthy patterns that you maintain at home to stay well.  Try eating at the same time throughout the day and take your medications at the same time as prescribed by your doctor.

Have fun.  The most important aspect of your travel experience is to have a lot of fun.  Leave plenty of time to plan and conduct your travel with ease.  If you stick to the above you may find that you will actually have a smoother time traveling then just trying to ‘wing it’ with no system in place.  Be open to socializing and do things that you would not have the opportunity to do at home.   Create meaningful memories and be assured in the fact that you are doing everything in your power to stay well while traveling.

At times, having a mental illness can prove difficult and traveling may seem impossible for many people, but if you follow these tips it may actually make it more attainable.  I understand that I may seem ‘strict’ and/or limiting, but with having a mental illness comes great responsibility and taking a trip is also a significant responsibility.  I recognize that experiences such as traveling may not be as easy for someone who has a mental illness, but it doesn’t mean that we cannot try to take on such adventures.  I believe with the right amount of support and planning that we too can visit the place of our dreams or live in other parts of the world.  Much of it depends on the choices we make and working within the limitations that we have.