It’s summer! That beautiful time of year when the grass is fluorescent green, and the sun is bright and beaming! It’s the time of year we can let our hair down, and flock overseas for some well-deserved, luxurious relaxation , after working and studying so hard all year long.
But, for some of us, travelling overseas can be a nightmarish, difficult task. Travelling with a mental disorder or complicated mental health can be exhausting; for some it can seem almost impossible to achieve. However, I have compiled a list of things to (hopefully) make your journeys that little bit easier this year. Good luck with your travels, and be blessed with the discovery of new, exciting places!
2. Book your travel insurance well in advance.
2.b. And don’t lie to get a cheaper quote!
This is one that has directly affected myself! I have Bipolar Affective Disorder Type 1, and I have just had to cancel a trip to the United States of America. The reason for this is simple: I’ve just been put on a new antipsychotic and, whilst I’m getting used to the new medication, I just don’t feel well enough to travel solo. Because I booked in advance (and told the truth about my Bipolar!) this protected me enormously from sketchy cancellation policies. Yes, I paid £110 for travel insurance for only 3 weeks – which is extortionate – but, I’ve claimed over £1,000 back. Worth the money? You betcha!
3. Don’t manically purchase a holiday if you aren’t 100% sure you can afford it and/or go.
Again, this has directly affected me. I booked a holiday in April during a manic episode to Nice in France. It seemed like a great idea – for all of a week. Then I was very unwell and I had to be hospitalised. I ended up losing an enormous amount of money and regretting manic and impulsive decisions. Top tip: look at point one if this has happened to you! Take the time to sit and research all the available options and pick realistic dates.
4. Book to see your doctor in advance for prescription letters, and find out what medication you might need.
Firstly, you need to do this so you can get a letter to fly with your prescriptions. You also need to make sure you have plenty of prescriptions in your hand luggage and your hold luggage… just in case! You must book in advance to speak to your doctor about the type of medication you might need on holiday. Because I have Type 1 Bipolar, I personally have to be extremely careful here. For example, something as simple as insomnia from jetlag can be really detrimental and cause me to have a manic or hypomanic episode. So, whenever I travel, I get sleeping tablets to take as well as the medication I take every day. Because of the nature of my condition, I also get prescribed something called a PRN. These are fast-reacting pills for if I go manic or have a panic attack induced by anxiety. Get in touch with your doctor and find out what you might need!
5. And most importantly… Check that your medication is available and legal in the country you are travelling to.
This is exceptionally important and you must check with a doctor at home first.
6. Make sure you know the emergency contact numbers of your travel insurance and the country’s/city’s local hospital.
Self-explanatory! Keep yourself safe.
7. Never disappear abroad without telling your loved ones where you are going or having a point of contact at home.
This is especially important if you have a mental illness that means you are susceptible to fall into a dangerous situation: e.g. a manic episode, panic attack, or a state of disassociation. Think about your loved ones and make sure you inform people that you are safe and doing okay. Having a support network is incredibly important no matter what state your mental health is in.
8. Know your triggers!
If you are someone who feels claustrophobic in large crowds, maybe a solo trip to a busy city centre or a festival might not be for you. Know what triggers your illness , and develop travel plans to accommodate for those possibilities. For example, I know that alcohol and drugs have been big triggers for me, so I make sure to avoid group hostels with lots of young people and party-tours. I also know that insomnia is a trigger for me so, as aforementioned, I plan ahead and get sleeping tablets from doctors before I go.
9. Have a plan for if something goes wrong…
I know it sounds scary and impossible, but things can go wrong. I have had a mixed state manic episode whilst abroad and it was terrifying. You need a secure back-up plan to follow if things go wrong. For example, my plan is: call the emergency number for the area; call mum; have my travel insurance ready for mum to help me find next flight available, ready to claim on insurance. Have a suitable plan.
10. Don’t let mental health stop you from travelling, be it solo or in a group!
Firstly, if you are travelling as a group you need to make sure immediately that someone in that group knows exactly what your diagnosis is, what your triggers are, and what medication you require every day to travel calmly and without worry. If you are travelling solo, you must tell someone at home who can be trusted as a reliable emergency point of contact.
Charley is a 21-year-old full time English teacher, who indulges in an exceptional addiction to coffee. Charley was misdiagnosed 4 times over a period of 5-6 years (with a variety of disorders), before her diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder in May 2017. Her teenage experiences with mental health led to her passion for teaching and working with young people. To manage bipolar affective disorder, she takes a small dose of lithium carbonate everyday, has a variety of creative hobbies and is working towards running a marathon in 2018. She is also writing a novel and has a special place in her heart for travel.
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