One year ago, I touched back down on English soil after a whirlwind two years romping around Australia with my best friend. Nothing could really have prepared me for the difficult emotions I would have to tackle over the following six months and in truth, even one year on; though I feel a great deal more settled, I still carry the scars with me everyday.
I recently re-read my article; Post-Travel Depression: What it Feels Like & How to Cope with it, with the interest of comparing my current mental wellbeing, everyday life and general attitudes, with how I was not so long ago.
I’ve decided to revisit each of the ways in which I was negatively impacted and share how I personally dealt with these issues in the months after I published the article, with the aim of bringing comfort and a little hope and inspiration to anyone in a similar position. For more context, I suggest you hop on over to my previous blog post before delving into this one.
Failure and guilt
For me, this feeling came about when I started realising that my time in Australia was running out and it only amplified when I booked that flight home.
How I overcame it: Talking about it with family and friends really helped to put things into perspective for me, because in their eyes, my trip was a success and something they saw as inspiring and courageous. These positive opinions helped to open my eyes and see how irrational my feelings really were.
Further reading: Nomadic Matt’s article; Why Going Home Does Not Mean Failure.
Though not severe, by any stretch of the imagination, I did feel recurring pangs of anxiety; mostly when I first woke up in the morning and when my mind had time to wander. I would sometimes get an inexplicable feeling of dread and random heart palpitations.
How I overcame it: Time was the greatest healer. However, I also started putting myself back into situations mildly out of my comfort zone (i.e. dating, taking up new hobbies), which in some ways, replicated how I lived my life during my travels. In doing so, my focus was shifted from the negative to the positive.
I grieved for everything I left behind; the people and the places, as well as myself.
How I overcame it: Over time I felt strong enough to re-connect with people from my travels, look at old photos and even listen to certain songs; and the more I did it, the easier it became. Now, I still miss it, but I look back fondly instead.
Negativity surrounds us everyday and penetrates the most grounded of people, so as you can imagine, I was drowning in the stuff.
How I overcame it: I basically burnt all possible bridges which had the potential to let negativity across: I stopped watching and reading everyday news, I had a huge break from social media and blogging, I disconnected myself from toxic people. In turn, I surrounded myself with anything and everything that brought me happiness and joy: people, food, plants, books; I even got myself a pet hamster!
Numbness, disinterest and demotivation
Numbness is one of the worst emotions I have ever encountered and I was burdened with it for an uncomfortable amount of time. Disinterest and demotivation were also pretty soul destroying, for me and probably anyone who came into contact with me.
How I overcame it: I think they began to subside when I started embracing new opportunities, which in turn, made me feel a little bit excited for life again. For me, these opportunities included new roles within my job, taking up climbing and changing my living situation. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s like a domino effect.
That feeling of being constantly mentally and physically tired was horribly draining.
How I overcame it: I began by sorting my sleep pattern out and going to bed at a decent time most nights. I started reading books instead of looking at my phone screen pre-sleep. I made a number of ethical decisions regarding my diet, which dramatically improved my health as a nice side effect. I also joined a new gym and bought a bike, which I use to commute to work. Small lifestyle changes = big mental and physical health improvements.
When I came back from Australia, there was no big announcement and only a handful of people even knew about it. This was because I was in no fit state to deal with myself, let alone others. I found it overwhelmingly difficult to see and speak to old and new friends alike.
How I overcame it: I accepted how I felt, accepted that some friends would take it personally and just took it step by step. I slowly got back in contact and met up with people in my own time. The ones who matter stick around.
I’ll be honest, this emotion is one that still sticks with me. I think the only vast difference is my acceptance of it now compared with back then. Some aspects have dramatically improved; I am no longer lost in myself and now feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever before and I no longer feel lost in my surroundings; I was lucky enough to move into a flat with my best friend this year. However, I still feel relatively conflicted when it comes to making any committed decisions regarding the future.
Time is the greatest healer of all – I still stand by the tips I gave in my past article, to help overcome these difficult feelings. Over time, they all assisted me in some way – when I was ready. I think time is the greatest healer, but I also think that you can definitely have some impact on the speed of this healing process and for me, this was down to living a healthy lifestyle, nurturing myself with self love, nurturing the relationships which truly mattered and getting out of my comfort zone as often as possible.
The outcome? I am free of the negative emotions and feel appreciation, gratefulness and love once more, I feel inspired and motivated by life again, I am perfectly comfortable in my own company and know myself better than ever.