• ANXIETY IN LAS PALMAS

    Normally in my travel posts on this blog, I like to share what I got up to and what I enjoyed in the various locations I have visited. But this post is a bit different, I want to talk about how I felt being in Las Palmas, not what I did. It has nothing to do with the city though, and I don’t hold it responsible for this experience, it was about what happened in the run up to my trip. I mentioned in my last post that, in an effort to “cheer myself” out of my depression (bad idea), I went to London (alone) and it did not go well. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t listen to music. I ended up coming home early and staying with my parents for a few days. However, I’ve travelled a lot by myself in the past and I didn’t want to not be able to do that anymore. In a way, I was glad that I had booked this trip so long ago. It meant I had an opportunity to get back on the horse, as they say. But I was nervous about it; mainly nervous that it would end up going the same way as my trip to London.

    It was a very weird holiday, for many reasons that I won’t go into now. The thing I want to focus on is my anxiety because honestly it was all consuming. It was so intense, it made it really hard to function. It was supposed to be a relaxing holiday; I wanted to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun. Or rather, figure out if I enjoy such a thing. I hadn’t been on a sun holiday since I was a teenager. For the past few years, I’ve gone on a trip at the end of every November because I work for an American company and get a few days off for Thanksgiving, but they’ve always been busy city breaks. This year, back in May, I decided that I wanted to try and have a relaxing holiday to see if I liked it. In hindsight, I’m really not sure if this was a good or bad idea. Maybe having more things to do would have helped me work through my anxiety. But maybe it would have made it a lot worse. Regardless, there I was in Las Palmas, trying to figure out if I enjoyed the sun and struggling to keep myself from going crazy.

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    I took things really easy. I walked a lot. I sat in my apartment a lot. I tried to write but it was a struggle. I wanted to try to explain how it felt, I wanted to get it out. My mum has asked me in the past to explain what anxiety is like and honestly that question boggles my mind. I don’t understand how anyone could not just know how it feels. It’s so much apart of life for me, that it’s hard to grasp the idea that there are people who have never felt it. When I was deep in it in Las Palmas, I wanted so much to put it into words, to explain how it felt, as if maybe that might help alleviate things; as if putting it into something tangible would help transfer it away from me. But I’m not sure any words can truly convey the feeling, it’s so deep, so raw.

    None the less, I did try and this is what I typed into my notes while I was in Gran Canaria in an attempt to express what my body was experiencing:

    “My anxiety is at an all time high, the not knowing, the uncertainty of it all. It’s like I’m searching for something but I have no idea what I’ve lost. I feel like I’m about to burst, or maybe implode, but either way, I’m going to lose my footing in the explosion. I‘m wandering around, doing things just to do them. Breathing with no goal, other than to just keep going. I feel tired. Tired of carrying all these emotions around with me. The anxiety is wearing me down and I just want to feel calm. I just want the anxiety to stop. But it doesn’t, it ebbs and flows; some moments I can almost feel it start to dissipate, but then it’s back full force and I’m right back in it, every single piece of me. I feel it in my stomach, in my core. It’s so real, so tangible. My brain is trying as hard as it can to convince my body that everything is okay, we are safe. But my body isn’t listening. It’s panicking. Anxiety doesn’t understand logic. My breathing gets a little more strained and I feel it in my chest now. There are all these emotions building inside me, but they’re hard to figure out. I feel full, overwhelmed, but everything is so wedged in that I can’t seem to let it all out. I feel sick, I feel scared.” 

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    I think I was just trying so hard to process so many emotions, that I ended up just feeling completely scrabbled. It felt like 10 radios were playing at the highest volume all at once, each trying to give me important information but I couldn’t distinguish anything from the chaos. The noise just engulfed me and I couldn’t turn it off. But the main thing is I survived. It was hard, but I made it through it. On the last day, I went and lay on the beach for a bit, leaving my phone at the apartment. It was a very brief moment, but I did feel at peace lying there with the heat seeping into my bones.

    If anyone reading this is having a hard time with anxiety, I would suggest taking things as slowly as you need to and holding on to any fleeting moments of relief. I tried to distract myself as much as possible (for example, I researched every single result from my last blood test, what each thing they tested for meant and whether my result was good or not), and that did work a little bit. It didn’t make the anxiety go away, but it did make it more manageable. But there were times were I just sat in my apartment and had to try as hard as I could to simply take some deep breaths, hoping that things would get just a little bit better soon. Hopefully someone can relate to this post and the fact that you are not alone in feeling this way also helps.

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    I feel a bit sad that I didn’t get to properly experience Las Palmas, but I did the best I could given the circumstances. I’d love to go back in the future and truly explore Gran Canaria, as well as the neighbouring islands. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to enjoy my time there and maybe get a chance to see if I actually like relaxing sun holidays or not!

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    If you’re looking for some actual travel recommendations, check out my posts from Copenhagen, Marrakech, Amsterdam, North Wales and Barcelona!

  • DEALING WITH DEPRESSION

    The past few months have been rough. In September and October, I experienced the darkest depression and most intense anxiety I’ve had since I was a teenager. It made me very conscious of the content around mental health on the internet and in the media and I’ve noticed that so much of it, especially tv ads, focus on the importance of talking. And while that is 100% true and we should keep promoting that message, sometimes things are a bit more complicated than that. For starters, some people literally don’t know how to talk about it. That’s something I’ve seen a lot, particularly with guys. I don’t have answers for how to improve that but I think it’s something we need to be aware of. For me the problem is that I can talk about it, but it doesn’t make the sadness go away. Obviously it makes things better in some regards but it’s frustrating when you do the thing that everyone says will help and you still feel like shit. So I thought since I am able to talk about things, I could share some thoughts/things that have helped me handle it, in the off chance someone can take something from it. Everyone experiences these things differently, and I know I have a lot of privilege in terms of the resources I have available to me. But maybe if we share some of the nuances to what we’re experiencing and not just tell people to talk, it could help more people who are suffering from mental health problems, as well as help people trying to understand and support people who are suffering. 

    1. One of the most important realisations that I had was that I wasn’t going to be able to distract myself/snap myself out of it/cheer myself up. This may seem obvious but when you’re feeling bad, you’re just desperate to find something that will make the feeling go away. But being depressed is different from just being a bit down and needing to cheer yourself up. The things that normally make me happy are not going to work in the same way. That’s not to say you should give up everything that normally makes you happy but I think I tried to push myself a bit too far. I was so tired of feeling sad that I booked a pretty spontaneous weekend trip to London because I love London and I normally do really well traveling by myself. However, when I got there I very quickly realised I was not okay being alone. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t listen to music and I couldn’t go a couple of hours without crying. I don’t know why, I was just so sad. So I ended up booking an earlier flight home, asking my mum to come get me from the airport and staying at my parents for a few days (mainly so I could cuddle with my dog). I know not everyone can do that but the point of my story is that the goal shouldn’t be to make yourself feel happy or “normal”, the goal is just to find things that soothe you. Comfort and security are the most important things. For me, I had to accept that trying to make myself feel happy was just setting myself up for failure.
    2. Going to therapy has been one of the most important things for me. I know, I know, it’s what everyone suggests and I know it’s not accessible for everyone, it’s fucking expensive and so hard to find someone you connect with. But if you can go, than I would really encourage it. I’ve been going for a couple of years now and it’s helped me through so much. In this particular instance, my therapist helped me realise that I was, in fact, depressed. I had been so focused on how intense my anxiety was, but when I explained to her how I felt, she was able to put the pieces together. Everyone is different, but for me, having the label helped. Primarily it helped me to feel less guilt; in particular less guilt about feeling the way I did when other people have it a lot worse and less guilt about sometimes not being physically capable of doing anything except lie in bed. It also helps to have someone to talk to who knows how to handle what you’re saying. As I said, I’m able to talk about it with my friends and family but if I’m being honest in my experience most people that I’ve told don’t know how to handle it and haven’t really been there for me. That can make you feel very alone but having a therapist to talk to really helps you work through it all. 
    3. It’s also important to go to a doctor and discuss the medications you’re on, as well as make sure you’re not deficient in anything. (I kinda hate suggesting this because most doctors are so shite when it comes to mental health but if you do have a good doctor or someone can recommend one to you, it’s worth going). Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to say the pill caused my depression, there have been multiple things that have happened in the last couple of months (as well as the last couple of years) that would understandably make me feel sad and anxious. However, I personally feel that my emotional reaction to things recently has been more intense than normal for me. I’ve been on the pill twice now and both times I’ve felt this way; it’s not that it made me feel bad if I had nothing to feel bad about, but when bad things were happening, I felt they were harder to deal with. Again everyone is different but I think going to your doctor and discussing these things is important. I’m going to see how coming off the pill affects me before considering anti-depressants but that would be the next step if things don’t improve so it’s important to start that dialogue with a doctor. 
    4. You need to find a way to be kind to yourself but also hold yourself accountable. This is a fine line to walk. You need to be understanding with yourself and realise that you’re just not going to be capable of doing the same things you do when you’re not experiencing depression. If you need to cancel plans or you’re not eating enough/eating too much for a bit, that’s okay. It’s hard and you need to cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself. However, you need to also be aware when your behaviours become self-destructive. So if you need to spend a couple of days in bed, that’s okay, but if you continue to shut yourself off from the world for an extended period of time, then you need to do something about it. When you’re depressed, you’re probably going to do some stupid things and it’s probably going to effect your relationships, but this is where it is actually important to talk. You don’t have to tell everyone you’ve ever met every detail of your life, but you need to have some sort of open dialogue with the people that your actions impact. It’s better for everyone involved; I read a post recently that said “avoidance is just prolonged suffering disguised as safety”. It’s hard but I guess you just need to try and figure out what behaviours are helping you get through a hard time and what behaviours are making things worse for you. If you majorly screw up, forgive yourself, but learn from it and work on things you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

    As I said, everyone experiences these things differently and I realise none of these things are new or groundbreaking, but maybe sharing my experiences might help one or two people who need to hear these things right now. While there is less stigma around certain mental health issues nowadays, I think we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding and being able to help our friends through these things. Honestly, I felt pretty alone in it all. If you know someone who is dealing with depression or poor mental health, please don’t just tell them you’re there for them if they need you. I had SO many people tell me that, but the thing is, when you’re depressed, it’s hard to reach out. What people who are depressed need is for people to actively be there for them. Sit with them, watch a movie with them, check in on them daily, take them for a walk, ask them what you can do for them. 

    Hopefully this all makes some sense, I wrote most of this post when I was in the thick of it, I just didn’t have the strength to post it anywhere. I don’t feel quite so down these days, but I’m still quite shaken by it all. I hope to write more posts around mental health and my experiences, to hopefully help others but to also help myself work through it all. It’s a complicated subject and so much of it is hard to understand and talk about, but sharing is the only way we can start to change how we handle and view mental health.

    P.S. if you are going through a hard time and need help, feel free to dm me on Instagram (handle: janebmrice).