Taking a Vacation from Mental Illness

As someone who lives openly with bipolar disorder, I take pride in being able to share my experiences as well as educate others about mental illness. Unfortunately, being unemployed (and this blog being the primary source of my attention lately) I had been starting to feel very two-dimensional.

After all, it seemed like all I ever did was talk about mental health, write about mental health, and think about mental health. I admit, I started to wonder if I was even capable of carrying on a normal conversation (particularly with strangers or people around my age) without talking about this (now, several years in, slightly tired) topic.

A week ago I was lucky enough to find myself beginning a journey to go on vacation to Florida. Being sick and tired of my normal, anxiety-driven controlling behavior I decided that for this vacation I would do something different. I would relinquish control of all the activities involved to others and simply be “along for the ride”.

For someone like me that is difficult, at best. Still, I was determined to spend this vacation worrying as little as possible, something that became tricky when I hit a bit of a road block.

I was in Florida at a friend’s house attending a barbeque. I had also been awake for 36 hours because of the way my flights had worked (and my inability to sleep on an airplane due to general discomfort and terror) and there was that moment that I always dread, the one where I meet someone new and they are about to ask me what I do for a living. I had just finished answering the lead in, “where are you from?” question when the woman I was talking to said, “oh, that’s nice,” and walked away.

This was like a get-out-of-jail-free-card. She didn’t care what I did (or didn’t) do. I went to bed with a smile on my face, not just because I hadn’t slept in thirty-something hours, but because nobody had cornered me into telling them my life story.

It felt so good being able to focus on other people’s lives and stories that I felt relieved when, three days later, the issue of my mental health still hadn’t come up. I was lucky that no big melt-downs had occurred on my end (thus not requiring me to explain myself) and though I was concerned for a minute that I was hiding in some way, the truth was that the big draw was not constantly feeling the need to explain (or defend) myself.

In addition to how much time I spend thinking about myself and mental health in general, it can be hard in my daily life to see people tip-toeing around my needs, or taking time out of their lives to take care of me. As much connecting as I have done with the mental health community, I have kind of drifted away from everyone else… leaving me feeling estranged from what it means to be simply human, no more, no less.

In the last several years I have a hard time thinking of any milestones where my own mental health wasn’t an issue, so being able to take a vacation from the constant worry and explanations that surround my own mental illness was an extremely significant experience for me. Basically, going to Florida was, for me, like being able to step out of my own head and focus on the world around me again. I really must say, it was magnificent. 

12 responses to “Taking a Vacation from Mental Illness

  1. That sounds wonderful. Since my breakdown a year ago, I feel like all I do is talk about it. I’m starting to think people are going to get fed up with it soon, if they aren’t already. I think I’ll try to incorporate this a bit – take a break from talking about it all the time, and just “be”. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. I’m so happy you had a wonderful trip 🙂

  3. Good for you! Being able to let go really is magnificent. 🙂

  4. This is such an important post, I think, and shows how important it is to realize you, and your life, are so much more than your illness. Glad you got to experience this and I hope you’ll continue in that direction as much as you are able.

  5. I love this post!!! I just blogged two days ago about taking a break from bipolar!! 😉 Not on a fab vacation to Florida, but just every day, in small ways, although hell – I’d prefer a vacation to Hawaii….so happy to hear that you had a fantastic time. Yay! Here’s the link to my post in case anyone feels like reading it – hope you don’t mind my including it here. http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/taking-bipolar-breaks/

  6. Wow. I can relate SO well to this. Mostly the first couple of paragraphs. I have actually said that to my therapist before, that I feel like all I’m capable of talking about with people is mental health/illness. I get scared that I’ve thrown myself into the cause too intensely, because I often feel that I can’t carry on a conversation about anything else. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 20, and most people my age are busy actually thinking about exciting things like travel, school, dating, partying, etc. so it can feel so weird. It’s so great you were able to step away from it for a little while. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that as well.

    • I am 28, and I feel like things have gotten easier (conversation-wise) in the last few years. People have so many expectations about jobs and relationships in your early 20’s that it was hard for me not to feel flawed for not following the same path as my peers at the time. In my later 20’s it seems like everyone has calmed down a lot and have more respect for the lives people have began building for themselves!

      I think there must be other ways to help us get a break from this kind of thing, I just haven’t found them yet. That said, I sure plan to!

  7. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This blog entry reflects so much of what I have been feeling for the past four years. You have made my day. You have released me from so much anguish and so much anxiety. God bless you.

  8. Pingback: I’m so Done with This Life! | Life By Jo

  9. Love this post! Only a handful of individuals know about my BPD, but perhaps partly because of that, it dominates the discussions I have with those who _do_ know, and if I’m not working, looking after kids or doing housework, I seem to be thinking/reading/blogging about BPD. And although in some ways I find it validating to identify with my diagnosis, it also makes me feel incredibly insular, and like I’m living ‘in my head’ the whole time. This post is a GREAT reminder about the importance of trying to ‘step out of one’s head’ once in a while, thank you…..

  10. Your vacation was not just magnificent, but healthy. We are not defined by our mental illness; though of us who blog about mental health as therapy and as advocates can get stuck in over-identifying with our diagnoses. Stepping out of that mindset is necessary.

  11. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something
    that helped me. Cheers!

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