Remember when tumblr was a huge deal and everyone had the whole “wanderlust” mentality? Well, I have wanderlust 99.9% of the time. I’m a huge travel lover, and realistically would love to go everywhere if I had the opportunity (and the funds lol). So, when looking forward to graduating from University, naturally I asked my family for a trip as a present. I began planning and researching at least a year before we actually booked the trip, looking through a ton of different tour companies, and making sure I knew all the trips offered before making my final decision. I finally chose a 21 day trip across Europe and immediately started counting down the days until I left.
I really couldn’t have anticipated ever having to cancel the trip, let alone wanting to cancel it.
That’s the thing about mental illness. It doesn’t always have warning signs, and it tends to creep up on you when you least expect it.
My mental health hadn’t been stellar in general over my senior year of University, but I had been pushing through for the most part. Around November/December I had been struggling a lot more with my anxiety, eating disordered thoughts, etc. – but again, I kept moving forward , as I had been.
As the new year came, I was hopeful that things would begin to look up, but unfortunately I was still struggling. I was battling with my mind, unable to fuel my body properly and overwhelmed. I took a trip to Florida in February to give myself a break from the unexplained discomfort and anxiety I was feeling at my student house. While it was a nice reprieve, it was only temporary. Things were still the same when I got back to school.
I wasn’t happy at school. I didn’t want to go out with my friends, I felt alone, I felt anxious all the time – I simply wasn’t even close to feeling like myself. After basically going home every weekend for a while, in March, I made the executive decision to move back home permanently and commute to school when needed. There was only a little over a month left of school and having three online courses along with minimal mandatory in-person classes allowed me to do this. It wasn’t an easy thing to explain to people, and for the majority I didn’t publicize it because I knew for a lot of people it would be hard to understand. I didn’t mind though, it was what I had to do, and let me tell you the hour and a half drive to get to campus when I needed to was nothing compared to the huge decrease in my anxiety from living at home.
My anxiety didn’t disappear and things weren’t perfect, but they had improved, and that was all I could ask for. As the end of the school year got closer and closer I started to get more and more anxious about going away to Europe for 3 weeks. That meant I wouldn’t have a routine, nothing would be stable, I wouldn’t have the gym as a release – the anxiety around the trip was relentless. I did my best to push it away, reminding myself it would all be okay and that I had wanted to do this for so long. I had days where it seemed possible and days where it seemed like the most terrifying thing on earth. I knew something was wrong – in any typical circumstance I would never have such distress over travel – it’s one of my favourite things in life. Eventually I had looked into refunds and I asked my mom what she thought about me cancelling the trip. At this point I knew that the trip would be detrimental to my mental health. I was in no place to put 100% of myself into each day to make new friends, eat appropriately, and manage my own mind. My mom agreed. So, I cancelled the trip.
I felt regret, since I knew the trip was something I would have normally loved, but the amount of relief I felt outweighed that regret. This was just not the right time for this trip. I reminded myself that there is lots of time in the future to travel, but if I didn’t address my deteriorating mental health ASAP, then I might not have that future or the ability to have such experiences.
After cancelling the trip, I was also able to push past a mental barrier that had been holding me back for months. I had been knowingly under-eating for a while, and despite starting to work with a coach in the new year, I still continued to do so. Once the anxiety of the trip had dissipated, I was able to push forward with my nutrition and actually hit the caloric and macro-nutrient targets my coach had set for me. It wasn’t always consistent, but I was finally increasing my intake.
Today, I’m still struggling with keeping an appropriate intake and I still have days where my anxiety debilitates me, but making these hard decisions over the past few months has helped me move forward. The anxious days are fewer, I’m actively working to fuel my body and I’m continuing to work towards a healthy mentality. The best I can do right now is keep making the hard decisions, challenge my damaging thoughts and surround myself with positivity.
Your mental health and physical health are the most important things and sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to take care of yourself. But don’t worry, life will still be there when you’re healthy again – and you’ll actually be able to enjoy it.