It’s a terrible thing, when you go on holiday, only to find that you’ve taken yourself- including your mental illness, with you. All you bad habits, and destructive thought patterns, all your self loathing and woes and anxiety, all firmly strapped to your luggage, just like at a home but in a significantly warmer climate. All of your coping mechanisms are pushed to the absolute limit, squeezed like a lemon slice, into your holiday cocktail.
On this delicious holiday menu:
For starters a panic attack on the plane brought on by the fact that turbulence when experienced in a budget flight tin can will make anyone feel a bit edgy and claustrophobic but especially when you’ve not flown in years and have a very user friendly panic button built into your head. I put my headphones in, my music on and held my sisters hand for most of the flight. I actually love flying and enjoyed it until then, I try to convince myself that it is excitement rather than fear but I’m fighting it off for about an hour and a half which is exhausting. I try mindfulness and deep breathing and distraction techniques, because I will not let this ruin my trip.
The next day I have a lie in, my sister brings us breakfast and has attended to some practical matters regarding our camping and finances, really I am spoilt, but I am tired and grumpy as I had to take a sleeping tablet the night before and I’m feeling the bad bile gather in my brain. I think of home, of who I am missing, I worry about who is missing me, or more specifically who might not be. Why would they? I am nothing and nobody. Ah good, the self loathing has found its way out of my rucksack!
But that’s just the aperitif! Today’s main course is a solid helping of body dysmorphia!
Whoever the confident, slim bitch who made me pack all these bikini tops and short shorts is, she is in hiding, perhaps inside my massive belly, because I can’t feel comfortable in anything and I look like absolute shit. I change approximately 40 times (in a sweaty tent none the less) and have crying fits, like a toddler at a beauty pageant, and end up wearing a dress I had planned to travel in because it covers me up. I don’t know if it’s seeing all these young, beautiful European women in their bikinis or if its just how I am feeling today, but I am not the body confident, ‘learning to love myself’ body positive blogger I was just a few days ago. I fucking hate myself. I am so gross and fat and repulsive. I may have lost 4.5 stone in the last year but it’s not enough, I am still unacceptable and hideous and I just want to hide but it’s too hot to wear too many layers.
I end up paying £24, a big part of my frivolous holiday spending money, on a top that will cover me up enough to convince me that I am not an ogre. It’s a nice top but I know that one day I will resent it and what it represents! But it’s just one of many ways in which I will have to adapt and sacrifice in order to survive this holiday. I try to reason with myself, recite positive affirmations, remind myself not to compare myself to others and that literally no one gives a shit what I’m wearing or what I look like, that they are not here for me, and that I have every right to be here in whatever attire I feel like wearing. I try to list all the ways in which I am grateful, I know how lucky I am to be here, to be alive and privileged enough to experience such things, but it takes me nowhere, the toxic grip of this black shadow is just too strong.
I start to feel guilty, because I know there’s people back home with families and jobs who can’t afford such a holiday, either because of time or money or both, I’m stressing about ‘first world problems’ like a big baby, and I go on a shame spiral, I don’t deserve to be here. I mean I saved bloody hard for ages to afford this, I sold my stuff on ebay, went without a lot for a long time, and it’s my first holiday abroad in years, but still.. I do mental maths and weigh up how worthy I am and how justifiable it is for someone on welfare to be allowed a holiday.
I do an hour of vinyasa flow yoga, then a dance therapy workshop based on exploration of colour which finishes with some abstract group painting. My feedback is that I ‘found comfort outside my comfort zone’- I lied of course, I found it impossible today and felt horribly self conscious and insecure. We rest, we eat, we wander. Later I watch stunningly gorgeous empowered belly dancers and I am admiring their costumes and taking photos, in awe of the skill and beauty all around me, I am people watching and even step into the Danube river for a paddle. And I feel like I want to die.
And that lingering thought, feeling, is today’s dessert.
Here I am with this opportunity to freely enjoy and relax and participate or rest and I just can’t exist comfortably in any of it. Like I just can’t experience this life anymore being me as I am, inside myself. There is so much beauty and colour and opportunity here and for all my external reaching for fulfilment, there is nothing that can convince me that I will ever feel anything different inside. I know that I am easily overstimulated and tired and maybe I am just drained and need some peace and quiet but I do my best to slow down and rest and find quiet spots, luckily my sister understands and is in no rush to push herself in this heat either. I just need to get through this day and hope that tomorrow feels better. I have burst into tears so many times today, I can’t really hide it, apart from the sunglasses covering my eyes, and I have a few breakdowns. My sister comforts me , we give each other massages, we eat ice cream, I write, express how I feel, doodle, meditate, breathe, dance. Soon I will go for an early night and pray to the universe that my future self can handle this shit, that this mood will pass and I will start to feel better and enjoy myself more.
It hasn’t been a bad day in all, in that I tried my very best. Fun things were apparent, exercise was done , adequate nutrition was had, I had a big sleep, we saw some wonders of the world, I took deep breaths, I didn’t panic, I saw my sadness for what it was- a temporary madness- and said ‘this too will pass’. But I hope to god it passes overnight. Because soon I will be well again and craving the sun and fun and festival madness. And instead I will be at home, skint, moving house and back to questioning what the fuck I’m doing with my one precious life. In that state I would be able to fully appreciate all of this. Why can’t I time my mania and depression to suit life events?
There is a famous travelling art installation here that you can contribute to called ‘before I die I want to….’ and you fill in the blanks on a chalkboard. I’ve been thinking about what to write, what my contribution might be. All I really want to do is live. Just not like this anymore.