There’s nothing like a holiday. For me, the anticipation starts building months in advance, really kicking into gear a few weeks before I actually depart. During periods of stress, the planned departure date is there to daydream about – acting almost like a “finishing line” I push myself to reach.
Then there’s the holiday itself: days filled with swimming, BBQs and nature walks melting into one another, time to spend with family and friends – and (in my case) plenty of time to read a few good books.
But holidays can’t last forever and so, last month I found myself walking back into my workplace. After greeting my colleagues, and clearing away the clutter left from 2014, I sat staring at the computer screen. Normally one to enjoy my work, I had to force myself to turn on the computer and start answering emails.
Days later, my apathy still hadn’t lifted. My husband assured me that experiencing post-holiday blues was quite normal, but I couldn’t help feeling like a shadow had come over me.
In the weeks that followed, my mood continued to plummet. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but some of the joy seemed to have gone out of life. The thought of having to summon the energy to get through another year, seemed beyond me. Things that I could usually cope with triggered anxiety attacks.
Unspoken between my hubby and I was the thought that I might be entering another depressive episode. Neither of us had a desire to return to that dark place. And so we told ourselves that everything would be better after another short break – this time a week camping in a national park a couple of hours away.
Unlike our last holiday, when I had everything packed a week in advance, this time I left it to my poor hubby to get everything organised. On the morning of our departure, I dragged myself into the car and we started our journey.
As the kilometres passed, the weight that had been hanging over me seemed to lift. I listened to the kids’ chatter in the back seat and looked out at the road stretching before us. I felt like I was running away from everything that had been worrying me – which was exactly what I felt like doing.
By the time we got there, I had a smile on my face again. Every time a negative thought crept into my head, I pushed it away – telling myself I would deal with it after the holiday. I was desperately trying to recreate the “mountain top” experience of our last holiday.
And it worked. At least until I returned home and real life started up again.
As the weeks passed – and my anxiety kept building – I had to admit that I need more than just another holiday to alleviate my low mood. As a mum I can’t afford to not get help when I need it.
And so I went to see my psychiatrist – and walked away clutching a new prescription to help even things out. Now, I’m waiting for them to kick in.
The me I see in the mirror today is a far cry from the carefree me from a few months ago. But I guess that, having Bipolar Disorder, these tough times are part of the package. Along with the “mountain top” experiences, there’s going to be valleys of despair.
But when I’m struggling to follow others’ advice and “look on the bright side”, one thing I can do is look back at times like family holidays and realise that life does get better. And there’s plenty to look forward to.
PS. Is anyone else struggling with anxiety or depression at the moment? What do you do to help cope during down times? I’m sure all us mums would love to hear your advice.