5 People Reveal What It's Like To Travel With A Mental Illness

"We wanted to show that travel, for some people, is not quite as simple as just stepping out of their home and on to a plane."

When you're traveling and see someone with a physical disability, it's apparent they may face extra challenges or need assistance. But for many people with mental illnesses this isn't the case. Often, their disabilities are invisible. 

To help people better understand some of the experiences those with mental illnesses may face while traveling, Staysure, a UK-based travel insurance company, developed a series of illustrations on the subject. The illustrations are based on interviews with various people who suffer from different mental health conditions such as OCD, PTSD, and depression.  

"The feelings and experiences of those suffering with mental health conditions can be extremely difficult to describe and understand. We felt that illustrations were a great way to help interpret and capture some of the experiences described by those suffering with the conditions," Matthew Dent, SEO and content executive at Staysure, told A Plus. "Given the sensitive nature of the topic, we wanted to utilize a format that connects on an emotional level, illustrations allow room to explore the descriptions in much more detail and in a much more accessible way than words ever could." 

Artist and illustrator Loren Conner, who suffers with mental health issues herself, created the illustrations. 



"Travel often involves going out of your comfort zone. You may be in a confined space, surrounded by new people. Then there are the documents to prepare, luggage to keep track of and itineraries to follow. This can be stressful for anyone. For those with a mental illness, these tasks can become a real struggle, and this may not always be obvious to those around them," Dent said. "As such, it's important to shed light to the fact mental illness is something people suffer with at all times. We wanted to show that travel, for some people, is not quite as simple as just stepping out of their home and on to a plane. For many people, there are a lot of steps necessary to make it feasible."

He hopes that this project will help raise awareness for both the general public and people who work within the travel industry. 

"Many people who suffer with mental illness have found ways to cope with their conditions when traveling. We hope these illustrations help people better understand what people with mental health difficulties may be going through when traveling," Dent said. 

You can check out the illustrations and read the stories they were inspired by below. 

1. Depression

"Depression affects everyone in so many different ways. For me it's just a bad head space where I'm not entirely sure who I am, and I overthink, over worry and over analyze every situation. I get this horrible sensation in both my stomach and my head, and I can't even describe it. It's an uneasy feeling and that makes traveling really tough. 

Traveling is doable, but you need to find out how to do it in a way that suits you and leaves you in full control of your situation and surroundings. Arriving early really helps me get settled. Just being prepared in general is a great help." Doug Leddin 

2. PTSD

"I noticed early on that shadows were a huge trigger. PTSD is like a shadow. It's always there, but not always visible. It's easy to dismiss when you're calm, but can manifest at any moment, and when it does, everything else disappears. Whether it's a random spike of anxiety, uncontrollable shaking and crying, nausea, hyperventilating, elevated heart rate and trouble breathing or feeling faint, it overtakes every other sense in your body. You are trapped in this sensation, like being locked in a pitch-black room.

I had to fight to travel again. It took two years for me to finally get the courage to take my first solo trip, but I was determined to move past my fear. The key for me was preparation. I learned to think about the situation practically. What were my options? What could I do immediately? How could I help myself feel safe? Sometimes, the smallest thing made the biggest difference — never underestimate the secure feeling of a fully-charged phone!" –Leanna Johnson

3. Anxiety

"Traveling feels like you're making a huge mistake. Everyone says to trust your intuition when you travel, but I had to learn to silence the voice in my head that was always telling me that something was going to go seriously wrong — if I hadn't done, I never would have left in the first place." –Lauren Juliff



4. OCD

"Traveling with OCD at its worst can sometimes feel like you're carrying a little manipulative monster on your shoulders, constantly whispering negative thoughts and situations at every chance and not being able to shake it off. It can also feel like you're wearing a really tight life vest. Making you feel trapped and incredibly anxious, yet at the same time luring you into a sense of security that the OCD thoughts and anxiety are perfectly logical. No matter what you do, you can't seem to loosen the life vest.

For me planning is key. This carries across to when I'm actually on holiday, so I can mentally prepare for any tricky situations that could arise. I love to bullet journal, so I'll take the time to make dedicated pages for certain aspects of my trip like a packing list, or key sights to see. This helps to reduce the anxiety a little and it's enjoyable too." –Ellen White

5. ADHD

"Traveling with ADHD is obsessing over stuff that never eventuates, but just to make sure, I'd better run it through my mind 300 times and not sleep for three days prior with a complete loss of appetite. The stress of checking-in baggage, and then being responsible for it, is a bit too much." –Daniel (Daniel asked that his full name not be published.)

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