Staying cooped up inside your house for most of the days is very counterproductive. People with mental health problems tend to do worse when they have nothing to do. So, should you take a break? Should you go on a vacation while struggling with all the drama?
I think you should. In this story, I'll take you with me on our brief trip to get away from all the "Crazy"
Can I still go on vacation with mental health problems?
The only person who can answer that is you! Do you feel you could use your coping mechanisms while on vacation? Will more stimulants confront you? In my case, keeping busy is my way of coping. How do I keep busy while on vacation?
Shall we go ?
My wife came to me and said:" What do you feel about just getting out of all this crazy for a bit and going camping for a week?" The first thing I said was: I really don't know. I don't know how I will react. I don't know how I'll cope. I don't know if I can handle the quiet. I don't even know if it's allowed by work. Seeing as I am called in sick for 100%. The first thing I did was mention to my superior we had this idea. She immediately said: You should do all the things that may help you. And all the things that could help you. Perhaps this trip will even help you get out of your thoughts for a bit.
That's when I decided I wanted to give this a try. We were going on a camping trip for a week. To a camp site which had lots to do for the kids as well. That way, even if I had some trouble, they could entertain themselves. All of this frightened the hell out of me. What if, what if, what if, kept going through my head. My wife just kept saying, we'll deal with it when it happens.
Coping on the go?
As you may have read in "how to cope" I have several ways of keeping my mind occupied. I try to find tasks that keep me focused. So I took the laptop with me. That way, I could still make music video's. I could even write some if I felt like it. I took my running gear with me so I could still exercise and try to find a release that way. And of course I had my phone with me to listen to music, just in case. And when we were there, I had a lot of times that I got stuck in my head. But I think just being away from your trusted environment helps you find new ways to cope.
The same thing applies here as well as in your trusted environment. Finding new ways to keep doing the things you need, want or have to do. While choosing a camping ground, we found one within 30 minutes of our home. That gave me the reassurance that even if things really didn't work out, I could still drive home, and be back in my trusted and safe place.
What happened on vacation?
Well, of course, we had to bring the octopus. This at least gave the kids some form of recognising what mood daddy was in. The whole packing was actually pretty stress free. I did most of the gear and my wife did most of the clothes and we were ready to go. This wasn't our first rodeo. When we got to the camping grounds, we actually had a very nice spot. We had a spot right in the field's corner. Bushes and trees in the back and an open and clear few of the entire field. I could see everyone coming and going. Which is a big deal to someone who is hyper vigilant and feels anxiety when there is movement behind him. These are also symptoms of having PTSD.
Then the kids just went and did their thing. We had a big playground within hearing distance and they could entertain themselves, while me and the wife set up our tent. Once we installed everything, we could sit in front of the tent and enjoy the view. I think that's when I had my first flashback during our vacation.
Flashbacks on vacation
That flashback was a scene from a call I had many years ago. We received a call about someone who hadn't seen their neighbour for quite a while and they were worried. When we got to the address everything was dark. All the blinds were shut. But the front door was only locked with the key. This was a house with a detached shed. When we turned around and tried the shed door, the door just opened. When I looked inside, the first thing I saw was a pair of purple feet. I guess we found the neighbour.
For those of you who are very graphic I'd suggest skipping to the next bit.
I looked up and saw that there was a person hanging from the rafters. He had no clothes on and had even left a note right next to him. He had hung himself with his own belt. The belt was around his neck and his whole face was bloated. Judging from the colouration he had hung there for several days already and there were all kinds of bugs in and around him. The sight was a haunting one.
End of the Graphic bit
When seeing someone like that, what I felt then and what is surfacing now is the amount of pain and shame someone must have felt to be able to take their own life. How lonely and sad must someone be, to take their life? I feel a profound sadness for that man, that he didn't see any other way besides hanging himself. That he didn't find a way to get help. Finally the coroner came and we had to help them untie the man from the rafters. I always had an aversion to touching dead people, and I am saddened to say that I have had to touch way to many dead people while working.
How do you handle those images while you're sitting in front of your tent? I tried my coping mechanisms. I found a solitary spot. Turned my music to max. Cried my eyes out. Felt all the things I didn't want to feel. And when I finally emerged from the tent, the sun was shining. The kids were laughing and playing nearby. I tried to play with the kids which helped for a while. After which I succumbed to a new bout of sadness. That's when I went exploring around the camping. Put on some music and found the most beautiful spot by the water. Once again feeling guilty for leaving my kids to my wife. Feeling ashamed that I couldn't even sit in front of my tent without having problems. Wondering if this was what was in store for me for the next couple of days. And could I handle that ?
I had my ups and downs on vacation. I found they weren't worse than when I was at home. Even if I had to shift my coping around a bit. Overall, we had a very nice holiday and the kids and my wife enjoyed themselves very much. I am still having trouble enjoying things. Feelings of bliss and happiness are fleeting and short. Most of the time, I am just sad. Sad for the things happening to me and my family. Sad for the things I see. And sad for the things all those people in my flashbacks had to endure. And wondering all the time if there wasn't anything I could have done?
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