Travelling (Road Trip) Essentials For People living with Epilepsy/Mental Health Conditions

12:18:00 AM

My playlist, My Yoga Mat, My Water Bottle and a Bag full of tools to promote my mental health...what are your travelling essentials?
For the longest time I have had a bitter sweet relationship with travelling, on the one hand, I love to travel, to be transported to a different space and time and to live life through other lenses, to absorb with my ears, my mouth, my nose what life means to others, what it could mean to me, to open my mind to different possibilities and options, even if for the duration of the trip, to touch hope and gratitude through situations and to come back fed, full of something only experiences and not possessions can give…On the other hand, I get really anxious when I have to travel, I remember getting a seizure at the Ugandan airport after having a panic attack when the flight was delayed (I don't know about you guys but airports and customs just freak me out) to sleeping for three continuous days upon arrival in Ghana and having the guys who had invited me to speak worried sick, they almost put me on a flight back home; my body took its time to adjust to the weather.

So here I am, working on a new identity ‘a Nomadic Blogger who runs a mobile mental health info and support hub’, gotten all my other aspects of this new direction all lined up but I am yet to resolve my issues with travelling which is one of the key components. For the rest of the population, a trip is all about a destination, accommodation, food and drinks, who is in...Let's do this‎, Instagram it and can't wait for the next one. For a lot of people living with mental health conditions/epilepsy like myself, we have an additional list for a trip to be successful. As I prepare to make this transition and live as a backpacker across Africa, I have made a list of my top 5 travel essential based on previous trips (both the successful and the unsuccessful) which I hope many others who have epilepsy/mental health conditions will use in the coming holiday season if they plan to travel or at any other moment in their lives when they have to hit the road. This post will not look into travel expenses, food and accommodation, what to pack and what not to, they are a lot of bloggers who have covered those areas, I dive deep into the illness side of things.

1. Acknowledge the negatives

We sort of have a list of negatives that having epilepsy/mental health condition come with...for me; extreme emotions – too much excitement or anger, extreme weather; too hot or too cold, a crowded itinerary - too many activities, substances - Alcohol, Drugs, Camera flashes and Strobe lights too and if I don’t eat well we will have issues and my list goes on and on but I glad I know these things, knowing that these cause me anxiety, that they limit me, that they would trigger something helps me plan my trip even better. Like making sure I get an air conditioned room or carry extra warm clothes, taking longer trip days to finish everything on the itinerary or only do the important things, discovering places that don’t have strobe lights and have amazing mock tails (pointless / non-alcohol cocktails). Do not let the things on your list be barriers but guidelines for your trip.

2. Be your own ambassador

Take good care of yourself by making sure you don’t skip meals, keep yourself hydrated, rest as much as possible, do not be scared to say no to activities, do not push yourself to stay up late or go out a crowded stuffy club…in short be your own ambassador. Carry enough medication for the entire time you will be away and adhere to your prescription…If you are crossing borders, speak to your doctor to get a note indicating you have a mental health condition hence on the medication you are carrying (some of the meds we use are used as recreational drugs by others so just to be safe and not taken as a drug peddler, get a note). The note also helps if you have a relapse and people need to know how to handle you and contact a medical professional who has been handling you.

Very essential part of the trip

3. You need people

You all know I am pro-independence especially for my tribe (people with epilepsy/mental health conditions) but this is one of those things I say you need people. Let someone who will be on the trip with you or those you will find at your destination know about your illness; tell them what you have and reassure them that you manage it well that is why you are out discovering the outside world, tell them some of your triggers, what they should do should anything happen, the meds you are on and who they should call and at what point they should make the call (I hate it when I have a seizure and all my relatives are alerted, it’s just a seizure…but if it takes more than 5 mins and I have had multiple seizures, then that’s a cause for alarm)…telling can freak a few people out but from my experience if you look like you got it together, they get more inspired by your strength and courage that despite all this you still strive to see the world. There is a percentage that gets really freaked out with this information but do it anyway, tell someone.

Besides telling, I have this small green purse with the life partner’s and my aunt’s contact information should something happen and someone needs to get in touch with my people. I know in some countries people wear bracelets with emergency contacts and first aid tips and drugs they are on and those they are allergic to. Whichever method you decide to use, make sure it is somewhere accessible and it is legible. Also alert your contact people that you will be away for a trip so that they are well aware and respond real quick should a call come through.

4. Carry most if not all your go-to things
Initially being away from my comfort zone and familiar coping mechanisms made me anxious. Even when I have checked into a space when I have pretty much handled my triggers, I know the people have first aid skills and my people are aware of my whereabouts I would still get anxious But then I learnt that journaling works real good for me, I’d write all my fears and end up writing myself out of them, doing walks and having a playlist, have also helped me a lot plus this Soduku book i bought off the streets at a throw away price. Now I have added mindfulness practices to my go-to list. Yours can be calling someone, taking a nap, reading a good book. Whatever takes you back to the centre, make sure you pack loads and loads of that for your trip.

5. Adventurous spirit
The aim of going on trips is not to be careful but to let go, so live life, when you go out there…start sending yourself positive vibes from when you decide to travel, through the trip, when you get to your destination… Get on top of a mountain, sit outside and absorb the sun, watch it set, rise up early and watch it rise, visit markets, talk to the locals, try delicacies you have never heard of (did y’all know I ate slugs in Ghana?) and their recipes, collect as much art and experiences as you…whatever your definition of adventure, whatever gives you a new lease of life…pursue it.

I know I am ready to pursue mine with this new path I am taking in my life.

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