So, I’ve always had this ideal world in my head that I’m going to go traveling and all of my problems are suddenly going to be fixed. I thought that I would feel better just for a change of scenery and I’ve learned the hard way that this isn’t the case. If I stop and think about how I’m feeling right now, I just start to cry again (which could partly be because I’m on my period). I am working my way through the packets of tissues I left at the bottom of my travel bag that I kept as an emergency toilet tissue stash while I was traveling around Thailand. So here I am in Prague with depression and anxiety.
Right now I am very conflicted. Am I enjoying my time here? Yes and no. I am loving the independence of just having to rely on myself and do what I want to do. I am hating the no money situation and trying really hard to try and make any extra money that I can. My two jobs are mostly going well and I have met some really nice people from both. And yet, I’m still unsure of my answer.
I am plagued with the question. Was it the right decision to leave? Every rational part of my brain screams back “YES! You were extremely miserable in your old career path and you are getting closer to what you want to do!”. But there are doubts. What if I can’t get a job in the travel industry and I’m not good at it? At least I know I’m good at working in childcare. The deepest parts of my brain where the anxiety lingers are telling me that I can’t do it and I’m going to be miserable again whatever I do.
When I think about it carefully, in a calm way and when I’m not having a panic attack about my decision to leave, I know I made the right decision. Leaving behind some aspects of my life that were harming my mental health, such as my job and my studies, lifted a massive weight off my shoulder. It just feels like there are currently a few other weights that have been added to replace the gigantic one and my brain is making them seem a lot heavier than they actually are.
I feel like I need to make some big decisions and come up with a new life plan straight away, but that isn’t really the case. Just because I had this grand master plan of teaching abroad after I finish my degree, doesn’t mean that I need a new long-term plan straight away. I need to take everything I’ve learned about myself in the last year into perspective first.
I feel like I’m much better at putting myself first and knowing when I need to ask for help. If I had felt like this when I was traveling before, I never would have told anyone at home. I would have just had a cry and pushed through because I’m not allowed to be depressed on holiday or people will tell me not to travel. I’ve been speaking quite openly about how I’m feeling for once and it’s weird because I don’t want anyone to worry about me, but it’s helping me to talk about it and I think they would rather I told them the truth about how I’m feeling.
Thinking about careers: I know now that I’m good with people in a similar way to how I was good with children. I can talk confidently about things I’m passionate about and when I learn things (for example, when I learned about the city of Prague), I can memorise quite a lot of facts. When I take people on the Absinth tour, I feel like I really know what I’m talking about and I can explain the differences in the ways it’s prepared in different countries and how that affects the flavour. I’m good at talking, even if it’s a topic I only learned about recently. Just you wait until you get me started on Communism in the Czech Republic.
There are still some doubts. What am I doing with my life? How am I going to make enough money doing this? What do I want to do? How long am I staying for? These questions hang above my head on a constant loop and when I think I find a potential solution, I manage to talk myself out of it. I’ve had about 6 plans in the last two days where I’ve tried to make some kind of long-term plan and it’s just not what I need right now. I just need to get through to Christmas and then I’m going to go home and plan something for January.
The positive of the work I’ve done in Prague is that it’s giving me some experience in something that isn’t childcare to write on my CV. Since I’ve been living in Prague, I’ve tried to sell tickets to activities that I’ve planned in a hostel with some success. It’s really difficult in the low season and I’ve had to cancel some activities due to not having enough people. Then I got my job on the pub crawl, which I love and hate at the same time. It’s fun, but also exhausting when the drunk people you are shepherding between locations are rude and difficult and you have to stop large groups of people from walking in front of cars constantly.
There has been some that are unsuccessful. I tried to get a job as a tour guide, but they wanted me to sign up to something official at the council to get a freelance license that I would have to pay for and I don’t even know how long I’m going to be here so that made me panic. Also you had to do an audition tape and the thought of it made me even more anxious. Even in the jobs I have now, there’s also the issue of nowhere I work wanting me to go home for Christmas. I get it. Everyone else lives here and it’s the most popular time of year so they need people to be working, but at the moment I am really looking forward to being home for Christmas.
It’s strange because I’m not usually the type to get massively homesick while I travel. I talk to my mum and close friends regularly. I find it difficult in the hours when they are working or when we’re in different time zones, but I am usually happy 90% of the time while I travel and don’t really miss much about home outside of the people. However, living and working in an unfamiliar country is totally different and I think it’s made me realise that it’s not for me and I’d prefer to be on the move for now.
Since I’ve been living in Prague, I’ve cried a lot. I’ve had panic attacks. I’ve had days where I haven’t felt able to leave the hostel, even when I needed to go buy food and other essentials and I’ve just gone to bed without. I am struggling in the same way that I did when I was unemployed at home, but this time I don’t have any immediate support around me. I would say my mental health isn’t any worse or better, it’s the same and just in a different environment.
I hate in the mornings (or sometimes early afternoon) when the cleaning ladies come into my dorm room and I’m still in bed because I can’t get the energy to get out of bed. My sleeping pattern is fucked up because of the pub crawl shifts and coming home in the early hours of the morning on those days. When they come back hours later and I’m still here because I haven’t left the hostel today, I don’t know if they are judging me, but I’m judging myself.
“You’re in Prague!” I tell myself, “Snap out of it!”. But then I worry about going out and get anxious about spending too much money. I get anxious about buying things that I need which is ridiculous because I have to eat. I worry about silly things like that the £6 I just spent on groceries wasn’t worth it and I shouldn’t have done it.
My health is a joke at the moment as well, which is probably not helped by how little I eat on some days. All the medical problems I’ve ignored in the last year have hit me full force while I’m in a place where I don’t feel comfortable going to a doctors because I don’t understand how my European insurance card works, everywhere I’ve looked has a list of prices and I don’t even know if they speak English. I also didn’t get my flu jab before I came, which as a person with asthma was a pretty huge mistake. That’s ignoring the mess that is my mental health.
All in all, I was happy to be in Prague, because it’s not home. The thought of home used to be totally negative and I was always happy to get away, but living somewhere else has made me really look forward to going back there. The thought of going home is a comforting one rather than a burden dragging me away from exciting travels. I’m not sure if me coming to Prague was me trying to run away, but it didn’t work. Mental health does follow you wherever you go unfortunately and I’m still working on mine. I truly believe that this experience will be a positive one for me in the end and that I’m just having a rough patch. If you keep telling yourself you can do something, eventually, you will.
PS. I used 11 tissues while writing this post.
PPS. The title of this blog post made me think of the horror movie “It Follows” except for instead of a monster it’s anxiety and depression. The movie poster could be me sitting on a bench in the middle of Prague crying. Just a thought.