Vacationing with postpartum depression

It’s definitely not the travel companion you want. It drains your energy, gets in the way, and makes you miserable. But still, it happens – some of us are bringing postpartum depression and anxiety on our family vacation.

It’s not like we have a choice. Depression and anxiety do not know how to take the hint and get lost.

Not only are we carrying our mental illnesses along with our baggage, but we have to bring our kids, too. Our families are wonderful, and we love them. But traveling with children is a challenge.

Family vacations are utterly different from pre-kid vacations. Pre-kid vacations were fun, they were relaxing, and late nights meant late mornings.

Not so, family vacations. While there are moments of fun, there are also moments of bickering, stress and exhaustion. Late nights – because someone is homesick, physically sick, or jumping on the bed – fade mercilessly into early mornings when it all starts again.

There are many reasons to travel with our families, such as visiting other family members, expanding our horizons, and showing our children the world. But there is nothing easy about it, whether it’s a road trip or a transcontinental flight.

The whole experience is that much harder for those experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety.

While leaving the house with postpartum depression often feels incredibly difficult, travel can feel impossible. Whether it’s sorting out reservations, arranging plane and car travel, or simply forcing a smile for your children, it is an enormous task.

There are ways to cope, however:

• Plan ahead – Work out contingency plans with your partner or traveling companion. Another adult can be a great help on the road, and you’ll have someone to give you another perspective on your mental health if the stress gets to be too much.

• Pack your treatments – if you are on medication, make sure your prescriptions are filled. If you see a counsellor, check in with them before you go. Try to maintain your mental health routine as much as possible.

• Take it easy – try not to pack your itinerary full of activities. Know your limits. If you can handle one or two activities a day, keep to that, but slow down if needed.

• Focus on what’s important – you’re there for your family. You’re there to create memories and connect with them, not to see all the sights or buy out every tourist shop. Enjoy yourself as much as possible.

• Try to relax – it may feel like you never get to relax after having a baby, but this might be your chance. If there is a spa attached to your hotel, check out what services you can afford. See what local events are taking place around you – there may be yoga on the beach or tours of area parks. And trade sleep-in days with your partner, so you get the rest you need.

Postpartum depression and anxiety may dull your experiences, but it doesn’t have to take away all the good you have. Eke out what enjoyment you can. Whatever else, get a few decent naps out of the deal. And be gentle with yourself and your family. Travel doesn’t have to be a nightmare, even when you’re struggling with depression and anxiety.

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