• eliabethharwood

Mental Health on Holiday

Updated: Sep 29, 2020


Health is an overall sense of well-being; physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.


As a background to this post, I have been in treatment since November 2019. The last big holiday I had been on was to Italy in September 2019 and I had been receiving therapy (from a psychologist and psychiatrist) at that time too.


Before

The concerns I had ahead of my Greece trip were very different from the ones I had ahead of visiting Italy in 2019.


Instead of being overwhelmed at the prospect of a breakfast buffet, I was worried about being bloated and getting into a bikini. I was concerned that I would fall in the traps of “maximising” the fun and the holiday rather than focusing on physically being there and being present. I was worried that I would regress on a mental and emotional level and that this would impact other aspects of my general well being. There were also concerns of just being myself, being worthy, likeable, loveable and fears of rejection. These are common themes within my therapy and are largely why I write this; being vulnerable and laying everything bare is exposing and allows for all kinds of commentary.


Worry is a feeling I have experienced all my life, and I know from being in such a different place a year ago it’s only natural to have these worries, concerns and reservations. As I am still in treatment, I do feel it’s important to never forget where I have come from. The general excitement and “positive” feelings I had for the trip certainly outweighed all of the “negative” ones and I feel grateful for that.


During

In short, the first evening in Kefalonia was a challenge. A combination of reasons; both external and internal were contributors to this. Externally, I visited a restaurant where the staff were lovely however the service was slow. When I say slow, we waited 2 hours for the dishes we ordered. When the food came they forgot items, ran off before filleting the fish and didn’t return for a good 15 mins. I was patient, I did everything I thought reasonable but this situation did still provide emotional difficulties.


On an internal level, there is point where I find it hard to stay present and be patient. Two hours was stretching that. In this specific situation I felt angry and did not know how to express this feeling. It is the exact situation I feel I can be judged for having a mental health problem, or more specifically an eating disorder. It feels exposing and as if I am laid bare which is very paralysing. I resort to usual coping methods; people pleasing, remaining "small" and not getting angry, judging myself, feeling inherently bad and therefore guilty about being angry or causing a fuss. I feel undeserving and that I should remain "seen and not heard" despite my complaint being rational vs. emotional.


Given how lovely the staff were and how hard their job is so I didn’t want to be rude or an unreasonable customer. I approached the waiter and said I’m happy to wait longer provided everyone food comes together. I was happy for them to keep the food which had been served under a lamp in the mean time. I was reassured it wouldn’t be long. In these moments I feel choked up, it feels suffocating and like somethings physically grasping my throat. I get angry and it’s hard to tolerate or express that emotion. A part of me wants to scream and to shout at them but I don’t want to be a customer from hell. With everyone’s emotions flying around, I find the situation both overwhelming and upsetting. These feelings lead on to fear of rejection, feeing exposed that I am being seen me for being myself. Imagine being naked on stage with with a spotlight on you and being completely alone. You can see the spiral.


It’s fair to say that the night was certainly not smooth, it fuelled over thinking, self criticism and feelings of un-loveability. Going to bed I felt hollow and low which made me sad that the holiday had gotten off to that start but I recognised that I needed to give myself a break and a little (or lot) more self love.


Apart from this isolated incident, there were no others which brought up the self doubt spiral I have been so accustomed to feeling. We all know that many people suffer with negative body image, or have little love for their body despite the wonderful things it does each and every day. During the holiday when I felt bloated, or constipated, I wore something tight fitting. I made an effort with myself. I did exactly what I wouldn’t have done previously. It was quite a thrill and something I enjoyed doing. This helped me gain more appreciation for myself, my body and shifted my focus to the wonderful things I was experiencing. I also never swim in the sea, and this is something I pushed myself to do and absolutely adored. Doing things which scare you helps you change, and change only happens when you change.


Moving Forward

Now sat on the flight home, I feel grateful for this time I have had to slow down even more. To be somewhere new, with a new routine and to experience another culture . Many people struggle with change and when we are exposed to new things we can prove to ourselves what a marvellous amount of strength and adaptability we have. Admiring what we have within ourselves helps us gain an overall sense of well-being; physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. In the wise words of Whitney Houston learning to love yourself is “the greatest love of all”.

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