- Four years ago, I was 21, I was in the middle of my fourth year of university, which was because I had been able to complete my third year exams due to being on a psychiatric ward.
The year before I had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and my life had been turned on its head. I had moved away from my University friends who had all finished on time, my parents weren’t speaking to me as they didn’t know how to handle me, I was somehow balancing full time uni with full time work (I still don’t know how I did this) and coping with an awful break up not long before. It was one of the worst years of my life and I was getting through every day, simply because I had to and there was no other choice.
Then something clicked in my head, I was existing, but I wasn’t living. All the things I had wanted to do and thought I would do, I wasn’t doing, and I could put a lot of reasons down to my mental illness. So after a bad day, and on a total whim I walked into the nearest shopping centre, into the travel agent and told the baffled man that I wanted to go somewhere and I wanted to go tomorrow morning. He asked me where I wanted to go and who I was going with. I told him I didn’t really mind where I was going, but I was going by myself. The lovely man asked me if I was sure, he had a daughter my age and he said he didn’t want me going for the wrong reasons ( I was most likely crying at the time), I told him I wanted to go because I needed to prove to myself that I was able to go and that I was still capable of enjoying myself. He looked at me with an understanding smile and helped me book.
I decided on Rome, so I booked it and went home to pack. On my way home, I went into work, told my manager I needed to go away for a few days and I wouldn’t be at work and that I would see her when I was back. I didn’t really give her an opportunity to respond and just left. ( I’m very lucky that she was very understanding when I got back and it was all ok!)
The next day, I drove myself to the airport and burst into tears as I got there. My legs were shaking, my hands tingling and I hated myself for feeling like this. I had no idea why I was going, I couldn’t go to Rome for 4 days by myself! I can barely get through Sainsbury’s without bawling like a baby! The stubborn part of me needed to go to show myself that I could and that I wasn’t letting my feelings win, the rational part of me thought it was silly to put myself through this and upset myself to prove a point, while the BPD part of me was wanting to cry, be sick, shout at people and then lie down because I was just so physically and mentally exhausted.
Somewhere in the whirlwind of emotions, I called my cousin and while I was sniffling down the phone, she said that if I was going to be sad, I could do that in Rome too. When you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom so many times, I thought well it can’t get worse. I decided even if I sat in the room alone for 4 days, that’s not different to what I would be doing at home if I feel like this. So I got on the plane.
I got there and had calmed down a bit so I decided to make the most of it while I was there. Even if I didn’t enjoy it, I was there so I may as well do the touristy things I wanted to do. It did feel like I had to drag myself around for the first few hours, and yes I cried almost constantly but I was there.
I actually started to enjoy myself. It felt different to before, not the same excitement as I previously may have had, but I still knew that this was a positive. I kept going and before I knew it, the 4 days were up and I hadn’t spent the whole time crying or the whole time stuck in my room, I had made new memories and new experiences and I knew that’s all that would matter once the mental health fog had lifted.
I would recommend it to anyone. It taught me so many life lessons, to be independent, to take risks, that I am OK myself and I don’t have to not go due to be alone or how I feel. I can do anything I want because I am strong enough and I won’t let me illness tell me otherwise!