Travelers have various reasons why they want to see the world. For some, they seek knowledge. For others, it’s to find a network of friends for an advocacy or goal to accomplish in life. For me, I traveled to help myself recover from my eating disorder.
As we filled our plates, I couldn’t resist the gooey broccoli and cheese casserole—my favorite since childhood. The eating disorder growled at me as I filled my plate: “How pathetic, I knew you wouldn’t be able to stick to the plan!” — Angie Viets, LCP, CEDS
But let me tell you a very important thing. I didn’t find traveling abroad effective when I wasn’t receiving any formal treatment yet. You need to have had a course of treatment and on your way to recovery for traveling to be able to work.
Why Did Travel Not Work For Me When My Eating Disorder Was On Its Acute And Booming State?
Health experts explain that when you have just been diagnosed with an eating disorder and are not getting any treatment, the mental, emotional and physical risks will certainly outweigh the benefits of traveling.
In the thick of my ED, I was incapable of controlling the symptoms despite the travel. I was still bingeing and purging, which is why I can testify that traveling is not the best solution. The only thing I got from my first attempt to travel with my ED was bad memories that overshadowed the benefits of traveling.
When Did I Finally Reap The Healing Benefits Of Travel?
My therapist handed me a checklist after two months of treatment that included counseling and medications. The checklist contained these questions:
Are you able to control your symptoms?
Does the thought of traveling excite you or does it make you feel anxious and afraid?
Am I physically and mentally stable?
Now, when you answer these questions, try to be as honest as you can be to yourself. That’s what the therapist told me, and when I did, that was when I realized that I wasn’t very much excited to travel for a while, not until I was confident enough, like a month after that. I did several types of therapy and counseling and I felt really secure and good about myself. Finally, my therapist said the magic words: You are in recovery – in the real sense of the word.
No one chooses to have an eating disorder, but they can choose recovery. — Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C
So that’s it. I traveled abroad for six months and I successfully controlled my ED symptoms, learned new things and found new friends, and became as healthy as I could be mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can do it too! But here are some reminders to keep in mind.
How To Maintain Your Physical And Mental Health Abroad
- Find Comfort. It’s nice to push your limits when you go abroad, like camping overnight in a beautiful forest in Arizona or join a backpackers club and hike to the Grand Canyon. But whatever adventure you choose, be sure that you are comfortable with it, so the pressure and anxiety are lesser if there are any.
- Do What Is Necessary. That means taking care of your health to avoid untoward occurrences like a relapse or other physical conditions. Be properly nourished, take medications, and get enough sleep.
- Talk To Someone If You Need Help. If there are inevitable circumstances when you feel like you can’t handle it and you’re on the brink of giving in to the dreadful symptoms, ask help from a friend or a professional. Don’t hesitate. Be more afraid of the consequences.
Traveling is a wonderful way to heal from a mental illness, including an eating disorder. You just have to be confident that you want to be happy, you need the time off, and you are willing to fail but ready to ask for help.
The best and most appropriate way I thought was to recommend that they remain in face to face therapy, despite the anticipated profound loss issues that accompany saying goodbye and making a transition to a new therapist – their and mine! — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS