Travelling to Mental Stability: A Journey to Clarity

Andrew Johnson

our goals can be different.

It was a Friday afternoon in June as my plane to New York City sat on the tarmac of Toronto Pearson. I looked out of the window and saw all the other planes lined up waiting to take off and thought about all the other people on those planes and why they were going to their destination. I started reflecting on exactly why I was about to take off again and I realized it was because I was fleeing to reset my mind.

Whether we like it or not, mental illness is something that all of us will have to deal with in our lives, and it is definitely something that I have had to struggle with. Mental health is an important part of my life. I am blessed to work in an environment in which it is okay to speak freely about mental health and that is what I believe to be unique.

As an individual that is connected to the LGBTQ community, I know that mental health can play a big part in coming out and the stigma that still exist in our world related to those individuals that are just being who they are. When I sat on the tarmac reflecting on the events that took place in Orlando the weekend prior, I was not in a good headspace that entire week and it was time to have a little mental reset the only way I knew how.

Ever since I can remember I have been travelling. I have had the privileged of having parents that wanted to ensure that my brother and I were exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking about life. As I become older and was able to take travelling into my own hands, it became an obsession. I have definitely traveled in order to better understand myself and to reflect on some of the struggles that I have been through.

Fight or flight is a physiological reaction to an event, attack or threat to survival. Although I am not being threatened physically, I would assimilate my need to travel with this response; I always choose flight. Now for some, choosing flight and having a grand adventure may seem like an amazing idea, and do not get me wrong it is. However, the problems that I am running away from do not go away. Upon arrival they come flooding back and it erases the relaxing feeling of having been away.

The benefit of flight is that it gives me clarity and an environment that is stimulating to think exactly about what I am going back home to. The beautiful thing about the world is that there are so many different societies in which people have different perspectives. Speaking with people often does help to defuse the situation and gives me the ability to properly fight upon my arrival.

During the period back in June when I was reflecting on the events in the Orlando nightclub shooting, many people asked me why I was reacting the way I did or why I was even upset. I remember one individual saying ‘you’re acting as if you knew someone there’. Good point, but not really.

Our community has been working so hard towards being accepted by society. What this event has done is reaffirmed how much work there is to be done. So imagine being in my shoes for a moment. I am a person struggling with self-identity, a millennial, grad school applications and someone that was coming of age during a very difficult economic crisis. Let us add into the mix climate change too, because that is something I studied and does add a lot of extra stress to my mind.

An event like what happened in Orlando can trigger a lot of emotions and can really distract my mind from everything that I am working towards at the moment. Therefore instead of dealing with the issue directly, I chose flight.

This is not to say that I do not have the ability to manage my stress, or to handle difficult situations. The thing about mental health is that having conversations like this one can be a preventative measure. A lot of health care is focused on disease treatment, which I do not necessarily agree is the best long-term approach to health care. If more people were open to speaking about mental health, then it is possible we will create a society that is a lot equipped to ensure mental health for all.

A few weeks ago I read an article about millennial and how we are a generation that are in fact not lazy. The article went further to say that millennial are not taking vacations because they are trying to work so hard to eradicate the stigma that they are lazy and taking a vacation will only get in the way of productivity.

As a millennial I can attest to the fact that there are many of my peers refusing to take their vacation days, which can have a negative effect on mental health. There are a variety of reasons this may be happening, but I definitely do not agree with it. The generation’s prior left us a legacy in which many of us are trying to race towards. Owning a home, having a great salary, a car and a vacation property are among some of the things society has fabricated into the perfect life we should strive towards. However, the fate of the economy and our generation just is not conducive for this anymore.

So why are we sacrificing our mental health in order to be just like our parents? We are a different generation, a very hard working one, but maybe our goals can be different. We should be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor right now, not in thirty years. Maybe this means that we have to wait a little longer to own a home, but this is the time for us to be taking advantage of being young. I am tired of so many of my peers worrying about the future only, instead of taking a brief moment for them.

A mental reset is okay. Taking a flight spontaneously is okay if it means you get to enjoy a little down time. You are not lazy if you enjoy going on trips, just like if you are taking a sick day off work does not mean you are lazy either. Mental illness is a disease. If you suffer from depression, anxiety disorder or are not in a good headspace, it is okay to take some time so that when you do return to work, you can do so at full capacity and actually function better.

Mental health can be spoken about from many different angles. I like to look at it from a preventative angle because I know first hand how difficult it can be to deal with a loved one that is suffering a mental illness. I think that wanderlust is a perfect way for people to escape to a world for a while to recuperate and relax. Maybe the conversation around mental health needs to move in the direction of employment. Maybe human resources departments need to be considering how to best provide benefits to their employees that will allow them to thrive both mentally and productively. This is a conversation we should all be having in the workplace to eradicate the stigma around mental illness.

For now this may only be a fantasy. What needs to happen is that governments and businesses need to work together to ensure that employees are practicing good work life balance. Not everything needs to be a task and it is okay to have fun. Policy reform is necessary for this to happen. Funding for mental health programs needs to become a priority for governments globally. Luckily in Canada our Prime Minister is a champion for mental health, however this is not the same fate everywhere.

The Trudeau Government has only been in power in Canada for a year now. The conversation around mental health is significant, but it needs to continue to happen. There are still not enough beds for those seeking treatment, funding is low and education in schools around mental health is necessary. Canada is my home, Canada is a great place to live, I just hope that in the very near future the government starts making serious investments in the mental stability of the people, because with a clear mind the prosperity and productivity of the people will only increase.

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