The Post Inspiration:
A little while ago, I was travelling to London when a cabinet above the sink in the train bathroom swung open and hit me on the head. As an apology, London North Eastern Railway (LNER) issued me with complimentary first-class tickets to any destination on their route! When I got talking to the Communications department though, and they heard about I’m NOT Disordered, we agreed to turn it into a collaboration, so the bestie and I decided to go to York for the day!
It was actually when we were waiting to come home though that we had the conversation which – along with the actual trip - has inspired this blog post. There were no tables outside the pub in York train station so we ended up sitting on a table with a man (Tony) and lady (Nikki). It turned out that Tony worked for Network Rail, so we got talking about my LNER collaboration and the benefits travelling has on your mental health…
Benefits of travelling:
For a lot of people with a mental health illness, I think that there’s a level of expectation in society that if you behave in a particular way then that must mean you have this diagnosis or if you do that then you must have that diagnosis. This can be especially exacerbated when surrounded by people you know; not just friends but professionals too - there can be pressure in appointments when you feel that you need to seem more well than you feel so as to avoid particular responses from professionals. This pressure from all these different places can obviously become overwhelming and can result in a huge amount of stress which could be slightly alleviated by travelling somewhere different to be surrounded by people who don’t know you… or your mental state! When I temporarily moved down South (where I was born) it felt like a fresh start because was there no one feeling that people were thinking ‘it’s her again.’ I could start new relationships and determine just how much of my mental illness they saw.
My travelling routine:
Travelling also provides the opportunity to have a change of scenery – something which members of LEAPS (a support group for people who are unemployed which I’m now Chair of) say is very refreshing when we take them on therapeutic trips. A lot of the members like being away from their daily stressors too and find travelling a welcome break. I guess the actual act of travelling can be pretty stress free – especially when you travel with LNER! - because you can do what you like with your journey. This isn’t always possible; for example, when you’re getting off at the next stop on the underground during rush hour in London(!) but on a three-hour train journey from Newcastle to London Kings Cross? Well, my little routine is to stock up on drinks and snacks at a shop in the train station, and then; once I have my seat (admittedly, I do find the process of finding my seat very stressful), I plug whichever device has the lowest battery in, set the laptop up on a blank document, make sure all of my Sims are busy on The Sims Freeplay, tweet a selfie, and put the headphones in to listen to either some music on YouTube or watch Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime or Pretty Little Liars on Netflix and write a blog post.
For some people travelling can be a little intimidating or scary because home can be a safe haven and somewhere that makes you feel at your most relaxed. A lot of people get anxious at the thought of travelling any amount of distance but sometimes the trip can’t be avoided and then sometimes the reasoning for your travel can outweigh any misgivings or anxieties. If I experience any anxiety or self-doubt, I try to focus on the whole reason I’m travelling and the exciting aspects of it e.g. attending a productive meeting, chairing a huge event or taking LEAPS members on a therapeutic trip. I try to view travelling as an achievement since it usually meant something really negative. When I was really poorly with my mental health (between 2009 and 2012) I used to run away and overdose in different towns and cities a lot so the act of getting on a bus, metro or train usually meant it was for a very negative reason and that something bad was going to happen. Now that I travel for positive reasons, I see travelling as hugely rewarding.
One challenge my mental health does usually have to compete with when I travel is tiredness. I think it’s quite common in mental health to have your level of energy affect your mood and I am definitely one of those people! Travelling often means an early start and not arriving home until fairly late in the day and when the commute is lengthy e.g. three hours to London from Newcastle; and I’ve spent the day ‘working’ I often feel drained on the way home. I rarely fall asleep on public transport though, so if I am feeling tired, I just try to use my travel time to relax and do something easy, like playing The Sims Freeplay or watching Netflix!
Our York Day Trip:
Georgie and I headed to Newcastle Central Station a bit early so that we had time to chill and take pics in the LNER First Class Lounge before our train to York. On the train, we had a few vodkas and chatted with the train staff about the collaboration on the one-hour journey. At York, we headed straight for food and ended up at Pizza Express where we got a table on the balcony above the river because it was so sunny and hot! After paying a small fortune for a starter, pizza, and wine, we looked around the shops until we’d exhausted our feet and headed to the Punch Bowl Wetherspoons for very cheap cocktail pitchers!
The Suicide Conversation:
When we got to York train station quite early, we sat with two strangers outside a pub (as I mentioned at the beginning). When Tony explained that he worked for Network Rail I decided to ask his opinion on something… There’d been a bit of recent controversy with a tweet when the company referred to a suicide attempt as a trespassing incident. So, I asked Tony what he thought about that and he explained that they legally have all of these codes for different incidents and if that person had succeeded in committing suicide then it would have been listed as a fatality. I talked about this one time when I’d been stood on a bridge of some metro tracks and had been told that if I’d jumped and survived, I would have been prosecuted for trespassing. Instinctively, I thought this a completely inappropriate and unhelpful response but on thinking about it maybe it did become a deterrent in that whenever I felt suicidal since then, I didn’t even consider using that method.
What’re your thoughts on this? Do you think that it was the correct response? And do you think it’s fair to list suicide attempts as trespassing? Is it debilitating and a way of encouraging the stigma against mental health? Does listing a suicide attempt as a legal offence encourage people to see it as an inconvenience?