Studying A Medicine Called Travel

How Studying Abroad Helped Me In My Battle With Mental Health and Conquer My "Secret D"

(The photo was taken from

It's not a secret that millions of people experience that dirty, little word.  You know.  One rendered in secrecy.  A daily torturer for those struggling to keep it hidden.  Shame, fear, guilt, and silence are its food. It feeds on the ability for such elements to. . .thrive.  That dirty, little word. . .depression.

(Photograph Taken By Egyptian Pedestrian; Edits By Lauren K. Clark-Located In Downtown Tahrir, with the Nile River behind)

Yet, what is less discussed is its prevalence among young adults, and college/university students.  The lack of awareness on the significance of depression and mental health at the college/university level, can be one of the most crippling aftermaths of this period.  

My educational journey at Spelman College, was my first introduction to my forbidden d.  My sophomore year of the Fall 2004 semester. . .to be exact.  From my first emergency visit to Grady Memorial Hospital, to the counseling visits and drug prescriptions; the reality of a decline in my mental health was a war that raged in my Spirit. When the mask of academic achievements, (and overachiever abilities) was removed, I was forced to deal with my humanity.  As usual, that's for another story.

In my personal journey, medication made medication worse.  It had become unbearable, and I questioned my existence.  Would I get through this? Would I ever graduate from college, and find success in my life?

Interesting enough, it was apparent that depression, and suicide contemplation is a "hush, hush," topic on many college/university campuses.  One of those dirty, little secrets, which should be swept under the rug, and removed as quickly as possible.  

After all, what reputable university/college wants to admit that some of their best and brightest, silently struggle with mental health? That dealing with depression (in all it's degrees) is a constant battle; in addition to the workload of classes, selection of a major/majors, finding a balance between proper eating, exercise, and one's social life. 

October 2004 began the herstory of my entire struggle with chronic (and sometimes manic) depression.  And each year, the struggle varied.  Often, it became more complicated.  

And so, after all the different attempts to find healing among agony, chaos, and doubt, I veered towards the knowledge of travel.  

(Photograph Taken By Egyptian Pedestrian; Edits By Lauren K. Clark-Located In Downtown Tahrir, with the Nile River behind)

Summer 2017 with SIT:  School of International Training, was my first official, study abroad program.  East African Coastal Archaeology in Kenya and Tanzania were the targets.  I had not returned to the African continent since high school (Ghana, West Africa; 2001). So venturing to a different region would be refreshing. 

The following summer, Jordan called my name.  Followed by winter and spring tales in Germany, Mexico, and Jamaica.  The excitement and adventure of traveling and studying in these nations.  And still, my "secret D," continued to lurk up.  Throughout these study ventures, there were moments of isolation, crying, and feelings of inabilities to complete assigned tasks.  

Another time. Another episode.  Another land.

Feelings of difference, being misunderstood; with no one around, who could connect with the emotional and psychological pain I experienced.  So you see, studying abroad didn't equate to escaping from my "secret D."  No!  On the contrary, it meant that I had to face it. And not only face it. . .Study it. Deal with it.   Learning how to tame, control, and maneuver through it, while in distant lands.  In hindsight, movement and creativity, while embracing my humanity, would be my weapons.  Though these strategies would not be perfected during my study travels, they would implant those necessary seeds for the future.

My study abroad travels accomplished the following in my personal battle with chronic depression:

  • I initiated attempts to view myself as more than a reflection of my grades; whether or not I was inducted into the organizations and societies for high achievers. 
  • I became comfortable with the natural essence of crying.  Now, I cry.  Anywhere. Any place. Anytime.  It is soothing, therapeutic, and feels refreshing, afterwards.
  • My eating and exercise patterns were improved.  Food, truly is a natural medicine.  And, there is truly an art in eating.
  • Becoming connected with women of other cultures, strengthened me in relationships with my own.  I appreciated the power of feminine energy, and her role as a healer.
  • Accepting that I didn't learn in the same way as others, was an added bonus!  It proved that there are myriad forms of learning, and everyone has their way.
  • Laughing out loud became more comforting. It was healing, and felt great!
  • Being open and honest about my depression.  Acknowledging it, while not being embarrassed or ashamed, was key!  By releasing it' energies, through words, I was being healed! 
  • Learning new talents and character traits of my Being.  I was more exposed to the greater world.  I became more in tuned with the process of learning, having other attributes.  Too often, the basis of my self-esteem, was contrived with academic success.  Once my depression took a heavy toll, I had to find other positive qualities surrounding my existence.

Studying abroad during my undergraduate, educational experience, made knowledge more colorful, as knowledge came to life. It currently extends into my current graduate/research experience! And I began to embrace myself, more as a living Being.  This movement of knowledge was crucial in my battle with chronic depression.

Connecting with my womanhood, as a student of the Women's Resource and Research Center at Spelman College, was intertwined to this journey, as well.

In studying overseas, I was forced to begin the journey in healing my mental health.  Not to run away from it.  For the artistry of study abroad forced me to return to that place; inabilities that were preventing me from finding my healing. . .place.  My healing space!

(Photograph Taken By Egyptian Pedestrian; Edits By Lauren K. Clark-Located In Downtown Tahrir, with the Nile River behind)

(Photograph Taken By Egyptian Pedestrian; Edits By Lauren K. Clark-Located Maadi; Taken in 2015 during a mural painting session of the Nubian people, with an Egyptian artist and other volunteers)

(Photograph Taken By Egyptian Pedestrian; Edits By Lauren K. Clark-Located Maadi; Taken in 2015 during a mural painting session of Nubian people, with an Egyptian artist and other volunteers)

Mental Health, Advice, Self-Care, Emotions, Mindfulness, Women, Anxiety, Education

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