How to Balance Light & Darkness with Struggling Depression

Learning how to balance the light & darkness that comes while struggling with a depressive episode can be extremely difficult. I’ve started opening up more to my readers about my mental health history as time goes on. I battle several mental health illnesses, depression being one of them. I want to help educate the healthy brains, and comfort those others battling depression like me.

How to Balance the Light & Darkness of Depression

Traveling, and photography have given me a healthy, creative outlet to help express my pain during a depressive episode. My hope is that this article will provide anyone struggling comfort, and inspiration on how to balance your light & darkness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, get help at

25 million Americans suffer from depression each year.

Everyone has had an experience to some degree with depression; perhaps it was the loss of someone close to you, losing your job, or being unhappy with a current living situation. However, with the several different types the term “depression” has caused incorrect assumptions and continues to be invalidated when laypersons talk about their experiences with depression. This is a huge social, medical, and recovery problem.

Recommended Read: “5 Types of Depression and How Can You Determine Which You Have” By Betterhelp

What is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)?

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is not the same as the depression you felt when your loved one passed. The difference being, there was a reason you became depressed – you suffered a loss. It’s painful, and you probably remember your experience with the darkness you felt during that time. Thankfully, your depression will disappear as time passes and you begin to heal.

MDD is a mental health illness characterized by a persistently depressed mood with loss of interest in activities, eating, working, socializing, and sometimes life. This debilitating illness can cause significant impairment in ones daily life.

Mental health warriors suffering from MDD become depressed for no apparent reason, and will continue to battle the light and dark times of the illness the rest of their lives.

Depression is a serious mental health illness that involves a low mood and a extreme loss of interest in activities. Learn how to cope during a depressive episode through creativity and uplifting travel inspiration. It's time to end the stigma of mental illnesses. Finding the balance between light & dark.

What is the cause of MDD?

There are several possible causes to clinical depression, however these usually include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. As more continue struggling with depression, more research on the illness is being done. Scientists have discovered that these factors can cause changes in a person’s brain function, altering the natural state of neural circuits in the brain.

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include:

  • Excessive sleep changes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Significantly low energy level
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Absence of joy and happiness
  • Inability to care for oneself
  • Daily behavior
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Suicide

Depression is largely associated with thoughts of suicide. The risk increases by 25% for alcoholics who are depressed, rising to over 75 percent. 

Treatment for MDD

There is no cure for MDD. Treatment is typically an anti depressant medication, cognitive therapy, or a combination of the two. Research increasingly suggests treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression. The battle to maintain the balance of light and darkness, is always just around the corner. Waiting.

How to Use Creative Outlets for Healing

When I travel, my depression doesn’t just stay at home, waiting for me to return. It comes with me, like a dark cloud trailing behind me. During my winter adventure to Big Sky, Montana last year – the light and dark contrasts from the snow inspired this post. The photographs tell my story, expressing my feelings during a depressive episode. I hope this article has enlightened you in some way, thank you for listening.

The Balance of Light & Dark; what depression feels like.

Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression disorder.

Life is a continuous balancing act between the light and dark that lives within us. The contrasts vary depending on the amount of light surrounding the individual. The amount of light can alter life between pure bliss and despair. For most people, maintaining the balance causes little disturbances in life, as easy as breathing.

How to cope with depression through healthy outlets.

Some days you lose the battle- and the darkness is all consuming. It pulls you deeper and deeper trying to drown you in its depths of despair to claim you for its own. The darkness will do everything in its power to take you from the people and the things that you love.

Winter Hiking in Montana, artful representation of depression through travel photos and experience.

Depression affects nearly 5-8 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year.

I know it’s hard, this battle you’re fighting, and I understand that you’re exhausted from fighting off the darkness. I’ve experienced that lack of understanding most people in your life will never understand. The severity of your illness, and the internal battles you’re facing each and every day, I get it.

How to cope with the ups and downs of a depressive episode.

What you must remember, is that you are not alone in your struggle. The light and with it those feelings of joy & happiness will return. You remember the light, right?

Do you see it? Keep looking… It comes back slowly, creating shadows in the darkness, gently letting you know it’s returned. The arrival of that light signals that this battles end is near, bringing with it hope. Hold onto that small shadow of hope until the darkness fades and the battle ends. Watch as that light shines brighter each day.

Learn how to balance the light & dark moods associated with depression.

Before you know it, the battle is won and you return home. The light is warm, and comforting after so much time in the dark. It’s time to breathe now. Inhale slowly. Hold the breath. Exhale slowly. Again.

I’m so proud of you for finding that balance between the light and darkness. I’m filled with joy that you are here to live another day after your excruciating battle. We all knew you could do it. xx

If you or someone you know is struggling with their battle against depression, get help at

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The Best Virtual Vacation to Las Vegas

Virtual travel is the newest way to vacation while we’re all staying home to flatten the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are learning new innovative ways to navigate our world virtually to stay connected with each other. To some that may mean using FaceTime, Facebook, or WhatsApp to video chat with friends, or family. Employees are using Zoom, Skype, or Telegram to conduct virtual meetings and do business online instead of traveling. Then there’s some that are visiting Las Vegas.

Next time you’re logging on, take a virtual vacation to Las Vegas. Take a break and watch the calming fountains of the Bellagio. Get up and dance to music on Fremont Street, take a ride up in the High Roller or watch some comedy with the family! This virtual vacation to Las Vegas is yours to explore from the couch!

Traveling virtually is the newest way to vacation while we’re all staying home to flatten the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next time you're logging on, take a virtual vacation to Las Vegas. Take a break and watch the calming fountains of the Bellagio. Get up and dance to music on Fremont Street, take a ride up in the High Roller or watch some comedy with the family!

Now, put your comfy clothes on, pour a glass of wine, light up a joint, whatever your pleasure… and enjoy the best virtual vacation to Las Vegas!

Traveling virtually is the newest way to vacation while we’re all staying home to flatten the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next time you're logging on, take a virtual vacation to Las Vegas. Take a break and watch the calming fountains of the Bellagio. Get up and dance to music on Fremont Street, take a ride up in the High Roller or watch some comedy with the family!

Plan Your Las Vegas Adventure

Grab your snacks, get your charger ready, and get ready to visit Las Vegas virtually. Below is the highlights of Las Vegas for your virtual visit to the city where anything can happen. You’re encouraged to keep exploring even more of Las Vegas along your journey. Recommended suggestions will guide you. Have a great vacation!

We are going to tour the city and see the most famous sites. We will cook French food from home, listen to music, and even speak the language. You don’t have to leave home to have a great French experience.

Virtual travel is the newest way to vacation while we’re all staying home to flatten the curve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next time you're logging on, take a virtual vacation to Las Vegas. Take a break and watch the calming fountains of the Bellagio. Get up and dance to music on Fremont Street, take a ride up in the High Roller or watch some comedy with the family!

Virtual Las Vegas Music & Shows

Cirque du Soleil Arm Chair Performances

Inspired by the desire to stay connected during this time of social distancing, Cirque du Soleil invites its fans to a weekly 60-minute online rendezvous to enjoy some of the most awe-inspiring moments from its world-famous shows on the new digital content hub, CirqueConnect.

Shania Twain Virtual Concert

Quarantine Mixx by DJ Pauly D

Old Vegas Fremont Street Nightlife

Old Vegas Fremont Street

Vegas Virtual Nightclub

Bellagio Fountain Show

Venetian Palazzo Gondola Ride

Las Vegas Virtual Comedy

The show must go on….line! Get a front row seat to Mat Franco’s online livestream show, featuring new magic, fun surprises, interactive Q&A’s, and maybe you’ll even learn a trick you can do at home! It’s free and it’s right on Facebook LIVE!

Virtual Las Vegas Museum Tours

Mob Museum Virtual Tours

The Mob Museum has begun a three-part virtual tour series of all four floors of the Museum’s highlighted exhibitions and artifacts for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home.

The Neon Museum Virtual Tour

The Neon Museum now has a free app that you can access from your computer (no smartphone required). The virtual tour explores the history of certain iconic signs from the Las Vegas Strip, which are now held in the museum’s outdoor exhibition space, The Boneyard. 

Virtual Las Vegas Health & Wellbeing

Vegas Golden Knights Workout Challenge

Fitness GOALS!  The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights are “Together At Home” with us sharing daily fitness challenge videos. #VGKFitChallenge

Chippendales Sexy In-Home Workout

Las Vegas Virtual Cooking Shows

The D Las Vegas Facebook – Ivan

The D Las Vegas Facebook – Ivan

A Taste of Wynn at Home with David Walzog

A Taste of Wynn at Home with David Walzog

Virtual Vegas for Kids

Study Break with Jeff Civillico

Las Vegas’ family friendly comedian Jeff Civillico is now offering FREE Livestream Juggling Workshops every Tuesday 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern) now through April 28th on Instagram.

Download 16 Different Coloring Book Pages!

Lost at The Smithsonian Escape Room Game

Welcome to the Smithsonian. You’ve been anxiously awaiting this field trip for months and the day is finally here. You burst in the museum and head to the first exhibit. You are so captivated by the exhibits that you’ve lost the group. If you don’t find your classmates soon, the bus will leave you behind. Your mission is to find your class before the museum closes and the bus leaves. Navigate through the Smithsonian using the virtual tour and follow clues to find your class!

Lost at The Smithsonian Escape Room Game


#VegasGoes Blue is a collaboration between Clark County, the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite, the Southern Nevada Health District and a number of other local agencies and hospitals. This local effort will coincide with World Health Organization’s World Healthcare Day, which this year honors nurses and midwives.

ASTA Together in Travel

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore encompasses 65 miles of sandy shoreline along Lake Michigan. The area also includes several lakes and streams, making this National Lakeshore a great summer destination.

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes
Can you see the hikers?

The fall will bring you bright vibrant orange, yellow, and red foliage making for a spectacular display of color. The winters can be brutally cold, but the snow provides great snowshoeing conditions through the dunes.

How To Get to Sleeping Bear Dunes

RoamRight cruise travel insurance

Before booking your trip, make sure you protect yourself and your money and purchase travel insurance! You will need to rent a car to get to Sleeping Bear Dunes. It is a 4.5 hour drive from the Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) and a 3.5 hour drive from the Flint Bishop International airport.

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes

Where to Stay by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The sleeping bear dunes are 25 miles west of Traverse City, making this a great city for accommodations, night life, restaurants and wineries. Try an AirBnB and see how the locals live. If you’re looking for a closer city outside the park you can find hotels in Empire or Glen Arbor. There are several state parks, and private campgrounds in the area. Rent an RV and spend a weekend exploring. Bring a tent, or you can rent rustic cabins in some state parks as well.

“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” 

John Muir

How are the dunes created?

The sand from the steep bluffs along the lakeshore fall or slide into Lake Michigan. This provides massive amounts of sand and gravel to the National Lakeshore. Some individual landslides have dumped a million cubic yards of sand into the great lake in just one single event.

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddune
Can you see the boat?

Waves cut away the bases of the bluffs, providing a continuous supply of sand and gravel to the winds blowing against them. The sand continues to get whisked up and deposited on top.

The Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a hike no one should miss. | | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

More National Parks to Explore


What To Do In Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Lake Michigan coastline along Sleeping Bear Dunes and the offshore Islands are a very large component of the National Lakeshore environment. Small patches of ancient forests buried by sand eons ago continue to be exposed, as sand moves inland and attempts to bury the forests there today.

The Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Running down is the best part about climbing up. | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

The Dune Climb


Climb the dunes or enjoy the sand. The Dune Climb offers plenty of fresh, wind-blown sand for your climbing pleasure. While the climb can be strenuous, the run back down to the picnic area is a blast!

The Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore in Michigan. | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #dunehike #hiking #hike

The climb up the dunes provides you a view of Glen Lake. The Dune Climb is located just about 5 miles north of Empire on M-109. You will need an annual National Park Pass or $25 for parking at this dune climb. For those who have extra time and a lot of energy, take a hike through the dunes all the way to Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan Overlook Sleeping Bear Dunes | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

Lake Michigan Overlook

Safety Tips: Take lots of water and remember you’ll be walking up and down the dunes of loose sand the entire way. Hiking through the dunes can be disorienting, so be sure to keep children within sight. If hiking with a group, agree on a time and place to meet up before leaving.

Avoid getting stuck at the bottom of the dune at the Lake Michigan Overlook!

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes

Michigan Lakeshore Beaches

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has miles of pristine beach! Cool off in the beautiful clear water of Lake Michigan with beach activities like sunbathing, reading, or making sand castles. The whole Lake Michigan lakeshore is open to swimming, but there are no lifeguards on duty, and be aware of possible Rip Currents.

Visitors are advised not to go down the dune at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Lake Michigan Overlook. Lake levels are high – the only way out is up. Keep yourself and rescuers out of danger.

Play in the waves, swim, or just take a stroll along the beach. Lake Michigan is beautiful, but it’s more refreshing than the inland lakes, so be prepared!

Safe popular access points to the Lake Michigan Lakeshore can be found here.

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This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes

Hiking Trails

You can hike over 100 miles of designated trails along the Lakeshore. There are thirteen hiking trails on the mainland, most of which are maintained during the winter for cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Each trailhead has a parking area, and the trails will be marked with blue tipped posts.

Tip: There is limited or no service throughout the park. To keep your phone fully charged and ready to catch those amazing shots, you’ll need an extra battery charger. I take my Mophie everywhere I travel, just in case!

Lake Michigan Overlook Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hiking trail along the water through the dunes. | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a must-do when visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This 7.4 mile drive loops through the Beech-Maple forest and sand dunes. You’ll gain insight to the history of the area, learn about the different ecosystems found within the park and, best of all, spectacular overlooks along the way.

Pierce Stocking Historic Bridge in Sleeping Bear Dunes along the scenic drive. | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

Do a Lazy River Float

Cool off with a relaxing float down the Platte River on a hot summer day. This is one of the most popular summer recreational activities in the area. The river is shallow and clear, moving at a good pace, with no rapids making it perfect for all ages. You can either bring your own tube, raft, air mattress, etc. or you can rent them from local outfitters. If you need to rent during the height of the summer season, you will want to plan ahead and get reservations.

Lake Michigan Overlook Sleeping Bear Dunes stretching farther than you can see. | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

Lake Michigan Sunsets

Lake Michigan sunsets will take your breath away. Find a good dune to hike along the shoreline and watch the sun slowly set along the horizon. We were able to find our own private viewing area along one of the dune trails. Taking in the glow of the sunset in peace, with sounds of waves washing below. Glen Lake pictured below is another great sunset viewing spot.

Lake Michigan Sunset in Sleeping Bear Dunes | | #camping #usdestinations #sleepingbeardunes #nationallakeshore #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes
My Travel Crew aka Family 🙂

This Sleeping Bear Dunes itinerary covers the best of what to do on the National Lakeshore, how to get there and where to stay. Add this hidden gem to your summer bucket list. | Her Life Adventures | #camping #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #michigantravel #greatlakes #ustravel #summer #bucketlist #sleepingbear #lakemichigan #sanddunes

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Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

The magical mountains of rainbow are located in Cusco, Peru high up in the Andes. The peak of rainbow mountains has an altitude of 17,060 ft / 5,200 m above sea level. The city of Cusco sits at an altitude of (11,152 ft / 3,399 m). The rainbow mountains are called Vinicunca, Winikunka, or Montaña de Siete Colores by Peruvians. If you’re asking yourself “is it worth going to Peru rainbow mountains?” the answer is YES.

Her Life Adventures Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Rainbows and mountains are both beautiful. And I’m obsessed with anything colorful/shiny/that sparkles. So when I heard you could hike to a RAINBOW MOUNTAINS in Peru (rainbows + mountains = Chelsea’s favorite things) I knew I had to go.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Visiting Peru’s Rainbow Colored Mountains

I was nervous for the ascent up the mountain- Instead of acclimating like most people I had been sick for a good majority of the trip from the altitude in Cusco (for whatever reason my body absolutely HATES altitude, and anything over 9,000 ft makes me nauseous and uncomfortable). This trek would be pushing my body to limits i’d never pushed it to before- and I worried these beautiful mountains could very well be the death of me.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hiking Trail

How do I get to the rainbow mountains?

The morning of the hike starts EARLY, or late if you want to look at it that way- the van picked us up from our Airbnb in Cusco at 2:30 a.m. We all instantly regretted not bringing a pillow for the 3 hour ride ahead of us. Blankets were provided for us, so we attempted to sleep on each other and catch up on some zzz’s (we didn’t get to sleep till 10 p.m after the Machu Picchu trip ). The rough ride made that difficult, and nobody got much sleep. I’m pretty sure there are more speed bumps in Peru than the entire continent of South America…

Rainbow Mountain Village

We arrived at a village 15 minutes from the trailhead where we were fed a light breakfast by the locals. Breakfast consisted of breads, jams/butter, a plate of scrambled eggs, and some tea (it’s highly recommended you drink the coca tea- it will help with the altitude sickness). I was nauseous from the van ride and/or altitude so I skipped breakfast.

When we arrived at the trail head around 6:30 a.m. we were at 14,000 ft and it was cold! Layers on layers was key to this trek. There were locals selling wool gloves, hats, scarves, parkas and other souvenirs- a couple people from the group bought some hats and gloves. We still had 2000 ft in elevation to gain and it was already cold…

Rainbow Mountain Sherpas

You Can Ride Horses to Rainbow Mountains Peak

There were horses for rent that you could ride up the mountain for 60 soles (about $18 USD). SOLD. And that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Half our group decided to rent horses, while the other half decided to brave the mountain on foot.

Rainbow Mountain Horses
Horseback Riding Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

The horse came with a local guide who led the horse up the mountain for you- these guides were the real heros. They were wearing sandals on their feet- and made the trip up and down the mountain MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, sometimes running past other hikers on the way down.

It was impressive and made me feel like a whimp on my horse- but then I’d try to take a deep breath, and considering I was having a hard time breathing just sitting there, I knew the horse was a wise decision.

Wildlife Along the Vinicunca Trail

Riding the horse up the mountain allowed me to relax, and enjoy all the incredible views along the way. These views included cuteness overload, with thousands of alpaca, llama, and farm animals.

Animals on Rainbow Mountain Hike

Reaching the Peak

The horses do not go up the last quarter mile of the hike- the mountain is too steep, and the air is too thin- so you know what that meant? It was up to us to make it through the hardest part of the hike. Since we had left at 2:30 in the morning- we were the first tour group to arrive to the mountain.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

There was only 4 people in sight, and we had the opportunity to be some of the first people up the mountain that day. So I moved as fast as I could before the other tour groups started arriving to summit. The key was slow and steady, I would take 5 steps and be panting and out of breath.

Her Life Adventures Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hiking Trail

Is hiking up Peru’s rainbow mountains difficult?

The photo above doesn’t make it look very daunting, does it? I remember being so frustrated I couldn’t breathe, my stomach was rolling with nausea, and I was in tears just 10 feet away from reaching the top. I didn’t think I was going to make it, I thought for sure I was going to die by asphyxiation right there on that mountain in Peru.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

When I finally took my last step to the top- I collapsed to the ground, gasping for air, trying to catch my breath for a couple minutes. I felt like a fish out of water. Finally my breathing slowed- and as I lifted my head to look up at what I had just worked for- a smile of pure joy spread across my face, and I knew instantly it was all worth it.

Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

**This hike is extremely difficult for all levels of fitness, due to the high altitude and low oxygen levels. Please consult with your physician if you have any questions. It is recommended that hikers do not spend more than 30 minutes at the peak (the air is too thin)**

Arriving at the Peak

Making it to the top of the peak was a huge accomplishment for me. I fought through physical and mental exhaustion not allowing myself to give up (believe me, I wanted to) Everyone cheers each other on at the top, those that’ve reached it, know that it’s those last few steps where people hit their wall and almost give up, and they NEED that encouragement.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Peak
Rainbow Mountain Peak View

We were offered the horses again on the way down. I was confident enough that I could make it down on my own, so I declined the assistance. The trip down as always- was easier than the trip up.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek
Rainbow Mountain Peru Llamas

Homemade Peruvian Lunch

When we got to the bottom we were served a homemade authentic Peruvian lunch, and I had no issues stuffing my face this time around. It was after all, Thanksgiving 🦃

My Peru Crew!

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

Helpful Hints for Visiting Rainbow Mountains

Our group of 6 did a tour package with Flashpacker Connect- they were awesome, and our guide Johnathon was extremely knowledgeable. Our package was for the 2 day inca trail hike, 1 day Machu Picchu, and 1 day in the rainbow mountains. They provided transportation to and from each expedition, an over night stay after the inca trail in the town aquas calientes, and a good majority of our meals.

**If you are concerned with the altitude, please consult with your doctor before your trek**

The mountain trek takes place above 4000 meters; the terrain is challenging, and weather is unpredictable ranging from hot and humid to rain and wind. Hikers should be in reasonable shape, and healthy. Ensure you have proper gear and be prepared for variable weather conditions throughout the day.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Hike

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What a Panic Attack Feels Like

My story about what a panic attack feels like, to help people understand the severity of the mental illness and how it affects my life. Including the travel limitations it can inflict.
Peru; November 2017; 7 days; 2 panic attacks

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

I wanted to write about what a panic attack feels like to help people understand the severity of the mental illness and how it affects my life. Including the travel limitations it can inflict in addition to the every challenges. Writing this post about what happened to me was difficult, and it brought out a lot of emotions as I was writing. But it’s time to talk about it, I can no longer stay silent and hide my chronic illnesses out of fear of judgement, prejudice, or discrimination. I struggle everyday to win the internal battle my mental illnesses raging within me.

I debated if I should start integrating mental health into my travel blog for over a year, when I was first diagnosed. Times are changing, faster than anyone ever could have predicted. The travel industry has collapsed these past few weeks with the COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc on the world, and the uncertainty of the future has many of us scared. Which is why I think now more than ever, it is so important to start these conversations. Understanding each others differences, and working together to overcome the adversity will lead us into a brighter future. My name is Chelsea, I have Panic Disorder and this is my story.

Hawaii, Feb 2019, 7 days, 3 panic attacks

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is on the severe end of the anxiety disorder spectrum. But on the severe side… My panic attacks personally happen anywhere, at anytime, unexpectedly, and don’t need a “trigger” for the attack to happen. With no warning of the onset, it makes the disorder extremely difficult to manage. So what exactly is panic disorder? what does a panic attack feel like?

An abrupt feeling of terror washes over you when there is no real danger. It’s the feeling that you are losing control of your mind, your body, and yourself. It feels like you’re dying. Your brain is telling you, you’re dying! But it’s not just “feelings”. A panic attack also has physical symptoms, which fuels the panic that you’re dying, symptoms such as:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Severe chest or stomach pain
  • Breathing difficulty, not being able to breathe
  • Weakness, dizziness, confusion
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill sometimes going from one to the other and back. Or feeling both hot/cold at the same time.
  • Tingly or numb hands & limbs
North Cascades National Park; July 2019; 2 panic attacks

Quality of Life

Aside from the physical and mental pain that an attack has on your body- after you recover, you’re terrified at what happened. Everyday I fear that another attack will consume me. I often avoid places where past attacks have happened, especially in public places- like an airport. I once sat on an airport bench in LAX for almost an hour during a panic attack. Unable to move, feeling like I would throw up at any minute, with blurred vision. How could I go through TSA like that? I barely made my flight as I pushed through the panic and disconnected mentally from my physical being.

Banff National Park Road trip; September 2019; 7 days; 1 panic attack

For some people, the fear of another attack takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes. The disorder is more common in women than men and can start to develop as a young adult. Most people can get better with cognitive therapy treatment and medication, but there is no cure. So my question to you reader is this-

So i’ll ask you again – on a scale of 1-10 how severe do you consider panic disorder to be?

Not Severe 1 – 10 Disabling

Remember that number.

My Story

The following story, is from my most recent panic attack experience. It was the most severe attack I’ve ever had, lasting for almost 2.5 hours. I woke up the morning after, and wrote down my account as best I could before I no longer remembered. I sat down at my computer with my eyes closed, and went back to the night before, just typing as the words came to me. There were two times where I needed to take a break and stop writing because of the tears that came with it. This is what I wrote, unedited. So … welcome to my head.

**TRIGGER WARNING** The following contains potentially distressing content. Reader discretion is advised.

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Logan and I had pizza friday, and were watching how to train your dragon we were almost to the end, and there was a scene where the dragons and humans were flying through the clouds, popping in and out of sight. i started to get nauseous, not understanding why, bad pizza? i laid my head back and closed my eyes as i just listened. a few minutes later the nausea got worse, and i began feeling like i was overheating. i had to cool my body temperature down, something wasn’t right. i laid on the bathroom tile, thinking i was going to be sick with food poisoning, still trying to cool down my rapidly growing temperature. it wasn’t working, my nausea and the stomach pain were getting worse.

i go outside onto the deck in the 40 degree cool winter night, and sat in a t-shirt, sweatpants, and no socks while I sit there for what felt like just minutes. Today Logan said it was more like 30-45 minutes. Logan came out to check and see if i was cold, or wanted to come inside. I wasn’t. i was enjoying the cool breeze on my face, and the comfort that the darkness was bringing as I stared out into the nothingness.

this is where my memories begin to fade, and i begin to come in and out of consciousness. i lay outside on the deck just repeating over and over to logan that my stomach hurt and something was wrong. he brought me my anti nausea medication upon my request, and sat outside with me in his winter jacket and outdoor clothing. i lay there helpless, in pain, terrified, and unable to move for fear that if i open my eyes, the nausea will return.

now i’m inside on the kitchen floor because I’m freezing and shivering. logan tells me i need to back away from the door because mia (our dog) is outside and she needs to come in. ok i say. nothing happens, i cant open my eyes, all i feel is fear, and pain. something isn’t right i say. on all fours, i drag myself further into the kitchen, trying to make it to the couch.

the pain becomes so bad i collapse and start to cry. just laying there being afraid, of what i didn’t know. i couldn’t get up. it wasn’t safe. my leg started shaking, and it felt as if i was having convulsions from my toes up to my thigh, at the same time the pain in my stomach becomes unbearable and i cry out in pain as i fight through the wave of pain trying not to pass out.

my breathing starts to slow, it’s going slower, slower, more shallow. logan, somethings not right. somethings wrong with me i tell him. i can’t breathe. can you google my symptoms? i think i’m dying. can you find out whats wrong? please, i beg him. the convulsions start again, and i’m gone once more, lost in the pain. the pain of my legs from shaking uncontrollably, the pain of it going up and into my stomach, making it cramp so bad i thought it might be period cramps or kidney stones.

Chels i dont know whats wrong, i dont know whats happening. sheer terror brings a cold chill down my whole body, and i begin to shake, and shiver. what’s wrong with me repeats in my head as a loop. i ask logan again, whats wrong with me? …i don’t know sweetheart, did you google my symptoms? not yet sweetie, i don’t know what you want me to google.

i think i have the coronavirus. i think i’m dying. i cant breathe.. i cant open my eyes, all i feel is pain. everything hurts. i think i’m dying. i tell him. my breathing slows again, and i get a reprieve from the pain coursing through my veins. i’m laying halfway in between the living room and the kitchen now. i open my eyes, and look into his for the first time. i think i’m having a panic attack, i tell him. i need my medicine, i don’t want to die. which medicine? he asks.

chels…chelsea… i feel him touch me…which medicine chels? i don’t remember. why is he asking about medicine? whats happening to me i ask him. i think you’re sick honey, he says. i start to cry again, my time has come, i’m not ready to die i cry. I think we need to take you to the hospital, logan says. whats the hospital? i ask. “the fact that you don’t know what a hospital is, makes me certain we need to take you in, you’re sick sweetheart.”

this is it. my time has come. i didn’t think i’d die this young. they say death sneaks up on us. am i dying? i ask him. no, no you’re not dying, we just need to get you to the hospital. what’s a hospital? i’m so confused. its where people go when they’re sick. but i’m not sick, i’m’ not i tell him. just let me rest here. just let me close my eyes, i just need to go to sleep. did you get my medicine? no…you still need to tell me what one

babe.. i think i’m having a panic attack, i tell him. can you get me my medicine? babe…i beg him, please. please make it go away. something is wrong. something isn’t right. what’s happening to me? you’re sick sweetheart.. xanax i say. i need my xanax, i think i’m having a panic attack. i feel him get up. which cupboard are they in? the cupboard downstairs. where babe, which cupboard, i’m downstairs, open your eyes. i can’t… the light. please turn the light off. i’m not ready. I’m not ready to leave you. I don’t want to die.

the pain starts. i roll into a ball trying to stop it, but i feel it coming, my legs begin shaking again, and it continues up up into my stomach, into my head. im gone. is it ok to take the medicine with the other one you took? i don’t know. i say. i don’t know. i fall asleep. babe…wake up, take your medicine. where is it i ask? its in your hand, its still in your hand. ok. its ok if i take it? yes, he says, go ahead and take it. ok. i fall asleep.

chels.. c’mon. lets go to the hospital. whats the hospital? what happens there? is it because i’m dying? i have the coronavirus dont i? i start crying, i cant breathe again. Logan tries to calm me, no, no you don’t have the virus. you might have food poisoning. i fade out again. still laying on the floor, i open my eyes not knowing how much time had passed. everything is foggy, but I see his face. chels i think it’s time to go to the hospital. what’s a hospital? i ask him once again. i think i’m having a panic attack. let me sleep. let me just sleep and i’ll be ok.

chels.. you’re sick. this isn’t normal, you can’t tell me what a hospital is. he’s right. what is a hospital. i don’t wanna go there. he gets up and i grab hold of his arm as the terror shoots through me again, begging him to please whatever he does- please don’t leave me. The pain is coming, my eyes water as my legs begin shaking again, i’m so nauseous. he gets up and turns a light on, NOOOO i yell. please no!! please turn it off. It hurts me. Why don’t you try and throw up he says… i cant. i cant do it. why not? its not allowed. i just cant do it. did you get my medicine?

i look into my hand, it’s not there- did you get my medicine? yes chels… you took it awhile ago, it was in your hand. are you sure? I ask. it’s not there. it’s time to go chels. where are we going? the hospital. whats the hospital i ask him again. wait… i’ve asked him this before. i know it. logan- did i ask you that already? yes, a couple times he says. but i don’t remember. am i looping again? i can’t remember anything. it’s just darkness. i try to remember what a hospital is. what it means to be sick. i’m dying. you’re dying, i tell myself. he wants me to go there so they can save me, but it’s too late. i’m fading. i fall asleep.

come on chels, its time. no… no please, let me stay just a little longer. i don’t want to die yet. i open my eyes and all i can see is logan’s face. i look into his eyes, i hear the dogs whining around me, they know too i think. ok.. ok what he says? ok we can go to the hospital. i don’t want to die yet. he helps me get up and i walk for the first time into the living room to put my shoes on. i’m at the door, and the light goes on. panic.

no. no no no no no. turn it off. turn it off i say. i’m on the couch in a ball, with my eyes closed and the pain coming back full force. please shut them off, they’re hurting me. there’s going to be lots of lights at the hospital he says… the lights won’t hurt you. the darkness feels good. whats the hospital? i ask confused. that’s where we’re going he said, put your shoes on ok? ok. i can do that. i get up and put my shoes on. the light turns on. i crumble to the floor right where i stood. crying, begging, please no.. please just please keep the light off. it hurts me. it’s killing me.

that’s why we’re going to the hospital logan says, where are your cards? where are all your medical cards? on my desk. are they all here he asks? yes, those are them. WAIT. no… no i say. we can’t go. i dont have insurance. i can’t go to the emergency. call an ambulance instead. but i can’t go to the hospital. he tries helping me up again to go.

no… no. am i sick? i ask again. yes… you’re sick sweetheart. so this isn’t normal? no.. am i sick like grandma Quida was? i ask him, am i going to be with her now? the light scares me. i’m not ready. i’m not ready to go towards the light. i can’t leave you. no… you’re not sick like grandma Quida he said.. you’re just sick, and need a doctor.

i’ll go upstairs i say. i’ll go upstairs and sleep in the bed. is that normal? yes..that’s normal. but i think we should still go to the hospital, he said. the lights. no… no i’m not sick, i promise. if i make it upstairs, do we have to go to the hospital?

if you make it upstairs and fall asleep/start feeling better, we don’t have to go. ok. ok..ok. i can do that. “can you turn off all the lights?” they’re off sweetheart. no… no there’s still a light i can see it. “that’s a candle, you won’t be able to get upstairs in the dark.

panic. i can’t… i can’t go. please make all the light go away. the blinds too. the windows. the candle. all the light. i won’t make it up there unless it’s gone. i start to fall asleep again. they’re off – he says. it’s dark now.. can i help you upstairs? i open my eyes, its dark. it’s safe now.

yes. yes, can you help me upstairs? i’m in bed now. “is this normal?” i ask him. is what normal? me. me being in bed like this and going to sleep. that’s ok? yes he says. i can go to sleep? yes. What will happen? i won’t wake up will i. panic. i don’t want to die. i want to wake up. “you’ll go to sleep, and then wake up” he says. he’s lying. i know i’m dying, he’s too scared to admit it. “will you stay with me until i fall asleep?” yes. i’ll stay.

i woke up this morning and every inch of my body hurt. an aching hurt, like when you over do it at the gym. something bad happened last night, and i just want to sleep. i’m so tired. i’m exhausted. i can’t keep my eyes open. logan brought me some coffee, and laid with me, rubbed my back – and i began to relax again, falling back to sleep. i’m awake now, fully alert. remembering and recounting what happened. i think it’s important to write this down. it needs to be shared.

it wasn’t just me that was terrified, and cold with fear. Logan watched me, helped me, took care of me, and saw what happened to me. he watched for hours, as the loops, pain, terror, and death consumed me. he watched, and could do nothing to stop it. i can only imagine what it must have been like for him. its not fair. its not fair to either of us. for me to live with these brain diseases. this was one of the worst panic attacks i’ve had in months. it came out of nowhere – blindsiding me. slowly taking over control of not just my body, but my mind. until eventually, i wasn’t there anymore. me. chelsea. my essence. it just wasn’t there.

So i’ll ask you again – on a scale of 1-10 how severe do you consider panic disorder to be?

Not Severe 1 – 10 Disabling

If you or someone you know struggles with Panic Disorder, or other mental health illnesses- talk about it. Don’t be afraid, it’s time.

My younger sister is reaching the same age that I was when my mental health illnesses took a decline, and became unbearable. I recognize the pain in her eyes, the confusion, and the desperate need for help. I sought help, but it would be 7 years before I received the correct diagnosis, and treatment.

Working for GM; 7 years; 30+ panic attacks; 3 hospital visits

A month before my panic attack, my sister was in the hospital, when I spoke with her partner he explained what happened. Memory loss. Unable to speak. Unable to move. Pain. Paralysis. She was cleared from the hospital a few hours after her arrival. Diagnosis? Panic attack. She is now receiving the help she needs, and her mental health is improving as we fight this hereditary illness together.

Don’t keep the pain locked inside to consume you.

Being sick is not your fault. It doesn’t matter if it’s the flu, depression, panic disorder, or cancer- you did not choose this, to be sick. Don’t let others make you feel ashamed, or like “it’s all in your head”. Those people are ignorant, and you know the truth. Keep fighting, it won’t be this bad forever, and the world needs you.


Nevada; February 2020; 5 days; 0 panic attacks

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