Updated: Oct 18, 2021
For this Fat Mama, the COVID-19 shutdown was less a mental health rollercoaster and more a 10-story free fall. As an exuberant, outgoing, social butterfly who got myself through the drudgery of work by planning and looking forward to my next vacation, work trip, or weekend getaway, suddenly being locked in my house with only Fat Papa and Itsy Bitsy was devastating. It wasn't until after the 2020 holiday season that I realized how much not being able to travel was impacting my mental health. Everything kind of hit me that first week of January. That week was hellish for me. I laid off my 9 employees and closed a business I had been running for 7 years. The board of directors for a nonprofit I helped found began dissolution discussions. We were in the middle of moving homes and Fat Papa's work schedule was so crazy he couldn't help with packing. AND, it was the first time since Itsy Bitsy was born that we had not celebrated New Years with our traditional "Happy Zoo Year" trip to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. Like a 10-story free fall, my depression experienced a sudden and shocking drop that continued, down, down, down. My only question was, “Are the brakes on this ride working?”
The first week of January 2021 marked a turning point in my COVID experience. From January to March, I sank into a deep depression where I lost motivation to pack, move, and unpack our house. Showering felt like a huge accomplishment. I felt so empty and unfulfilled. Even a smile was asking too much on some days (luckily Fat Papa knows NEVER to ask a woman for a smile). I don't think I could have gotten through it without the patience of Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy's encouragement, the fact that we hired a nanny, and our COVID pod-family.
It was a friend, E-Girl, in our COVID pod-family who asked me why I wasn't exploring travel writing and travel consulting as a new venture. “You’re so good at planning vacations; and you love it!” I told her it was because no one uses travel agents anymore and I'm not a pretentious 20-something with a selfie-stick. She did what any good friend would do and rolled her eyes, then said, "But seriously, I hate planning vacations, love to take them, but hate how much research and time goes into planning." She used the last vacation our families took together as an example. Having been to Maui multiple times, I planned and arranged a full 10-day Maui experience for both of our families. I chose the resort, suggested airlines, found car rentals, booked activities and made dining reservations. I even created daily suggested itineraries complete with pool and cabana time. E-Girl said it was one of the best vacations she had ever taken, and certainly the easiest. My planned vacation and activities were all easy to opt-in or out of, I included E-Girl in the initial planning but did not involve her in the hours of research. What surprised me was how appreciative E-girl and her family were with me taking responsibility for our vacation.
Additionally, E-Girl felt I had a unique outlook on travel because I never let my Fat Mamaness get in the way of having a great time. Having traveled extensively with me, she felt that in many ways I had more fun traveling being a Fat Mama because not only did I laugh off my weight, but I was also putting myself out there and fully committing to everything. Having dealt with my weight for over a decade, in the last few years I had finally learned to get over being fat and embrace being a Fat Mama. I started living, and traveling, without fear of judgment, looking silly, or feeling shamed. This shift in perspective changed everything about the way I traveled. Suddenly I was buying the cute tropical wrap-around dress, I was going to the pool in swim gear that made me feel comfortable, I was booking the ranch tour with the added lunch ... and you know what? I felt more confident than ever and was having more fun than I ever had back when I was a self-conscious 20-something. Then COVID hit and all that newfound confidence and zest I was desparate to express had no outlet. My E-Girl was right, I do things differently. I have a unique perspective. I like to write, and research, and plan, and take photos ... maybe travel writing and consulting is what I should be doing. So ...
In March I planned a trip to Kauai with Itsy Bitsy, GiGi, and Pappy. We adults were all fully-vaccinated, we all planned to wear masks while traveling, and we followed all the testing rules before flying out to paradise. No depressed state of mind was going to keep me from getting on that airplane and seeing something other than the inside walls of my house.
I left for Kauai knowing this:
I could not go back to a life that felt empty because of the closing of my business and the loss of my creative outlet.
No matter what happened with COVID, I had to find a way to stay in a "travel mindset" even when I could not travel.
Never again would I let myself be shamed, bullied or harassed into acting any differently just because of my weight. I gotta do me.
When I came back from Kauai, I felt revitalized. I was ready to take on a new project. First step, I started seeing a therapist every week individually and Fat Papa started couples therapy with me so we could grow stronger together. Through hard personal and couples work, I started pulling myself out of depression and an idea for a new project began to take shape.
Taking all the advice from E-Girl about travel writing and consulting, along with Fat Papa's love and support, plus my drive to combine all my passions, I am leaping feet first into the vast world of travel blogging. Starting a new venture is a bit scary, but I am so excited to start sharing with you, dear reader, all the amazing things the world has to offer ... if you have the courage to live and travel like a Fat Mama.