Should I play this cruise ship gig -- with my anxiety and depression?

I'd love to go, but it's a nine-month contract and I'm afraid I'll want to jump overboard.

Published July 30, 2008 9:46AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a 54-year-old single man living in an area where there is almost no chance for any kind of career advancement or even a decent long-term job. The bottom line is that I have been offered an opportunity to join a band on a cruise ship. The money is great and I would have virtually no expenses. I am very comfortable on small boats, but have never even been on a ship.

My concern is that I would have to commit to a nine-month contract. It is a wonderful opportunity to see a sizable chunk of the world -- the ship would cross the Atlantic from Florida, tour the Mediterranean, travel up the coast of Europe and visit the British Isles.

I've had problems with anxiety and depression off and on for most of my adult life. Basically, I'm afraid that I will get out there and feel so uncomfortable (freaked out with fear) that I will want to jump overboard. I realize that I am "catastrophizing." My question is: Should I seize this chance that has fallen into my lap or accept that it may be beyond my limitations?

Scared Musician

Dear Scared Musician,

Playing as a musician on a cruise ship is one of life's great experiences. It would be unfortunate if you could not go because of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression can be crippling and painful. But it sounds like you are managing fairly well. You do not say that you are suicidal, only that you are afraid you will want to jump overboard.

Many of us have such fears, and in folks with anxiety and depression the fears can be rather pronounced. But we can learn not to act on what is going on in our heads. If you are like me, you have your share of crazy thoughts and don't act on them.

Mine, however, is just a layperson's opinion. If you are seriously concerned about jumping overboard, you should talk to a licensed psychotherapist. If the therapist advises you not to go, then naturally you should not go. But barring that, I really hope you go.

You know, because I feel rather strongly that you should go, I thought about giving a one-word answer, like, just, "Go!" But I thought it might sound dismissive, as though I thought your anxiety and depression were trivial matters. I know that they are not trivial. I have had my share of anxiety and depression. People who do not have one or the other do not always understand how powerful it can be, nor how phobias and anxiety can arise in surprising areas of life. I used to have anxiety about odd things -- the grocery store, the laundromat. So if you are having anxiety about this, I understand.

Still, I really hope you go. You might have some rough spots, but, gee, it sounds like a great opportunity. As I say, I'm just a layperson, but the way you talk -- and knowing you are a musician -- it sounds to me like this is a doable adventure.

Consult with a therapist if you are concerned about suicide. But I really hope you go.

And enjoy the trip!

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