When Meredith R., 28, prepared to go on her meticulously planned vacation to Paris, she wasn’t thinking too much about her mental health. In fact, she kind of hoped her depression and anxiety would take a vacation of their own while she was living out a lifelong dream.

How could I be anything but happy in Paris? she thought. “I didn’t realize it until after the fact, but as I was planning, I was working around a very specific fantasy of what my vacation would look like,” she tells SELF. “That fantasy didn’t involve me being depressed or anxious.”

But Meredith’s mental illnesses didn’t take a break just so she could enjoy her vacation. She had her first panic attack after navigating crowds to climb the stairs to a lookout point at Sacré-Cœur. “I was so thrown for the rest of the trip,” she says. “I was even more anxious because I thought another panic attack could strike at any time, and I got caught in a hell of a negative thought spiral about how my trip was ruined, which was basically a flytrap for my depression. It was awful.”