Living With Chronic Pain

How Do We Survive A Vacation?

Like most patients who live with chronic pain and all the ways it impacts our lives, I always ask, “Is a trip worth the recovery I’ll have to deal with to survive?”

Or, in effect:

How do I survive my vacation?

We all need time off, away from everyday worries, responsibilities and strife. It’s a way to decompress that staying home can’t offer. Here we see the bills and laundry stack up, the unfinished office work to be done. They are a constant reminder of issues still to be attended to. When away, we’re able to ignore those concerns for a brief period of time and focus on something different. Whether that’s curled up on the beach with a good book, rocking the amusement parks, or admiring works of art in a museum. For me traveling is painful. Period.
I love it, I want it, but I cringe at the cost.

Not the financial one, that I can control. It’s the physical and emotional one I can’t. I’m pretty adept at preparing in advance and anticipating my needs:

A bath tub.
A refrigerator for ice packs.
A room close to the elevator so walking, especially after a long day out is minimized.
Wheelchairs if needed.
Ways to survive the air plane trip.
How to pack.

This time, I did it all. I even took into account the freezing weather and rain. Both aspects not known to me when I agreed to the location this year- New York City. A balmy high of 40 degrees, with rain.

In the end, my toe-length parka and knee-high snow boots did their jobs. They kept me warm and dry. But the cold and rain still had a major impact preparation could only diminish, not eradicate.

I had credit card upgrades to first class but was still shocked to see the changes in those seats since I’d last traveled. They were smaller in size and thinner in padding. Something I couldn’t control.

I had not traveled in a few years and was shocked to see the changes in airplane seats. They were small and cramped back then but now they were even smaller in size, with less personal space and thinner than ever. Something I couldn’t control.

One aspect I never expected nor anticipated was the quality of the bed. It has deteriorated to a hard rock platform and quilts were replaced by thin, thread-bare blankets that provided no cushion or warmth.

The reality is, there are always issues. Do the best you can, then move on. Ruining my trip wasn’t an option.

Now I’m dealing with the aftermath. The consequences to a long plane trip, disruption of my norm, changes in eating patterns and activities, long lay-overs, a horrible bed and long, rainy, cold days and nights.

How do I manage? The only way is for me to:

Get back to my routine.
Get back to exercising.
Get back to 3 baths a day.
Get back to my bed and comfort zone.
And most importantly, I give myself a break.

I didn’t have to unpack at 11:30 PM when I got home.
I didn’t have to sort through a weeks worth of mail immediately.
I didn’t have to catch up on a weeks worth of work in one day.
I didn’t get upset when it took awhile to reestablish my normalcy.
I’m just now starting to feel myself- over a week later.

Would I do it all again? Absolutely! Pain is part of my life. That will never change.
But allowing it to stop me from living would be worse. The memories of bringing in the new decade on the streets of Time Square with one and a half million people, all looking towards a better, safer, healthier, happier year, was one I’ll cherish and never forget.

Now, for the next trip. . .

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