Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Vacationing with Fibromyalgia

In my youth I was downright spoiled in the vacations I got to take. None of them were excessive, but there were some really special, beautiful places that I got to visit and stay at throughout my life. Although I wasn't capable of fully appreciating them at the time, I treasure the memories deeply. Especially since now, with my fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues, traveling and finances are both severely limited. I cannot fly on a plane at all. (I can't fly with wings or telekinesis or a Tardis either, alas). Any car ride longer than about 45 mins takes several hours of recuperation time, and that's only if I have a suitable place to rest and the right support.

So when my grandparents decided to take the family on a vacation to celebrate their 60th anniversary, I knew the 2+ hour drive was going to be a major hurdle. Still, I really really wanted to make it work. They'd taken us to this same resort ten years ago for their fiftieth, and it was just the loveliest time. I'd so enjoyed being with family at that beautiful place and I both wanted to experience it again and share it with Nathan.

We discussed a lot of factors, and my grandparents worked hard to make sure that there would be a good room for us, and that we could bring Mateo along. These factors really lowered my stress levels, which made a big difference in how my body handled the weekend. The drive was rough, but I did manage to recover from it without major blowback. The only major problem I seemed to have up there was allergies, and those are the simplest issues for me to fix. Managing the big resort while still in a boot for my hairline fracture was tough, but between my husband wheeling me around in a wheelchair and the use of a golf cart, we did okay. I even managed to go swimming in a pool for the first time in years! (Which felt GREAT for my fibro, even if the chlorine was a bit irritating.)

But the best part was being with my family. I've had to miss SO many gatherings over the years and it was just truly a blessing to be able to make this reunion.

I don't know for sure all the factors that made this visit work, because we could probably repeat them at another point in time and have just a tiny fluctuation in my health upset anything. So I am tremendously grateful that this vacation did turn out wonderfully for us. (Ironically, it was my husband who came home with a bad sickness! Amazingly, I didn't catch his bug at all!)

Some Suggestions for Fibromyalgia Travel:

  • Know your limits and stick to them. 
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Make sure you can travel in a way that allows you to bring your WHOLE survival pack. Pillow, meds, vitamins, any air or water filters, etc. The more you can bring, the more your body will be supported and your vacation will truly be a time of rest. Check an extra bag if you have to. The fees will be worth it if you can support your body and not feel rotten a huge chunk of your vacation.
  • Don't cheat on your diet. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, vacation is NOT the time to relax vigilance. On the contrary, the stress of travel and new surroundings can make reactions or flare-ups worse. Do the work in advance to make sure you'll have yummy food you can eat so that you won't be tempted by what everyone else is indulging in. Even if this means checking a second suitcase full of goodies, or taking an extra hour to stop at a grocery store and stock up. Access to a fridge and microwave can be extremely helpful for this. 
  • Take rests. It's hard when everyone else is having a good time (especially if you are at all extroverted), but sleeping in a strange bed makes for a more difficult night, so take a nap if you can, or at least a reading break in a quiet, non-stimulating room. And try to get a situation where you can sleep as long as you need to, when you need to, without interruptions by roomies. 
  • Pack a wide range of clothes. It's always tempting to be practical and pack light, but you'll have more stimulus affecting your body in addition to new temperatures and humidity levels. Include your most comfy pieces that you are okay being photographed in. 
  • Don't overdo the new experiences, and don't pack your schedule too full. It is very tempting to want to do everything, but accepting your limitations from the get-go will help you fully appreciate the parts you do get to enjoy. 
  • If you can, try to fully explain your limitations and how it will affect your vacation to those who may be impacted by them, either emotionally or in scheduling matters. This will lower the stress of fulfilling expectations on both sides. 
  • Take the time before your trip to remind yourself and any close travel partners of your usual triggers. For example, I know that bright sun and rocking waves majorly upset my system. So as much as I wanted to go for a boat ride, I stayed prudent and avoided headache risks. 
  • Plan the trip duration around your health. Maybe you know you can only handle a few days, so you go for a shorter period of time than the rest of your group. Maybe you can only handle a few hours in a car at a time, so you break up your drive with an overnight stay or a nice long rest, walk or swim at a park on the way. If you are flying, look into VIP amenities, as some airlines offer lounges that may provide more rest on a long layover. 
Summing Up

Living with chronic illness is hard. Missing out on things is hard. Feeling trapped in your house and unable to get a break from daily life is all really hard. But when you do get to participate and experience and enjoy--well that is truly amazing. I savor every moment of it, all of which means so much more to me than it ever did before.

It's easy for my life to seem very small, but I work to chose to see it as full. To see and savor and express gratitude for every little piece. It helps so much.

This doesn't mean that I never feel sadness or anger or frustration, but it keeps those moments isolated. And when I do get to do something big or exciting, it becomes nearly overwhelming (in a good way, most of the time!).

And trips are probably always going to be more difficult for me, and won't happen very often, but there are ways to make some trips possible now, and maybe there will be even more going forward as we continue my healing process. After all, two years ago this reunion never would have been possible for me!