We recently had a family emergency that required us to travel out of state. Within three hours of the decision to travel we were on the road. Now some background on traveling with me before I get too far is that we have not gone anywhere since late 2012. Mainly that was due to my mental health and medical issues. I had to go through withdrawal since I ended all of the pill routine that I was on, that lasted over six month. After that we had to learn my new way of living with the physical and mental pains.
My husband was and is my care giver. He had to be sure I was okay and not left alone for too long. Over the course of a few years we found our routine, I was out of my slump and thriving again. We still stayed close to home so that I was comfortable. We had not ventured out of state to visit family in a long time.
We were scrambling on Sunday morning when we received the call. Get home now was what we were trying to do. Home as in Virginia where my husband grew up. A friend agreed to watch our home and five cats, she needed the keys and I barely had enough time to give her all the information. Told her we would fill her in once we were settled in our hotel.
Having spent time in the military, I should have been more prepared but I never even thought of having to go for an emergency like this. I was lost, and yet had to hold it together because my husband was hurting. We just needed to go. Everyone packed, we were all checking things over and over. Then checking them again. Inside I was freaking out. How was I going to cope with being away from my safe zone? How was I going to deal with a flare up? How was I going to deal with it all? These and so many questions kept going through my mind and I was near a freak out stage.
Another challenge was driving. I had to drive, no questions about it as I am not a good passenger. The drive was going to be hard on my body and on my mind. The fact that I was not driving my own car was another challenge, we had to take my husband’s car since it is bigger than mine and the four of us could fit comfortably. I was able to drive 3/4 of the way before my body said enough. The pain was intense and my whole body was ready to give out, thankfully hubby was able to drive the rest of the way.
We arrived directly at the hospital and were on our way to ICU. Walking….walking and walking which presents it’s own challenges for me. I have a walking cane that I should be using, guess what was left in my car. Yes my cane sits in my car and I forgot to grab it before we left. The walk was the longest ever it seemed and felt like my legs were going to fall off. At this point the pain was overwhelming but I had to hang on for a bit longer before I could rest.
We were between ICU and waiting room for a few hours before I finally decided to find us a place to stay for the night. I had to drive in a city I am not familiar with to locate a hotel that could accommodate 4 of us without reservations. Finally nailed one down after 45 minutes of calling and driving. Unfortunately the only suites were on the 3rd floor, I was able to get the suite closer to the elevator so that I would not have to walk so far. A decision that worked for me not walking but I failed to think of the noises that presented during our stay.
By 11 pm, we were all settled in our hotel room. Twelve hours after making the decision to drive from North Carolina to Virginia we were finally able to rest. While my husband was at the ICU and I secured the hotel, the kids and I also went to find something to eat as we had not eaten all day. We unpacked, cleaned up, ate food and went to bed.
For the next four days we woke up, ate breakfast and cleaned up to go to the hospital. Sitting in very uncomfortable hospital chairs and walking a lot. Found food and slept only to start again the next day.
I could not use my usual escape or coping methods, nor could I use my resting techniques to keep pain to a minimum. The trip was hell on my mind and body, but was one that had to be done. We had to be there with the family during this difficult time.
Having mental health issues and chronic illness issues makes traveling hard for me. Not everyone is like me and that is okay. What I am saying is that for me, I was in the worst physical and mental pain than I had thought I would have been. Even with the emotional pain of our family member being in the hospital, which at any point would have had me breaking down at any point. I held on as best I could.
On day two my shoe had blown out, so I had to buy another pair. I realized I grabbed the wrong contact lens case and even had the wrong glasses on. So many things that were causing more paranoia, anxiety and even depression.
There were times I wanted to rush to the hotel, get in bed and cry. I had my emergency meds for migraines and costochondritis flare but nothing for pains. I have been working with my doctor to find ways of dealing with pains without the usual pills for pain management. My foot pain was the worst ever, and each night I was having very painful muscle spasms. I was able to buy a cane to help with walking which eased some of the issues. In those days I was in the worst pain I had been in a long time, but I made it through.
Many people with chronic illnesses are very good at hiding pains, we push through for the sake of others and at some point we crash. We have been home two days now, I am waiting for the crash. Trying to prevent it but I know it is coming.
What kept me from breaking was telling myself that my husband did not need me in the hospital while dealing with our family member in ICU. I told myself that everything I felt I was going to break down and tell my husband I was done. Kept telling myself he needed his focus where it was, not on me. Kept telling myself my kids needed to be sure they knew I could still do what needed to be done.
Traveling is something we had almost shelved. This week has changed it. My husband, Ash has sacrificed so much to be sure that I was taken care of. He has done so much to manage the Chronic/Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. There is also the chronic pain issues that have that we have had to adjust to. We were set up to manage it all at home. Now we have to figure out how to manage it while traveling. It will not be a frequent thing, but it will be something we have to figure out.
The biggest thing I have to figure out is being so far out of my safe zone. Figuring out how to take some of my coping mechanisms with me without disrupting the purpose of the visit.