During last winter’s Snowpocalyse, posters advertising trips to Florida started appearing around Boston. As I trudged through ten feet of snow in big boots, I caught glimpses of people in bathing suits and flip flops lounging by a swimming pool. The advertisements made me cry. Not just because my city was under weather attack, but because I knew I couldn’t take a vacation South, no matter how badly I wanted to.
The same is true for many people, of course. Financial limitations, work obligations and other commitments prevent even the healthiest people from just jetting off on a whim. For Lymies and patients with other debilitating illnesses, the limitation is more physical. Tick borne illness can prohibit getting out of bed, let alone getting on a plane.
As I mentioned in a summertime post, the very idea of travel can be overwhelming for Lymies. No one likes to go anywhere when they’re sick. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had. If someone offered you a trip to the Carribbean while you had that flu, would you be able to go? Even if you managed to drag yourself onto the plane, would you enjoy the trip? For those of us managing what feels like an eternal flu, the fatigue of long flights or car rides, coupled with travel schedules that break up our usual routine and the literal baggage we carry—suitcases full of specialty foods and medicines, sometimes including intravenous supplies—can turn a vacation into an exhausting chore.
Travel is expensive. It uses up physical resources Lymies don’t have (returning to the idea of the spoons post, traveling from, say, Boston to Florida would cost me weeks’ worth of spoons). Lymies often also get roadblocked by guilt over the monetary cost of a vacation. Since many people struggling with Lyme can’t work or support themselves fully, they don’t feel right about taking time “off”, or about spending money to do so.
The thing is, everyone deserves a break once in awhile. Nay, we need it. Healthy people with full time jobs have (in most cases) weekends off or a week or two of scheduled vacation a year, for the express purpose of rejuvenation. The problem with chronic tick borne illness is that it is, well, chronic. You can’t ever take a break from it. When I was bedridden and suffering daily with migraines, joint aches, insomnia, and brain fog, I would have given anything to get a one day break from it all. Even a one hour break from it all. Sometimes I wished I could just take my pounding head off and rest it on the nightstand for awhile. Now that I’m in remission, I’m grateful to have more breaks than not when it comes to Lyme symptoms, but I’m ever mindful of their ability to flare back up. I know that a big trip is a surefire way to make that happen.
So how can Lymies get the break they need?
I invite you on the following “staycation”:
• Find the sunniest spot in your room or home. Pull a comfortable chair—preferably a recliner, if you have one—into that spot or in front of that window. Stretching out in that chair is almost like sitting in a chaise lounge, and you only have to move a few feet to do it. You can even line the chair with a beach towel, for authenticity. (Lymies who are on sun-sensitive medication should be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen, or tilt their chairs away from the sun).
• Put on some sunglasses. Whether you’re taking sun-sensitive medication or not, this is a vacation, and you deserve to look like a movie star as you sit “pool side”.
• Fill a rubber basin with warm water and some soothing bath salts, and place it at the foot of your recliner. Et voilà! Your feet are in the ocean. Bonus: no jellyfish!
• Fill a glass with seltzer and 100% fruit juice, and garnish it with a slice of fresh fruit or even a little umbrella (available at many supermarkets and party supply stores). You may not be able to have a daquiri (or even a virgin daquiri, because of the sugar), but you can certainly have a vacation-style drink in hand!
• If you are able to listen to music, put on something light or classical. When my brain was in overdrive, I found that soft instrumental music—with no lyrics—was good in small doses. You might even download a recording of ocean waves.
• Get a couple of light entertainment magazines on whatever interests you, be it celebrity gossip or sports. For a long time I couldn’t read at all due to brain fog and confusion, but when those symptoms started to go away, I started with small amounts of very light reading, such as one paragraph of a People magazine story. At first I felt like, if I can read, it should be a newspaper or something meaningful. But that type of material was too hard for me to comprehend at first, and left me feeling discouraged. Work your way up through lighter material as a way to recondition your reading “muscles”. And remember—you’re on vacation here! Your readings should be light and fun.
• Have someone pick up a home manicure and pedicure kit for you. Don’t scoff at this, male readers—these “spa” treatments feel great for everyone. You can do them yourself, or better yet, have a friend or caretaker help you. In my sickest days, I used to have my toenails painted crazy colors, with glitter on top. If I couldn’t go out dancing, at least my toes could look the part.
While you’ll still have to deal with your symptoms while on this “staycation”, the shifts it allows—literally to a new spot in the room or house, and figuratively to a mentality of fun and relaxation—might just make those symptoms slightly more bearable. No matter how sick you are, you deserve to dip your feet in the ocean, to listen to relaxing sounds, to feel the sun on your face. You deserve to feel like you’re having fun for an hour or a day or a week, even if it’s not in a tropical destination. So, leave your bags at home, and have a great trip!