I took a trip to Wyoming recently with my family to visit Sheridan and Gillette and as rewarding as vacations are, I am always happy to get back home.
Home means stability for me and it helps me greatly in managing anxiety. I don’t over schedule myself when I am at home the way I do on vacation.
This vacation, in particular, was a bit more full than I expected. I had dreams of lounging around a bit more but now that my daughter is 7 years old, she wants to, naturally, do more. She wants to explore and visit, and being a young child, she is demanding, hates naps, and will squeeze every ounce of daylight when not impeded by her mother. Unlike when we lived in Wyoming, she is also old enough now to have a fully fledged opinion. She was “meeting” people for the first time because she didn’t remember them from years ago and she also was insistent on having as much time with her young cousins as possible. As an only child, she craves time with other children and summertime is the worst time of year for her. She is not around her school friends and with high temps here, we spend more time indoors.
My daughter does not yet comprehend the stress I carry on a daily basis. She knows I don’t like fireworks but she hasn’t caught on how a significant change of routine bothers me. I look forward to vacations but I also struggle with leaving my comfortable environment. I worry about what could happen when I leave my home, both to my home and the people in it while we are away. There’s a lot of history recorded in my journals, photo albums, and scrapbooks that I can lose if something happens. Additionally, I don’t like the idea of someone’s possessions becoming personal effects, to include mine should something terrible happen while we are away. I considered writing about these feelings when I took my trip to Albuquerque last year but was quite hesitant to do so; while I am beginning to feel more comfortable talking about my personal struggles and coping, I still tread lightly.
I’m not surprised by my sensitivity to people and possessions, but I’ve had 12 years to wrap my mind around the intense situation that was my first deployment. After spending 12 hours of nearly every day on deployment knowing people died and others were wounded, I became more aware we don’t all get a fair shake at living (and living the way we choose). Without knowing the true number of people who died on my deployment, it’s still safe to say I have few peers who will ever understand the human toll of a deployment like I do. (For any newbies, my alternative view of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as incomplete as it is, is available for viewing here. If you check out the video, please also read the blog entry for clarity purposes. Thanks. )
For me, this vacation was a beautiful experience and one of the true breaks we’ve taken this summer as we had quite an unexpected–but necessary–financial burden demanding our immediate attention. My husband’s service dog tore her ACL in June but was (and is) recovering from surgery and was unable to walk more than five minutes shortly before we left for vacation. Her recovery will still take months but she is starting to show tremendous progress and is happy again, instead of her morose state when we couldn’t let her do any activity except use the bathroom. If she had been able to walk, she would have flown with us for the first time and yes, there was some anxiety about that issue as well. As you can see, she’s not a petite girl and even with my husband, daughter, and I all in the same row, she would attract attention. I have no doubt other passengers would have inquired about her and peppered my husband with questions.
I’ve made great strides to significantly reduce my chest pains this year through regular self-care, but I had four of them during the course of this trip. The additional stress of monitoring my husband because he didn’t have his service dog was a contributing factor. While I can recognize times where my husband needs additional support I notice it much later than she can and I didn’t feel quite as prepared to be his “service person”–yes, that’s what we joked I was doing in my caregiver capacity–because she had to stay behind. Other things, like not being consistent about my sleep routine, contribute to the frequency of my chest pains. Normally, I like to be in bed no later than 10pm and I think most nights we were lucky to be back at our hotel room by 10:30 or 11pm. Different noises also present challenges when it comes to sleep as I have trouble drowning them out; my bedroom at home, by comparison, is kept very quiet. I do not have a wall clock and after living in my home for a year, I am used to the sound of the house fan when it’s on during hot evenings. I am also a big fan of blackout curtains; the darker the room, the easier it is for me to stay asleep. There are other things I can do like moderating my consumption of coffee and alcohol that also help reduce the frequency of my chest pains. (I know I drank far too much coffee on this vacation, nearly 3-4 cups a day, but I was pretty good about keeping my alcohol consumption in check.)
In spite of my continuing battle with anxiety induced chest pains, the vacation was successful. I think one of the things we need to keep at the forefront of conversation about anxiety and coping is resiliency. I’ve had these annoying things for 12 years–and it’s really only in the last few that good medical professionals have worked with me to control this condition so it doesn’t destroy my quality of life. Occasionally, they have to remind me not to pass up opportunities because I know they may or will exacerbate the stress I already have in my life. They also remind me I’ve been through the worst so the things that bother me are triggers (fireworks, sudden loud noises, people walking behind me surpising me suddently, etc.) and not actually life threatening events. The fact that I had four chest pains on this trip is a sign I do need to plan better for my vacations. I am still learning to say ‘no’ and I think because I’m in my 30’s I still feel silly to say I go to bed so early and in many cases, need the additional sleep. Not everyone understands this issue and unlike my peer group, I find it harder to forgo time with family and do not wish to come across as being rude. Next time, I’ll also work on cutting back on coffee. I’m sure it’s not bad to have a day or two with that much coffee but the others I should probably stick to two or less cups.
I’m only taking you on a partial journey of the trip but below are some of the wonderful things I photographed during my weeklong visit. If you want to see more things from the trip, feel free to check out my Instagram, she_wears_dogtags.
Like always, thanks for stopping in to visit.