by Kacie F.
All through my childhood, my family would go to the beach (Surfside Beach, S.C., in case you’re curious) every single summer. Yeah, I would say that going to the beach, my birthday, and Christmas were the highlights of each year. My sister and I would always pack a couple weeks in advance for the trip – with our Barbies packed first, well ahead of time. They were essential. And I would even make a little countdown chart anticipating the big day.
We’d get up at what feels like a terribly ungodly hour but what was probably just like 6 a.m. and head off. It was a seven-hour car ride there, and we would stay for about a week. A typical day involved getting up by 9 at the latest, eating breakfast (always including Krispy Kreme doughnuts – a tradition I relish remembering to this day), going to the ocean a few blocks’ walk away, then walking back to the pool at the condo we were staying at. After we had lunch, we would go shopping pretty much all afternoon, then we’d come back for dinner or eat out, then either shop some more or walk on the beach, all ending with another swim in the pool that night (which I always extra loved because it meant no sunscreen, which I hate but clearly need). And then a chocolate Krispy Kreme doughnut before bed…. Ahhh.
Anyway, all that to say, each day was pretty well packed full. We weren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off, but we were always doing something. Like I’d bet most people’s vacations are. The yearly beach tradition ended when I was in my teens, and the last time we all went together was the summer right before I started college in 2006.
When Daniel and I were about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we decided we would take a trip to the beach – my first time there with him, first time to the beach in seven years, and also my first time staying at an oceanfront condo. We were pretty excited, needless to say. But of course, in those six years that had passed, my health had gone out the window, and at the time of this trip I was pretty much at my worst ever. Unfortunately, even if you go on vacation, your chronic illness never does. Every chronically ill person deals with differing symptoms of course, but there are a few generalities you can pretty much count on.
The travel is exhausting.
I know, you’re probably thinking, Vacation is always tiring… No, by exhausting, I mean you are stuck in bed and cannot get up to do anything. Not a “Man, I wish I could take a nap” exhausted but a “Man, I wish I could get up and do something” exhausted. Your body in revolt against you. And more often than not, the recovery period from simply the travel itself lasts until it’s time to go home. I knew the likely consequences of traveling, but went through with it anyway, hoping the good would outweigh the bad … or the miserable.
Disappointment is inevitable.
In contrast to how a usual day went back when I was a kid, in the several days Daniel and I were at the beach, I’m gonna say I had one good day. The first day I was dead from traveling. Somehow there in the middle of the stay, there was one day we went to the ocean, got in the pool, and got all dressed up that evening and went out to eat. I think we went and got ice cream after too. The rest of the days there, my accomplishment for the day was taking a shower and maybe going out to eat.
With the memories of beach trips year after year and all that we always did, I couldn’t help wanting to do just as much as we did back then. Even though I knew I couldn’t. Disappointment was inevitable at some point. Even if I knew better.
Plus, the guilt that people with chronic illness already deal with on a regular basis just gets a little worse – you remember the way you used to be, how vacation used to be, and you really can’t help but cry that something so simple as getting up and taking a walk on the beach has been taken away from you. Going on vacation is wont to remind you just how sick you are.
It’s a “happy-sad” experience.
Vacation is supposed to be fun and happy, happy, happy. But when you’re chronically ill, it’s also honestly pretty sad. I wanted to go to Broadway at the Beach and walk around and go shopping everywhere and do all these things with Daniel like I had done when I was younger, but I simply couldn’t. It was definitely a “happy-sad” experience. Yes, it’s vacation, and you’re supposed to relax – but would you want to go on vacation just to lay in bed when there’s 6,000 other things you’d rather be out doing in the glorious summertime? I don’t think so.
It makes you more thankful for the little things.
As I mentioned above, that day that we went to the ocean and the pool and went out to eat and got ice cream? No big deal and just another day at the beach to anyone else. But to me and my incredible husband who never got mad at me for all these problems I can’t control? An absolutely priceless day. Yes, that was a great day, and we were both so thankful for it afterward, knowing how rare it was. And something like sitting out on the balcony eating Red Robin would be just a fleeting moment in a jam-packed vacation for some people but was the event of one day for us. What little I could do was that much more special to both of us.
It’s worth it.
Probably. Going on vacation while chronically ill inevitably brings disappointment and likely some tears, but it is a change of scenery and an adventure – something chronically ill people need just as much as healthy people. And any time spent with those you love most is worth it, even if it doesn’t look the way you’d like it to.
This guest post was written by Kacie F. of Life and Dreams and is published with permission.
Kacie Fleming was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2011 and is now in the process of testing for many other diseases and conditions to reach the best treatment plan possible. Even though chronic illness has quite literally taken over her life, she is doing her best to be as much of her creative self as possible by running Katya Valera, her handmade jewelry shop on Etsy, and KV Designs, her second Etsy shop that offers blog designs, shop designs, and editing services. She also makes it a point to fit in her greatest passion, her music, which you can find on YouTube. She lives in North Carolina with her incredible husband, and you can follow her health journey and creative undertakings on her blog, Life and Dreams.