Traveling with COPD

Or, pretty much anything with COPD – when there is another person involved.

COPD Messed with the wrong woman

I’m a pretty relaxed person, but I’m also very competitive.  Not overtly, but in general.  I measure what everyone else is doing, and decide if it’s important to me.  Or, the back of my brain is doing the measuring, and I’m in competition without consciously realizing its effect.

During this last trip, we went to Yosemite.

There was some concern about who had the most space in their car (my friend drives a VW Bug), and while I was happy switching to my car, I was concerned that I might get too tired to drive during the trip and wanted to be sure she remembered / knew how to drive a standard (manual shift).

All good.  We both know how to drive a standard, so off we went.

In order to be able to keep up, though, some dietary sacrifices had to be made to keep my energy up (screw the diabetes !).

There were some significant times when I felt edgy for being behind the wheel and driving tired, but since there was somebody in the passenger seat, I was in “competitive” mode which helped me to keep on going.  That and the extra sugar.

My naturally competitive nature is one that keeps me going despite being tired or in pain.  (FYI, pain is a normal part of my life, and it’s getting more noticeable as life goes on.   I have seen the mental health damage that opioids can do within my family, so I pretty much work my aches and pains off vs. taking anything regularly for it as I don’t want to rot my brain or run the risk of being addicted).

So, we’re out and about and I’m sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, in a normal bed, and my sleeping is the sleep of the exhausted.  But, once I’m up, I’m up.  No ifs and or buts.  I have to unkink my back, or find a way to get out of bed without triggering liver pain.  Basic, predictable stuff.

Instead of leaving me be, though, I get all this solicitous, “Do you need a nap?”  or “Wow, anybody who knew you were sick wouldn’t believe you were ill.”  Passive aggressive crap that gets on my last nerve.

Good friends and kind-hearted people may not mean it aggressively, but I find it very challenging because *I* am not comfortable with my varying levels of abilities from day to day, and because *I* am worried that I will lose my benefits because I’m not suffering “enough”.

“Enough”.  Someone needs to suffer at an appropriate level to be “enough”.

Do you hear that crap that’s in the back of my brain?

Being ill goes against the grain which illustrated everything that America is supposed to be about.  One of our family comments includes, “Suck it up”.  Seriously.  I think about a conversation with my brother when we were selling our Mom’s condo, and our sister was running late to help clear the property of my stuff on the last day of packing up to return to CA.  I explained that all the change was hard for her, and that this was a close of a hard chapter in all our lives.  Our big brother, Golden Boy, blew a raspberry and reminded me that she needed to suck it up.  I laughed then and I laugh every time I remember it.

When that same big brother was going through brain cancer, he was in a lot of pain and fighting the side effects of the treatments.  How did he fight?  By showing up and participating.  By finding something to enjoy every day, regardless of his struggles.  By getting out and running 5 to 10 mile a day.  Think about that – he was dealing with brain cancer as his life slowly edged away, and he was running to try and work off his attitude problem and real pain so that he could participate in life and not pick on his family or friends.

Being a decent person is like exercising.  It’s a choice every day.  The same thing goes for being an active person, and choosing to participate in life vs. sitting on the side lines.  Some days you stay on the couch, and sometimes you suck it up and you get up and you work through whatever issues you may be having.

Sometimes the illness wins.

Sometimes you win.

Traveling is just like that issue and choice, too.  I can be sick anywhere.  I choose to travel despite being sick because I’m not dead yet, and I want new experiences and memories to help me get through those days when I can’t get out of my own way.

Does it mean I should be driving?  Not necessarily.

Does it mean I make the best choices when pushing myself?  Not necessarily.

But, I suck it up and I try because I’m not dead.  Not yet, and hopefully not any time soon.

So, when I’m traveling with you, please don’t hover and please don’t challenge the “visibility” of my illness.  Like all wild animals, I hide what’s going on as it’s a survival mechanism.  My battery may be on red, but I’m going to go and go and try until it’s drained dry and I’m forced to sit.

That’s just who I am.

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