Packing List for Invisible Illness Vacations
You Can Only Escape So Much
Packing always starts with the medicine cabinet. Counting out pills into enormous organizers designed for senior citizens. Squishing the colorful assortment of chemical compounds together into AM and PM segments, so the luggage clatters like an infant’s toy - as opposed to the nest of rattlesnakes the full bottles produce. Slowly working from shelf to shelf, ensuring nothing’s left behind.
Eventually, medicine gets its own decorative tote. Something festive to disguise the staggering number of prescriptions. Not to mention the over-the-counter remedies that tag along for the fun:
Travel bottle of Ibuprofen Standard bottle of Ibuprofen
Supersized bottle of Ibuprofen Ordinary people get away with ten measly liquigels for vacation. But healthy people can walk 12 blocks away to the drugstore without a second thought if they run out. They don’t need to calculate the steps required to repeat that journey (round trip) after taking a standard dose of 3 capsules six times a day.
Travel bottle of Acetopminphen Standard bottle of Acetominophen
Supersized bottle of Acetominophen Anti-inflammatories work on half the equation. After a day spent walking/hiking/swimming/standing, joints swell and muscles build up lactic acid. The ibuprofen calms the inflammation (in theory). But it doesn’t handle the screaming nerves working throughout the body. As everyone else plans tomorrow’s activities.
Band-aids Invisible illness doesn’t necessarily preclude one to injury. (Okay, so it usually happens, but it doesn’t HAVE to) It’s just assumed the most dysfunctional person in the group will automatically have bandages. And it’s best not to disappoint people.
Skiing trip? Tropical getaway? Temperate hiking adventure? Long weekend in the city? Every vacation involves the same assortment of clothes. Balling everything together as tight as possible ensures room for the rest of the necessities. (Leaving the heating pad behind is never an option)
Fleece pajama pants
Wool socks Outdoor temperatures plunging below 70F? Indoors threatening the presence of A/C? The sudden drop of half a degree sends the nervous system into panic mode. The breeze from a vent translates to a dunk in an ice bath. And strolling into a relaxing vacation without the thickest outerwear is a recipe for disaster. (Hotel staff start to wonder by the sixth call for additional blankets)
T-shirts Traveling companions often try to thwart the “frozen” complication by bumping the thermostat. They don’t understand the bumbling idiocy of a malfunctioning nervous system. Homeostasis doesn’t exist for the invisible illness patient. Half a degree higher, and the sweat glands go into overdrive. Nothing in the suitcase is cool enough. At least until the sweat meets a whiff of air and condensation occurs. Then the cycle begins anew. (And everyone in the room starts muttering over bipolar thermostats)
Sneakers Unless someone managed to locate a litter - complete with bearers - vanity goes out the window. Comfortable shoes prevent the need for multiple supersized bottles of pain relievers.
People enjoy planning vacations. Itineraries hit the table first thing each morning (or land in email inboxes before anyone pulls a suitcase from the closet). Boredom’s forbidden. But chronic pain invites itself on trips. And it interferes with the best intentions, disrupting plans for fun with long stretches on couches and benches. Only a fool fails to pack alternatives to staring at everyone else, laughing and enjoying themselves.
Book 2 Books 4 Books 6 Books
1 Book for Each Day and Night Invisible illnesses interfere with sleep. Staring at the ceiling (ostensibly counting sheep) passes the time but does nothing to distract the brain from constant pain signals. Engrossing plots and engaging characters at least offer the mind something interesting while the body twists and turns. And during the day, an open book prevents unwanted conversations with roaming tourists. Such unattached individuals hesitate to approach someone isolated within chapters of literature. A person gazing wistfully at friends on a roller coaster? They’re free game.
Headphones Not everyone reads. Ironically, strangers aren’t as reticent at interrupting someone wearing headphones as they are a person engrossed with a book.
Journal Symptoms never take vacations. Recording nosebleeds, heart arrhythmias, dizzy spells, and numbness remains part of the daily routine. Attractive covers on the journal prevent friends from peeking at the pages and getting horrified.