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Overseas trip, tons of flying, relatives in a different culture -- I'm freaking out!

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by StacyA, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. StacyA

    StacyA

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    My husband planned (very last minute) that our family would fly to Norway to visit his relatives in a couple of weeks. I am so nervous about this, it makes me freak just to think about it all.

    This has NOT been a good year for me -- lots of sickness (infections), menopause and the CFS all at once. I generally do better in the summer, but this summer has been less than great. I asked him why we couldn't wait until next summer, and he said because his grandmother is in her 90s and she might not be around next summer. So, we have to go. (And I want to go, because my son will be a senior in high school this year, going to college next year so I want to spend some good quality time with him when he can't be on a computer!)

    I'm scared to death I'll get sick. I'm worried about my energy levels. All this is compounded by the fact that his family just "pushes through" health issues, they don't talk about how bad they feel, they think you should just suffer in silence and press on. I can't do that. I can certainly try to keep my mouth shut, but I can't press on, it's not in me. So I'm very worried about any tension there.

    I just don't want to be a party pooper, either. The first three days of our trip we'll actually be in London doing a bunch of sightseeing (my husband and I actually met there, so I want my son to see some of the places that were important to us, plus he wants to go to the British Museum ALL DAY on his birthday). So there won't be many opportunities for rest, PLUS we'll have jet lag.

    In Norway, we'll be spending almost all our time with those tough Scandinavian relatives.

    Oh, and because of a few other logistics, I will have been on 12 different airplanes by the time we get back home (have to pick our son up from a Latin thing he's doing up north).

    How am I going to survive this? I know there's a thread in here already about flying and vacation, but since this is overseas and we'll be on planes for such a lot of the time, I need advice about how to get through it. And I can never sleep on planes. HELP!
  2. Sacajawea

    Sacajawea slightly bedraggled

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    overseas trip

    http://www.mosken.com/sit.html

    Can't type much tonight but this is a nice site that might help you handle the relatives and maybe you can get in contact w/ the site owner. What an exciting adventure...the stuff we dream of, but your concerns are very real. I hope you get some good advice. My family is in two different european countries and I can't travel anymore (parents and some family here in the us).

    SJ
  3. IntuneJune

    IntuneJune Senior Member

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    Traveling

    This is a cut and paste, I must leave the house shortly. It will be a start for now others have good ideass also

    Avoid dehydration. WATER, WATER, WATER. Drink lots of it.

    If you need to bring any medical equipment, ie CPAP, it is not counted in your carry-on allowance, at least in the USA.

    Airlines will supply wheelchairs and if you do use one from your airline ticket counter, they assit you through security.....a great help.

    Antibacterial wipes and gels. Wipe your personal space on the plane, tray, arms.

    I also wear a mask because of a depressed immune system. I make my husband wear one also. Sometimes, passengers sitting beside us will actually move to another seat (wrongly suspecting my husband and/or I are sick). This is OK, that frees up space for you.

    Keep your seatbelt on at all times. Sit on the aisle. If you need to, stand often, stretch. Exercise (I use that term loosely) in your seat. There are actually many exercises you can do. Start with your feet, toes are the tips of your feet, move every joint --toes forward and back, then foot forward and back, onto ankle circles, spend time doing this, and SLOWLY work up the body moving every joint you can ending with shoulder rolls done SLOWLY, move head to right and then left, ear down to shoulder, repeat other side, remember slowly, even turtle neck---do not look up or down, pull back on the jaw as a turtle would recess into it's shell. I do this every time I fly and am surprised, it brings no attention to me from other passengers. Stand up, sit down. Wait a little bit, so it again.

    Bring your own food, yes you can bring it through security....it's the liquids you cannot.

    Comfy clothes, layers, rather than one bulky item.

    Nasal sprays, at least at the destination, eye drops for dry eyes.

    I do not use pillows or blankets provided by airlines, the last person to use it might have been sick. Use your layers as pillows, support.

    Yawn, jaw drop when approaching destination for ear pressure changes.

    That's it for now, must run.
    June
  4. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    Sounds tricky Stacy.

    I'd try not to worry about it (it will only use up more energy) but commit to being firm with yourself. When you feel like you want to rest make sure you say "I am going to rest up now."

    If your husband's family isn't sympathetic, try not to expect sympathy, but just do what's best for yourself anyway.

    Hopefully you'll be able to avoid doing the things you normally spend your energy on, and be able to spend it on enjoying your trip instead. The British Museum doesn't tend to be that rowdy - there should be quiet places to rest up (hide in a Spitfire). Try to arrange to have times to meet up with your family again, but let yourself do what you want in between those times.

    Try to get some suitable earplugs (you can get extra narrow ones if you tend to find them uncomfortable). Even if they don't let you sleep on the plane, reducing noise levels can make flying less tiring anyway. Do you meditate? It can be useful to just focus on relaxing in situations where you're tired but unable to sleep.

    I feel a bit silly giving advice when I know so little about your situation... but you did ask! Feel free to ignore away. I'm just splurging out what I'd do in a similar situation.
  5. StacyA

    StacyA

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    No, no, Esther, I appreciate the advice! I appreciate all the advice so far, so thank you all for posting it! (I did have to laugh about resting in the Spitfire! There might be an empty mummy case somewhere, too, lol)

    My CFS isn't to the point where I'm just completely flattened by it (well, not usually). I know some people simply cannot function at all outside of the home environment, so I'm not in that position. If I'm having a good day I feel fairly "normal" except for being totally wiped by the end of the day. Problem is, the least bit of stress drains my energy pretty quickly, and flying is always stressful for me. (I had a panic attack one morning before flying with my son when he was about five, didn't know what it was, and had to force myself to get on that plane and go -- the only reason I could was because ten days with my wonderful parents was at the end of the flight!) It was one of the hardest things I've ever done!

    Anyway, the panic attack days are gone (thank God), but dealing with CFS isn't any more easy sometimes. I feel very sorry for my husband -- I know he'll feel caught between wanting me to be comfortable and also trying to keep his family happy. That's just the way he is. So I'm trying to be as little trouble to him as possible.
  6. Sallysblooms

    Sallysblooms P.O.T.S. now SO MUCH BETTER!

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    Do you take any supplements to help your energy or other problems?
  7. StacyA

    StacyA

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    I do. Right now I'm taking Corvalen (ribose) 2x daily at 5mg/dose, as well as Acetyl-l-carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, a mutivitamin powder called Emergen-C, a folic acid Rx supplement, B12, and a probiotic called OrthoBiotic.

    I tried to go shopping today to get some things we need for the trip, and after about an hour on my feet, my hips were killing me (I have some lumbar arthritis) and I was a zombie. I hope this isn't an indication of how I'll do on the trip ... :(
  8. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    You need to be honest with yourself and those close to you, like your husband and son, about what you can do and the health consequences. With less close relatives, you can leave it vague and just tell them you don't feel well and need to rest more. Never mind how they deal with it, you need to value yourself over their opinions. If they have a problem, tough cookies. I am fortunate to have understanding family/friends but I have no reservations about distancing myself from people who are not supportive after my attempts at explanation. In fact, family/ friends ask me what my limits are and try to stick by them. I think their attitude comes not just from being great people but also because I am polite and assertive about my needs. Sometimes people are more accomodating than we expect but no one can read minds.

    When I have trips out, I try to pace myself by interspersing light activities with low-key activities like sitting or even lying down. Some activities, like a bus tour, boat ride, watching a show, going to a great restaurant, might be fun and relatively restful at the same time. Some museums have wheelchairs you can use for free so you don't have to stand or walk as much and I've heard the Louvre actually allows free admission for disabled folks/ one companion and use of a wheelchair. Some people have also rented wheelchairs that relatives can push for trips. I also try to plan as much as possible beforehand so I know how much I have to walk for instance using Google maps.

    Pick and choose activities -- you might not be able to do everything you/ your family wants but you'll enjoy more those things you are able to do if your health doesn't decline due to overuse of energy during your trip. Encourage your family members to do those things you are unable to do without any guilt or sadness on your part. I encourage my family to do the active things they want to do while I rest; then I catch up with them later to do something less active. I also rest regularly during trips even when I don't feel tired.

    On planes, remember to stay hydrated and get up every once in a while to stave off muscle aches and blood clots. Consider getting a "special meal" as sometimes these are better than the usual fare. I don't travel much anymore but there are some good sites on jet lag if you google for them.

    Don't want to cause you further anxiety, but I have heard of people "pushing" themselves too much during trips and relapsing badly for months-years. Pace yourself and you'll do fine.
  9. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I am single and my advice is coming from the perspective of the never-married so it is quite possible that my advice on this might seem a bit off... if so, just ignore me! But, I am wondering if you really have to go to visit your husband's relatives when you are so vulnerable to illness this summer, particularly as a lot of your stress seems to be around having to cope with their attitudes towards illness and likely lack of understanding of your situation. I'm sorry that your husband's grandmother might not be around next year and that is a good reason for him making an effort to see her.. but maybe not you, unless you have grown particularly close to her (here my singleness may become glaringly apparent!). Your husband isn't risking his health nor putting himself through a physical ordeal to see her; I wonder if he quite realises that that is what he may be asking of you.

    I can understand your wanting to spend quality time with your son but could you do that without going to London? If you do go, instead of spending all day with him and your husband at the British Museum, couldn't you go with them for part of it and rest up in the hotel for some of the day so you can pace yourself? Is there an alternative of having a few days holiday in your own country with your son and husband when they are back from Europe? Your son is college age - young people develop at different speeds of course but do you think he has the maturity yet to understand you explaining that you would like to have some time with him before he goes to college and for him to give you your wish?

    If you're really keen to go to London so that you have this time with your son, couldn't you just fly straight back to the US (?) and let your husband continue to Norway to see his relatives? They really have no right to be offended if you are not going because it is beyond your physical capacity to endure so much travel safely due to your health problems.

    Sometimes with this illness we feel so guilty for not being able to pull our normal weight that it is hard to see that people are expecting us to do things that we wouldn't expect them to do if our situations were reversed. Sometimes I think that people ask too much of us because we don't explain the full extent of our health problems and their impact on us, for fear of distressing or frightening our loved ones. Perhaps your husband doesn't realise quite the extent of your problems.

    I feel for you in your stress! Good luck with whatever solution you come to.
  10. StacyA

    StacyA

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    Again, thank you to those who have replied!

    I'm coming to the place where I'm excited about the trip itself -- as long as I can pace myself, like y'all have suggested, and as long as my family is on "my team" as far as helping me be less stressed and get the rest I need. I had a long talk with hubby, and he is very concerned about me and wants to do what he can to help me have a good time. I also have to learn how not to get incredibly stressed over the slightest thing, which I tend to do when I'm under pressure. I'm already worrying about storms at the airports and what if we miss our connecting flights, etc., etc., etc. At some point I just have to let go of that and trust my husband and God to handle it all.

    Fortunately in Norway we will be spending several days at his grandmother's "cabin" down near the ocean, and that's nice because there will be very little non-stop "going." And there I can retreat to one of the upstairs bed-cubicles and rest or read or whatever is relaxing.

    So ... tomorrow we leave. First to North Dakota to pick up our son, and then the next day off to London. If any of you are pray-ers, I would appreciate prayers for safety and sanity! If I get an internet connection where I am I'll try to let y'all know how it's going and what has helped.

    Until then ...
  11. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    Best luck.

    I too think it would be a good idea to see if you can have a wheelchair in the places you can do. They can turn what would of been a painful tiring experience, into a good one. You then will also have a bit more energy the next day. Conserve energy whenever you can and look for opportunties to do so.

    What I do when I go out places like museums.. is I take a picnic rug with me and lunch.. and will then have a lay down on the rug.. while eatting lunch and for however long I need to do so. The laying down works as a huge pick me up as no way could i get throu a busy day on my feet and sitting and hence have this need to lay down if I was out all day. You could also have a rest like this for something like afternoon tea. (that is if there are lawns to put blanket down and lay on if the weather is good).

    I even once had a 2hr sleep like this while out at the zoo. (people just think you are laying there enjoying the sun on the picnic rug)
  12. StacyA

    StacyA

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    This trip has turned out to be a nightmare. Forget the CFS, I came down with a urinary tract infection the night before we left. I did get antibiotics for it, but they make me feel horrible, too. Today is my son't 17th birthday and we had all planned to spend the day at the British Museum. Instead, he and my husband are doing that while I'm stuck in the hotel room trying to "rest up" for whatever else we may have planned. I have always dreamed of coming back to London (my husband and I met here when we were college students spending a semester here), and now that I'm here, I can't enjoy it. I feel cheated, and I feel angry, and I would love to just go home but I can't stand the thought of another trans-atlantic flight just now. I don't think I will ever leave home again. Never.
  13. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I'm so sorry you're having such a bad time, Stacy. Where is your hotel in London? I'm wondering if there is anywhere nearby to just go and sit peacefully, enjoy the view and watch passers by or something. There are plenty of green spaces in Central London (as you probably found when you were a student).

    ETA: If you haven't been to London since you met your husband you might not know about the Fountain Court at Somerset House on The Strand near Waterloo Bridge. It opened in 2000 and is a peaceful and beautiful place to sit, right in the heart of the city. Just an example of what might be a short shuffle from your hotel!
  14. HopingSince88

    HopingSince88 Senior Member

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    Stacy,

    Whenever I travel a distance that allows it, I sleep by wearing the most comfy sweatsuit I own, and I bring my own pillow. I also take a benedril or Tylenol or Advil pm as I am waiting to board the plane. By the time we are in the air I am very drowsy and have no problem falling asleep.

    Hoping
  15. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    I'm sorry you're dealing with an infection but don't let it get you into a spiral of negative feelings. People deal with feelings in many different ways; when I feel bad about something, I allow myself to feel the full force of it but I try not to dwell on it for too long as it taints whatever good there is in a situation. The all-or-nothing thinking your statement shows at the end is likely because of your feelings at the moment but all-or-nothing won't get your far in the long run.

    How about just sitting in the lobby of your hotel or a nearby cafe and doing some people watching?

    Similar to taniaaust1, I've laid down in public. I use outside benches and a coat rolled up as a pillow. Usually people don't bother me as I don't look like a bum and a relative is usually with me. It's quite pleasant sometimes to lie down outside.
  16. serenity

    serenity Senior Member

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    i'm so sorry Stacy. i have had trips like this too. it's awful. sometimes they are better. it's like, you never can tell. you may have fun or you may be miserable. i rarely chance it unless i have to, but then sometimes i go & have fun. it's such a crap shoot.
    i hope you are able to enjoy a little.
    i have never left the US & i'd like to someday, but the idea seems impossible right now.
  17. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    Stacy.. sorry to hear that things arent going as planned.

    Is there anyway you can change the way you are doing your holiday? eg lengthen the time away and have your husband do other things with your son.. so leaving the things that you really want to do with them for when you are a little bit better?

    When Ive gone away.. Ive planned like sick/rest days into my schedule. (I usually dont plan to do anything for the first couple of days where Ive flown).

    **chuckles at Hopes message** yeah the old park bench. I do that too at times, the thing is Ive been mistaken for being homeless while laying asleep on a bench, I guess that means i must look like a bum :p
  18. Dainty

    Dainty Senior Member

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    It sounds like having a blanket to lay down on could make a difference between being bothered or not. Back when I could still go out and about I used to just find a quiet spot in a public building to lay on the floor for a while (30 minutes to 2 hours) and I had a fair number of instances of people asking or checking to see if I was okay. I wish I had heard of the blanket trick back then! I'm grateful for the concern of passers-by, but it'd be nice to bypass that. A blanket says "I was totally planning on publicly laying down today".

    At least I think it does. It's been a while since I've navigated those sorts of social cues so I could be wrong. lol
  19. Sallysblooms

    Sallysblooms P.O.T.S. now SO MUCH BETTER!

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    I am so sorry. It is SO hard. I understand feeling cheated. My son was married last fall and I had to go, no choice. I would regret it if I didn't go for the rest of my life.

    Instead of driving across the state of Tx which takes 12 hours in a reg. car, or flying (No way I would fly) we rented a big RV. It was torture, but at least we could stop and I could rest in the bed. I didn't have to go to public restrooms. I was unable to walk then at all.

    The worst trip ever. I was so sick. I hadn't had ANY treatment yet, had no idea what was wrong yet. I knew I had CFS, but didn't know about POTS.

    I was so glad to get it over with that that is a sad way to think about my son's wedding. My hubby did all of the work to get us there and back, pushed me in the w.chair etc.

    Just do your best and make it as easy on yourself as you can. Remember, you will be home soon.

    Are you able to use a wheelchair and not walk? That is the best thing, I do it all the time.
  20. StacyA

    StacyA

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    Well, we're back home -- what a lovely word!

    Thank God (literally) the trip did not end up being as horrible as I thought it would be in my last post. I spent that whole day just sleeping and reading, and by the time they guys got back from the museum and we ate dinner, I felt good enough to go wander around the Houses of Parliament area with the guys for a little bit.

    I called my parents that night and discovered that the doctor's office had called them and told them I DIDN'T actually have a UTI (based on the longer culture they did), and that I could stop the antibiotic. By the next day (after stopping) I felt SOOOOO much better, so I think the antibio was what was really killing me. I'm still very puzzled about the "UTI" although they did say I should talk to a urologist about maybe having interstitial cystitis. I've been tested for that before, several years ago, and didn't seem to have it, although they said I do have Overactive Bladder Syndrome. I don't know what to think, although I guess I can just mark it down to the intense stress before the trip.

    We managed to enjoy the rest of the trip, though I had a couple of bouts of IBS. I gave myself permission to be "minimally helpful" to my mother-in-law and my husband's grandmother (i.e., I helped them out when I could, but if I couldn't do it, I just didn't, I found something else to be "doing"). When we were at DH's grandmother's cabin in the south of Norway I spend a lot of time just hanging out, not doing much. Of course, that was the most restful couple of days. After that we did shopping (only for a couple of hours), then spent a day trekking around the harbor area of Oslo (exhausting!) and then had to go to the cabin I was most afraid of, which involved hiking, etc. That was just a day trip, but it was our last day there, and I was a wreck by then. I cried all day, got upset and angry at the drop of a hat (my poor DH bore the brunt of it because I didn't want to make a scene in front of his parents), and felt carsick on the way home because we took a very windy, bumpy road home (beautiful scenery, though). Then all those hours on planes -- I'm "sick" today just from exhaustion.

    I forgot to mention that the day after I had to sit out the British Museum we went down to Greenwich and I mean we walked ALL DAY at museums and going to and from them. That nearly did me in, which is probably why I had the bad IBS the next day on the plane to Oslo.

    SO, the question is: Was it worth it?

    Answer: Yes. Barely. We had a wonderful time, saw so many interesting and beautiful things, spent time with family we hadn't seen in ten years. I have decided I will not write off more travel in the future, but I would definitely like to have more time to prepare physically and mentally/emotionally. If I had been able to spend a few months trying to build up for this trip I think I would have done much better in general. I didn't have to use wheelchairs in the airports, but I would if I thought I needed to. I made it clear to my husband that I had to have his support and that I HAD to have rest periods and have permission to do as little as possible when I wasn't feeling well. I took care of "me" and that helped make things better for everyone because I wasn't miserable and whiny. One thing my husband really had to advocate for me on was EATING. My in-laws would eat a light "Norwegian" breakfast (open-faced sandwiches, sometimes eggs, fish, etc.), then they could go all day and not eat again until dinner. I can't do that. I have to have protein every 2-3 hours. So my husband would insist that WE, at least (him, DS and me) had to stop somewhere and get lunch, no matter what. And we did. And his grandmother got very perturbed that we had to do that on the way back from her cabin, but he just said we had to do it, period, so we did and she got over it. (I felt badly about it for awhile, then figured they'd rather have me keep them out an extra 30 minutes than have to end up taking me to the hospital.) I wasn't able to keep as strictly to my "home diet" (wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb), but I did stick to the parts of the diet that are non-negotiable with me (no wheat, no sugar). I used to give in with them and eat chocolate and sometimes bread (Norwegian chocolate is HARD to pass up!), but decided this time the goodies just were NOT worth it.

    I do think it's much more stressful to spend vacations with relatives (at least my relatives). The time I spent just with my husband and son was the best part of the trip.

    I love trains, buses, boats. We got to see a lot of the country without having to stress about driving, and they were more comfortable than the airplanes.

    Ibuprofen is my best friend. At least until the day it eats my liver and I have to have a transplant! lol

    Anyway ... thanks to God, my family, my own resolve and y'all's tips, I survived it and have good memories. And I'm very happy to say that I still don't know what the inside of a Norwegian hospital is like!! (I know about UK ones from my first visit there in 1988 when I got dehydrated one day and had to go to the ER.)

    Thank you all so much for your great advice and for caring. It helped to know I had someplace to "vent," at least whenever I had a good internet connection!

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