The Vacation That Taught Me to Both Push and Respect My Limits


I recently went on a trip to Europe, in which I visited two countries. The trip consisted of about 10 days, packed full of travel, tours and constant activity. I had reservations before the trip, knowing that because of my condition, I’m not always able to meet physical demands, and that a lot of walking and physical activity is hard on my body. Nevertheless, I decided to go on the trip, but I don’t think I realized what I was really agreeing to. This adventure abroad was something that pushed me way beyond my physical limits, but also somehow gave me the chance to believe that I am capable of more than I think I am.

During our time in Europe, we were walking about 30 miles a day, a majority of which was uphill. I struggled through this, and I often had to stop and take breaks. At the end of each day, my body was so exhausted that I felt as if I would never find the energy to face the next day. After several days, this started to add up. About halfway through the trip, I began to get signs from my body that I was overdoing it – big time. I started to get physically sick, and my body grew more exhausted and fatigued as the days went on. I tried to give myself rest breaks wherever I could squeeze them in, but it wasn’t really working.

By this point, I understood what my body was trying to tell me – it simply couldn’t handle this much. Deep down, I knew it couldn’t, but there was nothing I could do about it. The trip had to go on, I had to keep moving.

As the days went on, what was only a short number of days began to feel like centuries. My body so desperately needed rest and recovery – which was something I had no time for during those 10 days. Overall, I came to understand that my limits were more important and real than they had ever been before – physically sick and emotionally drained, in a country that was not my own, I could finally see my disease and how present it was in my life.

This was the trip of a lifetime for me, and I loved it, yet I felt trapped and miserable and sick for a majority of it. I ignored every signal my body was sending that this was too much and I needed to slow down. I thought I had understood my limits, but until I was curled up in pain in a hostel in Dublin, and crying in the bathroom of a pub in Limerick, and so sick in Edinburgh that I could barely eat or sleep or even think – I didn’t get it. It took me pushing myself to my absolute limits to understand what my body needed and what it was capable of.

Our bodies have limits for a reason. We have to understand that we can only take so much – and that we have to be able to know when enough is enough. But at the same time, we need to push our limits too. Although this trip was difficult for me, it also helped me build faith in myself and my abilities despite my disease. I did things I never thought I would do and I overcame a lot of obstacles during those short 10 days. For the first time I felt as if I was actually capable of doing things I never thought possible.

On the last day of the trip, we hiked up a rather steep hill to an old castle. By this point, I was so exhausted that not even sleep helped in renewing my energy. I was completely drained, physically and emotionally. As soon as we started up the hill, I felt fatigue hit me like a train. My legs felt like they could barely hold my weight, and I had no stamina whatsoever. I had to stop and take a break about every five minutes. I was so frustrated with my body and with the situation. I cried just about the entire climb up the hill. I didn’t think I could do it, in fact everything in my head was telling me that I couldn’t, and
every sign from my body was matching that idea. But somehow I kept going, I kept moving and eventually I made it to the top. I felt as if I could collapse at any moment and my legs felt numb and my back was stinging and I could barely breathe – but I made it.

In a moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, I turned around and looked down from the hill. I looked down on the city and the path that I climbed and suddenly tears of bitter struggle and defeat turned into sweet tears of victory and joy.  In that moment I felt the weight of the culmination of not just this trip, but my entire journey thus far and for once I felt pride and not anger. For once in my life, I didn’t see myself as a sick girl with limits, I saw myself as a living, breathing person who just climbed a mountain – and boy, did it feel good to make it to the top.

Getty Image by lzf


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Pain

Concentrated woman talking to friend. Serious young student looking at companion. They discussing strategy. Communication concept

How to Be Heard When It Feels Like No One Wants to Hear About Your Pain

Living with chronic pain and illness can be traumatic. There is a tremendous sense of loss that compounds with each new experience: loss of resources from time, money, energy, loss of freedom and mobility, to loss of dreams and identity. When your body is ravaged by pain, illness, or disease, you don’t have the luxury [...]
foam roller, compression socks, tiger balm

14 Products Under $20 People With Chronic Pain Swear By

If you struggle daily with chronic pain, it can quickly become frustrating and exhausting, since finding a product or technique that eases your pain tends to be an ongoing process of trial and error involving a combination of treatments rather than one single “fix.” But, as many in our chronic pain community know, trying out [...]
Teacher with young students.

When You're in Pain but 'the Show Must Go on'

I smiled as the children entered the room one by one. I greeted them the best I could without knowing sign language, they smiled back and I began reading my books. I remember reading with such enthusiasm that day as the interpreter moved her hands with every word I said. Then came the question answer portion; [...]
25 Things People Who Live Pain-Free Should Know About Chronic Pain

25 Things People Who Live Pain-Free Should Know About Chronic Pain

If you don’t have chronic pain, it’s pretty hard to really understand what it’s like. Even if you have someone in your life who has chronic pain, you’re only seeing their experience from the outside — and as any pain warrior will tell you, what you see on the outside barely scratches the surface of [...]