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Why Summertime Holidays Aren't Easier for My Chronic Pain

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School holidays should, in theory, be easier for me than term time. Nobody needs to be up at a particular time most days. The part-time tutoring that I do rarely happens. My husband, who is a teacher, is off work. So this summer I have been wondering why my chronic pain is still fluctuating at around its normal levels, given that fewer fixed commitments are coming my way? Surely I should be able to pace myself into some kind of sensible state?

It won’t surprise anybody when I point out, first of all, that children aren’t especially predictable. After many days of relative family harmony, a row broke out well past 10 o’clock the other night out of absolutely nowhere. And, of course, my body isn’t totally predictable either. All we spoonies have discovered many times that resting in advance of something is no predictor that we will definitely be healthy for it.

We also do more in the holidays. During term time, weekends are generally too busy to be going away anywhere new or having overnight visitors. I cannot sit for long enough to travel far and I find more than two nights away from home comforts hard, but a fair bit of the south of England is available within an hour’s drive, so short trips are manageable. It is hard to know exactly how your body will react to a new journey or a new place, however, especially if we are camping when we arrive.

Camping may be a surprising activity for someone in chronic pain but it does suit a family mostly living on one salary. More importantly, it has the advantage that, although I know I won’t be that comfortable, I won’t be dealing with some of the horrific beds that I have encountered in hotels and holiday cottages over the years. It does, however, always mean that getting everything set up and then packed up again will be tiring.

Additionally, the idea of pacing oneself would assume that everyone we want to see has an unlimited supply of dates available. I would not have picked to be away with friends this weekend having been with family last weekend, but is how things have worked out. Visitors from overseas especially come when they come, unless you want miss them for many months. So, much as I have tried to leave some gaps to ensure recovery in between events, it hasn’t always happened.

Pacing oneself is also not an exact science. I had a great time last weekend, and I had a rest on Saturday afternoon, and again as soon as we got home on Sunday. I was genuinely unaware of how wiped out I was even then, until I had been up for a while on Monday and was feeling worse and worse. Adrenaline overrides caution in most people, and those of us with chronic pain are no exception. It is simply not as easy as saying that I have had “X amount” of excitement and will need time to recover.

And finally, there is rest and rest. When the kids are at school in term time and I am not working, I am on my own. Sometimes this is immensely dull, but it has the great advantage that I can sleep. Really sleep, in an empty house. When the family are around, I have one ear out for trouble. My husband is a great guy and very capable of standing in for me in most things, but a combination of residual guilt, desire for involvement and my family’s need of me means that I rarely switch off fully. Some issues can, it appears, only be dealt with by me, and the food seems to last longer through the week if I decide what’s for dinner.

I am immensely grateful that my husband does what he does and, although he does do some work at home, is around for the holidays. Goodness knows, I was glad of the help with kids before my pain became an issue! It is great to be up later and not to be responsible for every activity or dog walk. It is just that my summer holidays look very easy on paper, but, thanks to the all-pervading nature of chronic pain, never seem to be the gateway to ease and rest that I hope for.

Getty Image by Kerkez

Originally published: August 20, 2018
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