Let me start this entry by explaining what I mean by “normal.” For the purposes of what will be discussed here, I am using “normal” to describe those who do not suffer from and have very limited knowledge of mental illness of any kind.
I was given the amazing opportunity to go on a vacation cruise to the Bahamas for practically nothing after a member of the original group of 4 friends backed-out. I was of course delighted and signed right up to go. I worked my butt off the 2 weeks before we left to get everything squared away with my classes and Luckie and everything else and when the day finally came, I piled into my car for the 5 hour drive back to Jersey to then start the all together 20ish hours down to Florida.
First 24 Hours
We left late and luckily my name was not on the rental and therefore I didn’t have to drive so I was anticipating being able to sleep. And then I got into the car and quickly realized this trip was not going to be as simple as falling asleep and arriving in the sunny state of Florida.
The four adults plus one 4-year-old strapped into a carseat were all meant to fit into a Jeep compass (a 2 row small SUV), and we did. But not even remotely comfortably. My anxiety spiked then for the first time with the realization that I was not going to be able to sleep this ride away. Staying awake in the dark in a tight space for 16 hours seemed like the makings for a nightmare.
Then I found myself faced with my first decision that I know no one else in the car even had to worry about while on vacation – should I take all of my pills, including the one that helps me to sleep? Now, this may sound like a no brainer to some, but for me, when I take my sleeping medication, I need a solid 6 hours minimum before I am able to be even remotely functioning again. What if something happened? What if we crashed? What if there was an emergency and I needed to drive? All, especially the last worry, are not entirely rational (I mean, what are the chances that everyone in the car would be completely incapacitated and unable to drive??), but still, they raced through my mind. When the seating arrangement became so unbearable, however, I caved and popped my sleeper along with my other pills and to my pleasant surprise, was able to get a little sleep, albeit extremely uncomfortable sleep, but sleep all the same.
Other than a few bumps (like a tire blowing on a semi-truck and the rubber hitting our car), the ride was pretty uneventful. We made it to the parent’s house of those I was with around 1:30 PM on Thursday (we left Wednesday at 8:00 PM), and I was exhausted and starving. They had all stopped briefly for breakfast at about 8 AM at a McDonald’s drive-thru. I, however, get sick from anything served at McDonald’s (no, I’m not prissy and refuse to eat fast food when it is necessary, I literally become extremely ill) and therefore ate nothing. When we arrived, I had hoped we would be going somewhere for lunch, since we hadn’t even stopped for that meal. Lunch, however, had been made in anticipation of our arrival – a big pot of corn beef.
Now, I am not one to be rude or be “that person” who makes people go out of their way for me, so I piled on some corn beef (skipped the pot of baked beans) and gave a good faith effort to eat it. And I did get several fork-fulls in! But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t eat enough to kill the grumbling in my stomach and the migraine that was brewing. My anxiety spiked once more, knowing that I need to eat on somewhat a regular basis to keep my ‘sanity’. My sleep schedule had already been thrown out the window (as to be expected) so I needed food more than ever.
There seemed to be no alternative given even when they had asked if I hadn’t liked it and when I reluctantly confessed that I had not, and they were very understanding. I guess I was suppose to wait until the next meal which, apparently, was the rest of the corn beef that sat warming on the stove through the evening.
Luckily, I was able to go duck out under the guise of needing a few items from the store and stopped at a Burger King and finally filled my tummy.
So now we are 24 hours into this vacation, haven’t even made it to Miami and the cruise ship, and my anxiety is already in the danger zone for sure. But, I kept quiet and kept my head up remembering that I was with ‘normal‘ people.
After another 4 hours in the car Friday morning heading down to Miami (this time no carseat as the little girl had stayed with her grandparents at our first stop), we had made it to the port and boarded the ship with minimal anxiety other than worry about them not accepting my birth certificate and ID in place of a passport, even though I had checked and double checked that it would be fine prior to leaving.
I was elated to find that I did not need any type of anti-nausea remedy! Score!
That first night, however, I began to come down off of all the tension and stress I had felt for the last 2 weeks in preparation for this trip and then the drive to get here. I began to feel a migraine coming on and the sleepiness kick in. Here, I was faced with decision #2 – Do I struggle through it in order to not be the ‘party pooper’ and end the night early when there was so much still to do? Or do I not worry about what my companions would think and slipped back to my cabin for a rest?
This was extra hard because my best friend that I was there with would of course not let me go back to the room by myself, even though I pleaded with him to stay and have fun. His cousins were our other companions and I didn’t want them to think I was making him leave the fun or keeping him from them. But he wouldn’t have it. He brought be back to the room and the night ended with an early bedtime for us both.
The Bahamas – Nassau
The next real problem did not come up until Saturday, when we woke up nice and early, ate a good breakfast at the free buffet, and left the ship to explore Nassau.
It started off great with a tour of the city given by a local, some souvenir shopping, and eventually ending at the Atlantic Resort Beach where the plan was to spend the rest of our time until we had to board the ship again.
We arrived on the beach around 1:30 PM (after an 8 AM breakfast being the only food we had eaten all day) and I was not only starving, but really starting to feel it from the heat and sun. My pasty white complexion is not conducive to the conditions of the Bahamas and I was with others who heritage gave them advantages, not pain when out in the blazing sun all day.
My anxiety rose once more seeing no place in the immediate vicinity to get some decent food. However, I once again told myself I would be alright, don’t whine, we got this. I purchased a bag of chips and a coconut that contained a pina colada (not the wisest choices I have ever made, but it was a real coconut that they knocked open in front of you!) and sat down to try and bring my energy back somewhat.
It wasn’t until around 3 PM that we made it back to the ship to consume lunch. I was lagging majorly from heat exhaustion and hunger and distress over feeling like I was the only one who required these human needs of food, water, and rest, when the rest of the group seemed perfectly fine and ready to do another round with the waves in the ocean. Am I really that different from these people?
The rest of the trip went relatively smoothly. I made it back to my PA abode around 11 AM on that Tuesday after pushing through and being in a car 27 straight hours, just to get home to sleep in an actual bed.
Reflecting on my trip overall, it was a nice time. I got to see and experience things I never had before. I got out of the States (other than Canada) and got some sun, although my ‘tan’ had disappeared the morning after the day the on the beach. Did I mention how pasty white I am?
I just couldn’t help but wish it had not been with ‘normal people’ but instead a group that understood and could even relate to my struggles. Although my companions were so generous and really did try to make me feel comfortable, I could never really be at ease, and isn’t that what vacation is for?
And then I questioned, is this how my life will always be? Do I have to plan not only the trip, but everything about the trip around me having a bipolar disorder? I feel like I do that now with my life on a day-to-day basis. I feel like it is engrained in me to plan for any and every contingency. Even a day spent entirely on campus for classes and studying and meetings, I have to make sure I am prepared with snacks, Excedrin, a Xanax or 2 that remain in my purse at all times, a water bottle, the list goes on.
I try to remember that the pool of “normal” people in the world we live in is dwindling and of course, highly subjective. I may have this piece of me of me that struggles, but it is still a piece of me and makes me who I am which is someone that I am proud of. So this is my normal and at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to be any other way.