What Vacationing Is Like When You’re Sick

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It’s summertime. Everyone is getting ready to take trips and vacations. I have mine booked. I remember a time when I would have been really excited to go. I would count down the days with tons of anticipation, but as someone who battles a few different health issues, vacations can turn into more work than fun.

I miss the days when I didn’t have to explore the area I was visiting to see what kind of ratings their hospitals have. I miss worrying about how many activities I will be able to cram into my week’s stay instead of worrying about how my health will impact what activities, if any, I am able to do. Googling nearby grocery stores and pharmacies and organic markets have become more important than beach activities or sightseeing.

I am grateful to be going away, but when you are sick, traveling is tough. The prep time is exhausting. There is the job of meticulously packing all the medications, creams and special foods. The fatigue from traveling can eat up a lot of the time you’d rather be spending on enjoying the trip. Anxiety can also take over as you begin to think about all the things that may happen. Coping with this anxiety becomes a central focus.

Spending the extra money on a suite with a full kitchen is important for me, since I have food allergies and digestive issues. I have to cook most meals myself. These rooms are generally very nice. They are spacious and have an apartment-like feel. Some people might get the impression that I am traveling in style just for the fun of it, when really it’s a necessity and it’s costly. I really miss the days when I could stay in a cheap one bedroom motel and eat out anywhere I wanted.

If you are a flyer, which I am not — then you have a whole bunch of other obstacles to deal with that are both mentally and physically exhausting.

Sometimes it’s just nice to be sick in a different place than the one you are usually in. A change of scenery can be helpful in feeling better mentally. The problem is that traveling for a sick person involves more preparation, mentally and physically, than a healthy person. Healthy people use vacations as a way to recharge and relax. When you are sick, you usually need a vacation from your vacation.

I realize this may sound like nothing but chronic complaining to a lot of people, but this is what chronic illness looks like.

I am hoping to enjoy my trip. I hope and pray I will feel good, or at least decent. I’m wishing all of you safe and healthy travels this summer — tough as it may be.

Gifted, Gay and Chronically Ill

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I remember hearing Episcopal Priest, Fr. Ed Bacon, say on the Oprah show that being gay was a gift. Oprah was shocked to hear any clergy member put homosexuality in such a positive context. As a gay man, I immediately understood what he meant. It was a gift because it taught me from a young age to be brave, courageous and speak out against injustice. It taught me how to live authentically. It taught me how to advocate for myself and for others. It taught me not to pay attention to those who would put me down or try and tell me that I was less than. It also opened me up to community. Little did I know that years later I would need these skills to deal with chronic health issues.

I am so grateful for all the voices out there, both big and small, who are speaking out and raising awareness not just on the issues of chronic illness, but also on LGBTQ+ rights.

This month, in honor of pride, Billboard asked celebrities to write “love letters” to the LGBTQ+ community. This one particular sentiment jumped out at me. Singer Kelly Clarkson wrote:

“It always makes me feel sad when someone from the LGBTQ community comes up and says thank you so much for being supportive, and how hard their life has been, and how helpful it is when people in the spotlight use their influence to help others. It shouldn’t be this rare, unique thing. It should be a no-brainer to lift, and support everyone, in every community, and encourage people rather than fear or judge what is different from themselves. I can’t wait for the day when there’s not a need for someone to be thanked for doing the obvious.”

We are called to come together to support one another. To lift each other up and give encouragement. Now more than ever, our world needs love and support. Those of us who are chronically ill know the judgement and ridicule we get from the world around us, especially if we are LGBT+. The good news in all of this is that we know how to be strong. We were given that gift.

In one of Kelly’s songs, People Like Us, she sings: 

“Hey everybody loses it
Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes
And hey, yeah I know what you’re going through
Don’t let it get the best of you, you’ll make it out alive
Oh, people like us we’ve gotta stick together
Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever
Here’s to the damned to the lost and forgotten
It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom”

We know the value of community and finding other people like us. So to all my chronically ill LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, remember you are stronger than you think you are. You are brave, courageous and beautiful. You are the mighty.

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