To Go Or Not To Go?
If you have Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) then you know that you can go from feeling really good to really bad with little to no warning. This is exactly why I was unsure about a 16-hour road trip to Florida. Would I get too tired? What if I forget to take my medication, what if I get a migraine and it won’t go away?
If you have PCS, you probably have experienced some anxiety about doing things at some point. I was an anxious person prior to my traumatic brain injury (TBI), so PCS has just exaggerated it.
Deciding To Go, A Leap Out Of My Comfort Zone
Despite my worries, I really, really wanted to get away on a week-long vacation to sunny Florida with some friends. I need a break from cold Maryland winter! I decided to take my chances and go. Worst case scenario, I would be totally done in when we got there and have a crash day or two and waste vacation days.
I’m happy to report that after the 16-hour drive, arriving, unpacking and going to bed around 10 p.m., I woke up around 7:30 feeling pretty okay. My headache is worse than usual which could have been a combination of things like the barometric pressure, not drinking enough water, or eating 16 hours worth of junk food on our way down.
Unfortunately, My Headaches Went With Me On Vacation
I have had a headache that ranges from a normal 4-6, to a migraine ever since my accident. It never goes away. So yes, it stinks to have a worse headache than normal, but headaches are my normal so I’m happy to say I think it was a successful trip down.
I definitely had thought that I might be “crash day” tired or get a killer migraine. Luckily, so far I have neither.
I will say we stopped about every 3 to 4 hours for us to have a bathroom break, as well as our dogs who we have with us. I definitely felt like my balance was worse after sitting for long periods of time than getting up and walking. After the first stop though, I was aware of it and knew to be extra careful and slow. So, I made it through all the stops just fine without incident.
Advice For PCS Travelers
One suggestion I would give anyone traveling that has PCS is to make sure you rest up the day before. The more you take it easy the day before the easier the trip will be on you.
Don’t forget your sunglasses. If light sensitivity is one of your symptoms, don’t forget your sunglasses. I didn’t forget my sunglasses, I just couldn’t find where I put them until we got here. That is one thing that was a strain that could have been avoided.
Make sure to drink a lot of water. I know I drank a Diet Coke or two or three on the way down (I’m trying to quit that). Of course I brought my
We snacked on typical road trip junk food, which was awesome, a road trip wouldn’t be complete without it. We did get lunch around 1:00 (we left at 5 a.m.). Maybe eating something with a little more substance earlier in the day would have helped my energy level. Honestly, though, I was not totally exhausted upon arrival, which I think speaks a lot for my improvement over the last almost year (my accident anniversary is March 13).
Don’t Overdue It When You Get There
I changed my feeling on what I need to be most conscious of when traveling with PCS. I was afraid of the road to trip itself which turned out to be much easier on me than I thought. Now that I’m here, making sure I don’t overdo it is my priority. My goal is to be able to enjoy each day I’m here without wasting any time trying to sleep off a migraine or needing a crash day.
Taking Breaks When Necessary
You forget how things just like being out in the sun can really take a lot out of you. Just like everything else with PCS, you have to learn to listen to what your body is telling you. Learn the warning signs that come before your brain says it’s had enough. That way hopefully you can take a break and recharge your batteries before a crash occurs.
Remember, taking breaks looks different for everyone when it comes to PCS. You have to figure out what works best for you to help you recharge your batteries. For me, it is just laying down in a quiet place for a bit with an ice pack on my forehead. Most of the time, if I don’t push my limits and stop to recharge, I can do what I want to do without crash days in between.
Be Aware Of What Triggers Your Symptoms
When you are on a trip your routine is different than normal. You may sleep in, take your medication at different times or not eat as healthy or throughout the day as you normally would. All of those things you take into account at home to help avoid flaring up your symptoms need to stay at the forefront of your mind when you are on a trip.
It is better to say, “hey, I’m going to go lay down and rest for a bit”, then get to the point where you feel terrible physically and mentally.
Traveling with PCS is definitely a little harder, but it is well worth it. It is good for your spirit to be out in the world, seeing things, and hanging out with friends. I know how easy it is to just want to isolate yourself where you know you can control your environment and symptoms. Where you won’t have to worry about asking for help or have an embarrassing moment not being able to find your words.
I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to come on this trip. I think this trip is teaching me a lot about handling my symptoms and learning my limits. It has also reminded me that I have good supportive friends that want to hang out with me. They understand what I’m going through and still want me to be able to do things and have fun.
Spending Time With Friends Is Important For Your Recovery
I would say that at some point in time, anyone with PCS, has needed a reminder that they are not alone. Though we may feel totally different than before we got hurt, our friends still see us as the same. I’m more than just a TBI or PCS patient. Don’t let your symptoms define your life and who you are.
One way to do that is by not isolating yourself and going and doing things. For me to come on this road trip and week-long vacation was a big push out of my comfort zone. I’m so glad I did it though because I’m having a great time, and it feels good to know that PCS doesn’t “own” me, and I can still do things I want, go places and enjoy my life.
This too shall pass! In the meantime, I got this!