This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Post Travel Stress Disorder

I think that Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder has a little known but oft-experienced cousin known as post-travel-stress-disorder.  After 2000 miles in six days, all of them travelled in the car, I am defnitely suffering post travel stress.

It all began as one of those great ideas you have late on a Friday night when you are snug in your own home, safe, missing faraway friends and family, and full of optimism.  My mother-in-law was coming to stay for a week.  She was flying from Ohio to Massachusetts.  Wouldn't it be a great idea to take Grandma back to Ohio, stopping to visit friends and family along the way?  Yes!  I say!  No!   Says Steve.  So it's decided: my daughter and I are making the trip, Steve is staying home.  Sounded great on the couch that evening.  Sounded great on the phone when I got to be the hero for coming to Ohio again for the 3rd time in the less than 2 years we've lived in Massachusetts.  It sounded great to my daughter who envisioned a week's worth of endless sleepovers with her Ohio friends.

It was great.  Things were humming along beautifully until...until it was time for me to get back in the car to drive home.  Suddenly the enormity of the task I'd set before myself seemed overwhelming.  I'm the only adult in the car!  I'm the only driver!  It's 14 hours to go back home!  What have I done???

We left at 7a.m.  The first 4 hours were a breeze: we snacked on fruit provided by my mom, my daughter watched a movie, I listened a bit but mostly just enjoyed my own thoughts, the beautiful morning, the time with my daughter, and concentrated on navigating morning rush hour traffic through Columbus, Ohio.

11 a.m.  The fruit is gone.  We've moved on to the sandwiches provided by my mom.  The newness and excitement and adrenaline I had at 7a.m. have drained away into a road-weary sameness.  We're in Pennsylvania which feels like progress until I realize I have New York and Connecticut still to go.

1 p.m.  We've stopped for the bathroom, we've stopped for gas, I can think of no other reason to stop but I am completely restless.  My legs hurt, my back hurts.  I am trying to be extremely careful about what I eat so I stay hydrated and my blood sugar stays constant and I don't experience any blood sugar induced fatigue.  I've listened to all my podcasts.  I am beginning to think of Pennsylvania as a continuous loop of scenery:  didn't I just see that tree?  The drive has taken on a Twilight Zone quality.

4 p.m.  We're in New York.  It looks just like Pennsylvania.  I am thankful for cruise control and air conditioning.  I have a new respect for anyone who does this kind of driving regularly.  I am numb.  The traffic is rushing by and I am keeping up but I can feel my stress level climbing as more and more cars join me and as speeds increase.  I am not usually a nervous driver, but I'm tired and the road is unfamiliar, and I'm probably driving faster than I should be.

6 p.m.  I-84 in Connecticut is at a complete standstill.  Occasionally we get to creep a few feet forward only to stop again.  My foot is cramping from hovering over the gas then over the brake then over the gas again.  We pass a highway patrol with a radar gun.  I find myself laughing a bit hysterically thinking who are you going to stop?   A jogger?  No one in a car is going faster than 5 mph and that's if we're lucky!  My daughter has been watching movies for 12 solid hours.  I don't even have the energy to persuade her to stop. I'm jealous, I wish I could check out for awhile too.

6:30 p.m.  Haven't even gone a mile.

6:45 p.m.  I am thinking horrible hateful thoughts about Connecticut.  I have completely abandoned the idea of stable blood sugar and am consuming anything my daughter can find in the cooler.

7:00 p.m.  Traffic is finally moving again.  The speed limit through Connecticut is 50 miles per hour.  My fellow travellers and I are treating that as a suggestion, not a law.  My hypochondria is in full swing.  I wonder if I can get a blood clot from sitting so long in one position.  I feel a blood sugar crash coming on.  Steve is urging me to just get a hotel but I'm so close to home that I just want to get there.  My left leg is aching from being tensed.  My right arm is tingling and my fingers feel stiff.

8:15 p.m.  Massachusetts state line!  I have renewed energy, I can do this!  I'm almost there.

8:45 p.m. HOME.  I nearly collapse getting out of the car.  My legs are shaking and muscles in my back are spasming.  I feel like crying with relief. 

10:00 p.m.  I am exhausted, I should be sleeping but I can't.  My leg muscles are trembling.  I keep having mini flashbacks of being stuck in Connecticut.  Steve can't believe I am this stressed from driving and honestly I am surprised at myself too but I know it wasn't just the drive: it was being soley responsible for our daughter's safety in the car and the entirely self-imposed pressure to do the drive all in one day.

I did some research and discovered that a lot of serious conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and embolisms occur or are discovered while people are on vacation or shortly after they return home.  No kidding.  I get it.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip.  I'm glad I did it.  I won't do it that way again, but that's all part of the learning curve.  For me it was the length of the drive.   For my husband it's air travel.  For a friend of mine it's staying in beds not her own.  For another friend it's constantly having to eat out.

What about you?   Any travel traumas to report?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

congrats....glad you made it home.

karen@fitnessjourney said...

Welcome back! Long car trips are the worst. Is it just me or do you feel the need to eat lunch about 5 minutes after you set out for the day? Seriously, it could be 7:00 AM and I'm digging through the cooler.

Hey, it just occurred to me, you were in Ohio, did you stop in Toledo to see your old friends?

K said...

I am about to embark on a similiar journey - the upper protion of the Upper Penisula, I will be taking two children and a new puppy. At this point the drive is the least of my concerns but I do not expect to see nearly the traffic you experienced. Glad you made it and I bet next time the drive will not seem so bad.

Beth said...

Anonymous - thanks, I'm glad I made it home too. I seriously had my doubts in Connecticut..

Beth said...

Hey Karen, I did breeze through Toledo on my way to Cincinnati then back up to Dayton. It was a multi-city visit.

Beth said...

K, I don't know how you have the strength, my friend! A new puppy? Hats off to you!

The Smith Family said...

We just did that same thing, only 15 hours from upstate NY to SW Ohio. Granted I shared the driving, but it was heinous!!!!! I also couldn't sleep when we got home

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