“Vacation, all I ever wanted…..”

Many women I know have a personal care “to do” list that they check off prior to going away on vacation: manicures and pedicures, perhaps a new bikini and the accompanying wax job, maybe even a haircut and highlights. Everyone wants to look their best before embarking on a sunny beach getaway, am I right?

I used to do all of those things, too. But in the last 18 months, the only “personal care” I cared about was making sure I had ECT as close to my departure date as possible. ECT seemed to calm my nerves and relieve a lot of the pre-vacation jitters many of us experience under the duress of trying to get a large family packed and organized to ensure the perfect, stress-free getaway. Ironic, isn’t it, how much stress a mom can endure just trying to make sure everyone else has vacation without it? Add bipolar disorder to the mix and that stress level is amplified tenfold.

I have traveled quite extensively since starting ECT in 2011, and I have found that making sure I underwent ECT was as essential to my state of mind as making sure I have Dramamine and an early boarding pass. I would have ECT three or four days prior to leaving for my travels and it made those pre-vacation annoyances and stresses seem less annoying and stressful. It had a calming effect, slowing down my thoughts and quieting my brain so I could stay organized and on track.

But this time I forgot. I simply forgot to make the appointment and have that essential ECT. And by the time I remembered, I had already left. Remembering that I forgot did cause some initial stress. I was traveling alone with my children for the first time since my separation from my husband, and the first day or two I think I let my loneliness for him be confused with anxiety and annoyance. I didn’t know how I’d get through the week. I was worried about how I would keep them happy and occupied for seven days without their dad; I was worried I would let my emotions get the best of me; I was worried I might move toward a manic state and ruin the trip for my kids. But surprisingly, I got over it pretty quickly. I tried to use some of the tools I’ve been learning with DBT, and found that I could calm my nerves in a timely manner.

So, I’m kind of proud of myself. Now that’s an emotion I don’t have very often. Between getting through an ECT-free vacation, and my kids not getting kicked out of the “all-you-can-eat” complimentary breakfast at our hotel for gorging themselves on a pound of bacon and a dozen pastries each morning, I’m doing pretty well. Back to my “real” world tomorrow night, but pleased I got through this week without ruining it for my kids. Yay me!

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