Share Our Coping Methods

Pill Tray

For all who want to travel despite illness or disability, it’s vital for us to share our coping methods. Many of us discover during retirement that the golden years aren’t quite what we’d expected them to be. Frequently the jolt in our plans occurs because of some kind of illness or disability. What I want to discover in these interviews is how people who love to travel cope with their physical or mental difficulties.

What coping mechanisms are in place to enable them to continue going to the places they love? Is there a way to help the healthy spouse receive the support and healing that comes from openness? Are there coping methods for handling the awkwardness of traveling with disability or illness. I hope so. I think there are. And that’s the reason for this section of my travel blog.

I am grateful for the many people who say that if their story would help someone deal better with illness or disability, they want it told. I admire that generous position. I know it helps create a healthy perspective in all those undergoing the difficulties, whether caregiver or afflicted one. Nobody should feel they have to endure a secluded island of private pain, whether from the disability itself or from the isolation that accrues to the self-protective individual. Others have been there, done that – let’s share what we’ve found to work.

One of my favorite traveling companions expressed it this way:

When I was young, I planned activities assuming I would be healthy. I might even postpone a trip or activity if a cold, flu, or minor inconvenience got in the way. In my “golden years,” I have become accustomed to not feeling fit all the time. But I have also learned that not feeling 100% doesn’t mean I have to stay home all the time. My philosophy is if I’m struggling with some ache or pain, I could struggle at home and give it all my attention, or I could struggle with it at an exotic location that might provide a distraction from my aches and pains. I have given up expecting to be 100% fit, but that doesn’t mean giving up travel.

The Question of How Open to Be

As I began collecting stories from retirees who love to travel and have overcome illness and disability to do so, most people enthusiastically endorsed the idea. The experiences you will read here are therefore all voluntary contributions.

A few individuals, however, showed profound reticence in having their situation made public.They could tell me their story orally–person-to-person–and even seemed to find it therapeutic. But the thought of having their life experience out there on the Internet for prying eyes and the judgment of others stopped them cold. I assured them I would eliminate all personal identifiers and would send them an advance copy to check for accuracy. They still refused. Sometimes with hostility. Why was that?

I’m drawn to examine the pain and anger of those who refused to share. Surprisingly, some of the most verbal and high-achieving people were the most closed.

  • Had they achieved success in their profession by assuming a persona of invulnerability?
  • Do they somehow construe illness or disability in their retirement years as personal failure?
  • What do they mean when they call themselves, “Too private a couple to share that kind of intimate information”?
  • What kind of specialness does it confer on you when you contain your grief in a small island of disappointment and frustration?
  • Is there any comfort in mourning your losses alone?
  • Is dignity so important that you need to use it as a barrier, a weapon? Or is it a false image of yourself?

Yes, the affected partners all had medical help. That’s where you pay a knowledgeable person to fix it for you. But a lot of diseases and handicaps that happen late in life simply can’t be fixed. For them you need coping skills. But why would your own personal set of coping skills need to be kept secret? No, private? Is there a paranoia associated with physical frailty in which the partner associates it with being less than?

The people you will read about here have made a decision to help others enjoy travel despite pain or inconvenience. I want to dedicate this section of my blog to these courageous souls. I, too, believe we have more options for satisfying travel experiences than we may have previously thought.

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