How to Make a Vacation When You have NO Vacation Days

This weekend is my wonderful, 11-year old niece Tia’s play.  I will treasure her performance.  Before I got my autoimmune disease, I was the aunt who never missed a play, game, or any kind of performance. And the cousin who never missed a family gathering.  And now it’s hard for me to attend most of these functions.  In fact, right now I’m fighting off two infections in my thumbs that I got from washing the dishes last week.  I hope these won’t get in the way of seeing Tia perform.  Being tired, having to sleep early, and avoiding people during “close calls,” like when I have the flu or a cold, makes it hard for me to go out.  In fact, like many people with chronic illnesses, I simply can’t go on a vacation.

I see people’s vacation pictures on Facebook so I have a vague recollection of what a “vacation” is.  Like many people with major illnesses (be it one, two, three, four like me, or more like my blind 27-yo friend who has lupus, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, PTSD), I do NOT qualify for social security disability.  Because of this I have to work a full-time job to pay for my 12 meds and other medical expenses.  85% of my PTO days, or vacation days, are used on hospital visits, medical tests, and sick days–actually being sick.  Not calling in sick because I had a fun weekend and am exhausted but because I’m really sick and want to avoid relapsing.  And the other 15% is spent fulfilling responsibilities unrelated to my job.  So I can’t go on a vacation–not in the traditional sense of the word anyway.

What Really Makes a Vacation?

Frustrated, I thought to myself:  How can I get a vacation?  One that doesn’t involve road trips or airplanes or being absent from work.  For me a vacation is made of up a lot of moments–both little and big–where I am reminded of how great life is despite all these hardships.  These moments can be everything from a trip to get ice cream to spending time with my nieces or nephews to the occasional New Kids on the Block concert.  I figure that when I add all these special moments up they’re like one vacation spread out over 365 days.

My Top 10 “Vacation Moments”

I’ve compiled a list of my “vacation moments”:

1.  spending time with nieces and nephews

2.  occasional trip to the movie theater (I used to go the movies by myself whenever I got stressed out.  Now that I am sick, I can’t do this anymore.  So those rare moments when I go with family or friends are special to me.)

3.  watching a Manny Pacquiao fight (even this last fight on June 9, 2012 when he lost in a controversial decision was awesome because it truly was one of his greatest performances)

4.  occasional New Kids on the Block concert (if I’m feeling well and they’re touring the US, I go)

5.  any trip to get ice cream or pizza

6.  visit from a friend whether we watch a movie inside or go out for a walk

7.  occasional wedding–I can attend local weddings of family and friends

8.  watching Katt Williams or Chris Rock or other favorite stand-up comedians on DVD or  youtube

9.  catching up with an old friend over the phone

10.  any family gathering be it Easter or Christmas or “just because” (with my parents and my many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews)

Trip Down Memory Lane: The Go-Gos Vacation Music Video

Thank you, NewWaveAlternative for posting this gem online.

Your Turn?

What obstacles keep you from taking a vacation?  What are your vacation moments in life?



Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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