Monday, May 27, 2013

Mental Illness Travels with Me, but I’m Driving

On the Grand Canyon Rim Trail
It sucks when I get to someplace spectacular and find out that my disabilities are determined to get in the way. It happened  last year at Bryce Canyon (see Recovery on the Road) with migraines and hypomania and it happened again this year at the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon with anxiety.

I was doing so well that first morning. I had camped outside the national park to reduce the stress of finding a place to stay in it after dark. I got up right on time, took Maeve for a walk around the whole campground, and headed into Grand Canyon National Park. It was fairly early in the season and I was shocked by how many people were there. Maeve started alerting me when I was talking to a ranger at the visitor center, not that I understood her at first, and I started to crash. I wanted to pick up and drive anywhere other than the Grand Canyon, right away. Instead I went into self-care mode and recalled some lessons I've learned along the way.

Lesson One: Take Time Out

The Grand Canyon was right there … right behind the visitor center, but I couldn't get a glimpse until hours later. I went back to my safe place, my campervan, to regroup. I fed myself, read about easy hikes and bike rides I could do, and I gave myself time to come down from the stress.

Lesson Two: Once You Get Started . . .

I needed to decide quickly whether or not I was staying because campsites were hard to find. Once I decided I should try to stay I went immediately to acquire a campsite. Once I got to the window, I found myself reserving a site for two nights rather than just one. The hard part was getting to the window.

 Lesson Three: Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

If I wasn't feeling well due to the weekday crowd, I probably shouldn't force myself to handle the weekend horde. I moved to the less crowded east side of the park for the weekend.
Chinese lion representation

 Result: A Great Visit

I hiked or biked nearly the entire Grand Canyon rim trail, Maeve posed for close to a hundred pictures (mostly taken by Asian tourists who mentioned that she looked like a lion), we hiked part of the south rim that is not usually hiked by tourists, and we got great pictures (see our Grand Canyon Photos). We also educated a number of people about psychiatric service dogs. We saw much of the more remote North Rim too. Even though I had to take a few days off, I actually got to hike below the canyon rim at Bryce Canyon for the first time. I was so happy! We did three hikes into and back up to the rim of Bryce Canyon.

P.S.: the staff of the Grand Canyon did fine on the service dog issue.

Lion photo credit:

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