Exploration and Limitations: a CHD road trip

The first thing I thought when my cousin told me he would be coming over from the east coast for a visit was pure joy! I had spent many summer traveling around with him when he was younger…I was the driver and he held the maps, we always got lost and we always had an adventure. All grown up he decided to road trip back to Oregon and it seemed only right we would meet up and have another epic adventure together.

The second thing I thought was, I’m not that same girl he knew. Long drives, lots of activities and the unknowns are hard for me now. I have a wanderers heart, there will never be a time that my soul doesn’t ache for an open road or a new traveling adventure. It’s just at this very moment I haven’t taken a trip without my parents and I have struggled with every long distance trip we have done. Yes, I’m admitting this…I’m a 36 year old who at that moment, was scared to travel without them.

So as my parents left, I stood in my sisters kitchen and cried. I cried out of fear, I cried out of frustration that I was crying. I did it in secret and I did not want my cousin to see this side of me…a weak traveler who was scared. My sister held me and promised me I could do this.

So off we went…this time in a complete role reversal. Kevin drove this time and I was the one holding the map. We traveled down Washington, stopping at the sites and slowly made our way over to the Oregon coast. IMG_51091

I felt freedom and nervousness in every breath. I prayed that I wouldn’t have any vtach episodes, that he wouldn’t see the how bad my lungs were, that my anxiety would remain in check and that my cousin would never see my weakness. IMG_51241.jpg

We laughed, we sang and talked our way to our cabin on the coast. At this point I knew my body was done but there was no way I was going to miss my cousin’s first Pacific Ocean sunset. As he knelt down and took in the moment, we sat there together and I was proud that we had made it that far. It was peaceful and a special moment that I will never forget.IMG_51311IMG_5153-Edit1

I also felt my body reaching my “wall” and by the time we settled in for the night at the cabin, I couldn’t keep it in any longer. My panic rose, I couldn’t breath, my palpitations started and I broke down. I sat outside on the bench and sobbed, feeling like I let my cousin down. He sat down next to me, put his arm around me and just let me cry. Then he got me settled on the couch and made sure I had food. Here was this young man who I used to lead around, now leading me through one of the toughest parts of my healing process. I kept apologizing and he was just shocked that I tried so hard to hide the truth of how hard it was for me right now. I can still remember clearly him saying “one of the main reasons I came out here was to see you, was to be a part of this and you have to let me be there for you. Be honest and don’t apologize for what you are struggling with.”

Day two of our road trip began with a new sense of purpose.IMG_5200-Edit1

Kevin knew signs to look for, made sure I had snacks and drinking enough water. We slowly made our way down Hwy101 and stopped to see epic views or sometimes just fought our way through the fog. IMG_51861

By allowing myself to let go of the old image of me, what our relationship used to be, it allowed us to develop something even more sincere and deep. It not only became a personal journey of overcoming a fear of being away from my immediate support system, but a journey that showed what unconditional love looks like when you finally allow yourself to be real with those closest to you.

I won’t ever forget our road trip together, the one where childhood was fast behind us and two cousins allowed one another to be each others strength and solitude…it was a life changing view from the recovery trail.IMG_5992-Edit1


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