The long road home started Tuesday afternoon in Portugal and finished Friday evening in Hobart. It’s the unfun bit of travel – going home. And after three months, it’s the bit to look forward to – going home.
After an extended period of travel, thoughts of home kept teasing me. Tap water straight from the mountain, my comfy bed, silky soft linen, snuggling my cat, chai tea the way I like it, my friends, my children, a sense of purpose, routine, writing, vegemite, my car, driving on the correct side of the road, the rest of my wardrobe, reliable internet, the optometrist, going to the gym, gym buddies, my dad, health professionals, Australian money, and the beautiful place I live – Hobart. The lure of these things was enough to (almost) look forward to the long haul flight. But first… Porto to Paris.
Wrapping up our trip in Portugal felt like the end of the holiday. We’d toasted friendship and travels, packed our bags and flown to Paris. We had one night in a beautiful airport hotel – luxuriating in the swimming pool, spa and sauna facilities – and arranged a late checkout at 6pm to avoid wandering around for endless hours lugging suitcases. There was a sense of melancholy as we felt the holiday ending and the reality of long haul flights, husbands, houses, kids, work and real life just around the corner. We clinked glasses one last time then two friends headed to the business class lounge for their leisurely trip home, and my other friend and I headed to economy. Our flight left at 10:40pm.
It was a six-hour flight from Paris-Doha. I sat in my seat and burst into tears. Weeks of exhaustion, anxiety, envy at my friends’ business class status, resentment for my husband’s first class flights, fear of returning to reality, and chronic back pain the moment I sat in the seat, was overwhelming. I was firmly entrenched in my own little pity party. Too tired and miserable to concentrate on movies. Too sore to sit comfortably and listen to music. I was a big ball of misery for six solid hours. When the fasten seatbelt sign was off, I stood at the back of the plane to ease the pain. The rest of the time I sulked like a petulant tween.
We had 3.5 hours in Doha to search for food after the gluten free offerings on board proved to be unappetising and inedible. My back was aching and nerve pain was shooting through my hip and down my leg. I couldn’t tell which leg to limp with and it was hard to tell whether walking or sitting was the least offensive option.
Our second flight was 14 hours from Doha to Sydney and I decided once our meal was served (brunch? lunch? dinner? they all roll into one…) I’d take medication to ease the pain and help me sleep. Never one to do anything by halves, I took a concoction of various sleeping aids and pain killers. It did something, because I don’t remember the next 36 hours. I remember taking the tablets Thursday night then eating a meal. Followed by odd moments here and there and a vague recollection of seeing my husband at the airport Friday evening.
This is something I take no pride in. I’ve made foolish decisions with medications in the past, but never have I lost time. My friend tells me I was off my face, the air hostess was concerned about me, I was saying weird stuff, I didn’t sleep, and she thinks I took more pain killers later on during the flight. Try as I might, I can’t remember any of it.
I’ve pondered this a lot the past few days. I discussed it with my psychologist and psychiatrist, and had an opportunity to ask my friend more details. I’m always terrified of not sleeping, and the worst possible scenario is taking medications that make me sleepy, and then still not sleeping. Coupled with a lot of pain, I made the decision to “be sure” I slept, so took the concoction. I’m not condoning my behaviour – I’d actively discourage anyone from doing the same. I’m not defending it – it isn’t okay, and I’m both embarrassed to have been out of control, and sad to have caused concern for my friend. I’m just trying to explain the (faulty) logic that leads me to over medicating.
Since arriving home I struggled with sleep for the first five nights – getting practically none and being upside down with sleep patterns. I saw my GP who prescribed melatonin – apparently very effective for jetlag – and started to get some sleep. I saw my psychiatrist to discuss sleep and anxiety (no word on chicken and egg, cause and causality at this stage) and trialed olanzapine. Between the melatonin and the olanzapine I’ve had a huge escalation in restless legs syndrome. Huge.
I’m now only on regular medication and spent the day researching restless legs. Apparently anxiety and depression are strong comorbidities. And a lot of medications used to treat anxiety and depression, exacerbate restless legs. A lot to think about. I emailed my psychiatrist with the information I googled and suggested I need to see a sleep specialist.
How incredible would it be, if the major spiral in mental health I experienced over the past three years, is connected to poorly managed restless legs syndrome? I’ve never seen a sleep specialist – and where I live, there aren’t any to visit. I feel it’s time for a complete review of my medications and how they interact with my restless legs and mood.
Now that I’ve had a week at home, I’m ready to start finding what to do with myself. Last week I was miserable. Utterly miserable. I was worn out, jetlagged, tired and readjusting to life at home. This week I’ve had some solid sleep, but apparently my legs are dancing all night long, so I’m not sure about the quality of sleep.
I’m ready to close the chapter on travel and start afresh with my writing. To resurrect the memoir I’m desperate to delve into and the masterclass I’ve sorely missed. I’m ready to start doing the paid work I was offered and to look forward rather than staring at my feet all the time. I’m still tired – sleep disorders will do that. But this week, I have more functionality.
So it’s farewell to London, Ross-on-Wye, Ambleside, Edinburgh, Jordan, Turkey, Sarajevo, Budapest, Krakow, Berlin, Dordogne, Paris, Tuscany, Lisbon, Porto, and Paris again. It’s hello to Hobart, my friends, family and future. I need to plant my feet firmly on the ground, seek solutions for problems that can be solved, and acceptance for those that cannot. And I sure as hell need some wisdom and guidance to tell the difference.