Dealing with the Emotions of Unexpected Flare-Ups

So I was reminded how unpredictable chronic symptoms are this week, unfortunately while on vacation in Colombia.

I haven’t mentioned it much on here, but every month I deal with intense PMS symptoms (unbearable cramps, nausea, achiness, headaches, sweats, chills, and occasional vomiting and lightheadedness) for 2-5 days each month. I plan everything around this, including this trip, and I have always been able to do so with accuracy. 

Last week I was hit with these symptoms super early and seemingly out of nowhere. I have a toolbox of things I can use at home, but didn’t pack anything because this was extremely unexpected.


It’s one thing to deal with this when I’m at home or at least nearby and can quickly get home, which is usually the case. It’s another thing to deal with it when I’m in an air bnb tree house in the middle of the jungle two thousand miles away from home, completely unprepared. 

I was supposed to be getting ready to go for dinner in town with my friend, but instead I ended up curled up in a fetal position on the swinging bed hanging from the ceiling (which is a cool idea until you feel sick!) 

I had a mini breakdown. I was excited to go to dinner that night and spend the next day doing yoga in our treehouse led by our air bnb host, getting a massage, and hiking to a waterfall. I haven’t been able to hike in years and the fact that I was able to hike on this trip was super exciting. Until I couldn’t. 

That initial disappointment when you realize that yet again your symptoms are preventing you from doing something you want to do is the worst.  I always feel a rush of emotions- anger, sadness, frustration, loss of control. That last one is a major lesson I’ve had to learn on this health journey. And while I’ve come a long way, it’s sometimes still hard for me to accept. And I think it’s even harder when you’ve had a bunch of good days in a row followed by a major plot twist. 

After I had my breakdown and accepted that I was probably going to have to spend the rest of the day in bed, I calmed down a bit.

This is once again another lesson in acceptance- accepting what is and accepting that I can’t control when symptoms flare up. The only thing I can do is change how I view the situation. 

So here it goes:

Lying in bed with extreme pain, nausea, and fatigue is the last thing I want to be doing right now. But, since there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m going to focus on a few good things. 

1) My amazing friend who, as soon as I told her what was going on, left immediately to see if our air bnb hosts had anything they could give me for the symptoms. And who double checked with me several times to see if it was OK to leave me alone while she got something to eat or did an activity. And kept asking if I wanted anything and asking what she could do for me (and went into town to buy me things that might help.) And kept coming up with ideas on how to help. I am so lucky to have friends like this. 

2) The air bnb hosts, who immediately brought up a hot water bottle and a custom tea mixture they made that would help with the pain. And who gave me a free reiki session for the pain, which helped a lot!

3) That fact that I was able to even make it to Colombia. I was too sick to travel for a few years so this is a big milestone. And the fact that I was able to be on the go for 6/7 days here is a big accomplishment. I was able to walk miles around Cartagena, do day trips that involved over 4 hours of bus rides, go hiking uphill, and ride on motor bikes- when a couple of years ago I couldn’t even get out of bed to shower. I need to remind myself how far I’ve come, and spending one day of my trip in bed isn’t the biggest deal.

4) THIS VIEW. Seriously- if I’m going to be stuck in bed all day, being stuck in an open air treehouse with the most gorgeous view isn’t the worst thing. This is by far the best view I’ve had from a bed.


I find that as soon as I shift my thinking in situations like this, my whole body starts to relax and my mind and body feel so much more peaceful. Yes, feeling like this is the absolute worst, but it will pass, as it always does, and it only makes me more aware of everything I am grateful for.