Living in Wisconsin: A Protesting Crash Course

I apologize for my absence from blogging – my life has been hijacked by history. Namely, the political protests that have descended upon Madison, Wisconsin. You see, I happen to live in Wisconsin and I am one of those protestors, even though I am not a public employee or a union member.

This is a travel blog, not a political blog, so I have refrained from writing while my energy and attention have been elsewhere. However, it has occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to share some of what I’ve learned about protesting with a chronic medical condition. Whatever cause you are supporting or opposing, whatever your political leanings, Republican or Democrat or Independent, conservative or moderate or liberal or impossible-to-fit-into-a-convenient-political-box (which would describe me), I think it’s important that we are able to exercise our rights as Americans to peacefully assemble and have a voice in our political process. Living with the daily struggle and limits of a chronic medical condition – in my case fibromyalgia – shouldn’t be an obstacle to making your voice heard.

So here’s what I’ve learned about protesting in the middle of a Wisconsin winter while struggling through the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.

– Check the weather report and dress accordingly. You must be prepared to stand outside without reprieve from the weather, rain, sun, snow, or sleet. In my case, I found myself protesting in the middle of a big snowstorm that pounded the northern states. It was cold. Can’t-feel-my-feet-do-I-have-frostbite cold. I wore two layers of thick socks and waterproof hiking boots. My feet stayed toasty warm. I did not plan so smartly at last night’s rally – it took three hours of heating pads and blankets for the needles of pain to disappear. Opps. Lesson learned – check the weather and plan ahead.

Dress for the weather

– Always layer your clothing. If it’s hot, you can peel off coats and sweatshirts; if it starts to rain or snow, throw the layers back on. Hats, gloves and scarves are easy to pack and essential for fighting off a bitter wind. Trust me – after just an hour of standing in the cold, your face, ears, and fingers will thank you. On the flip side, if it’s a hot summer day when heat stroke could be a real concern, make sure you  have sunscreen, a hat, and water.

– Allow yourself to take breaks. You have a health concern and if you are going to be any help to your cause, whatever it might be, you need to take care of yourself. It does not mean you are letting your fellow protestors down. On a hot day, find an air-conditioned store or restaurant to take a break. On a bitterly cold day, put down your sign and slip into a coffee shop – the soothing heat of a cup of coffee seeping renewal into your hands works wonders. Take breaks that allow you to sit down and rest your legs and back. Hours of standing can really strain your muscles.

– Pack a small messenger bag or backpack with protesting essentials – a filled water bottle, healthy protein-packed snacks like trail mix, sunscreen, lip balm, a hat, and cold weather wraps.

– Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you. Also make sure the soles grip surfaces well, like hiking boots. I received a painful reminder that tracking snow and water on a marble floor is a lethal mix.

Follow in their footsteps and wear sensible shoes.

– If you are susceptible to noise, like I am, pack earplugs, especially if you will be protesting indoors. Standing in the middle of the Wisconsin state capital building’s rotunda is truly amazing – an experience I will always cherish, but the pounding headache was truly astronomical – bring earplugs.

Protests are unavoidably loud - bring earplugs.

– Don’t allow the emotion and passion of the moment to overcome your common sense. Pay attention to your body. If you are overly fatigued, it is time to take a break. I was planning on heading down to Madison today, but I slept through my alarm. Obviously my body is trying to tell me something. Recharge your batteries, nap, eat healthy, and take pride in the fact you are doing something and making your voice heard.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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2 Responses to Living in Wisconsin: A Protesting Crash Course

  1. Andrea says:

    Great post! Love the pictures.

    I’d also add 3 more tips:

    -Stay hydrated – regardless of the weather, you’re going to be up and moving around for a long time. It’s even easier to become dehydrated in the cold as in the heat, because you don’t always feel the moisture leaving your body (as sweat). It’s easier to become fatigued and go from zero to crappy in 60 seconds when you’re dehydrated.

    -Remember meds – Whether it’s simple ibuprofen & Benadryl, or something more mission-critical like an epi pen or inhalor, you’ll be grateful that you have them and cursing (or worse) if you don’t. This from the girl who has carried ibuprofen with her at all times since age 12.

    -Make sure you have your ID and insurance card with you. As someone with a chronic illness, you are more likely than others to need emergency medical services without much notice. Especially useful if you’re leaving your hometown to get your protest on, like Karina did.

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