About the Author: Riss is a travel enthusiast, foodie, and chronic illness warrior. Because chronic illness has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, she made it her goal to raise awareness by sharing her story on social media and inviting others to do the same. She also has a podcast called Chronically Riss, where she discusses the very real challenges and struggles of navigating life with chronic illness.
My Chronic Illness Journey
Hello everyone, my name is Riss, and today I want to share with you what I carry in my everyday backpack. I live with multiple chronic illnesses, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Mast Cell and Mitochondrial Myopathy, and I find that my health can go from pretty normal to "I'm gonna pass out" in the blink of an eye. I got to a point where I was scared to leave the house. The "what if's" terrified me because I never wanted to be in a situation where I couldn't help myself if my body decided not to cooperate.
After weeks of trying to figure out how to overcome my fear of leaving the house, I put together my own emergency backpack. This emergency backpack has come to be my everyday backpack now, but I make sure that it is always with me. Even if I feel fine, I will still bring it wherever I go and leave it in the car or somewhere close. Today, I want to share my essential guide of what to pack in your backpack in case you are traveling or just running everyday errands with a chronic illness.
What to Pack in Your Backpack:
- Change of Clothes: The first thing I always make sure to keep in my backpack is a spare dressing change and supplies for my port. My Care+Wear Port Access Shirt is also always in there when I'm not wearing it. It's super easy to slip on and unzip if I need to administer medication or fluids — especially when I'm in public, so I don't have to reach down my shirt to get to my line.
- Compression Sleeves: Next, I have a pair of compression sleeves. These bad boys come in handy when I go walking around the mall or will be on my feet for a bit. They help keep my blood from pooling in my lower extremities, which keeps my dizziness at bay. I also keep a cooling towel in my backpack. It's small and can be rolled up, but if I get overheated or it's warm out, I can pour some water on it and boom! Instantly feel better with the cold towel on my neck or chest.
- Water and Snacks: Staying hydrated and keeping my blood sugar up is always something I struggle with, so I make sure to keep a water bottle and a few snacks in the side pocket of my backpack. It's just nice to know if you're out somewhere and can't eat at the moment; you can at least reach in your backpack and nibble on something to get you through! Some of the snacks I pack in my bag are pumpkin seeds, granola bars, and fruit snacks if I need some sugar!
- Medication: Migraines and joint pain are also a massive part of my chronic illness symptoms, so I keep a little pill pack with a variety of medication in my bag. I have some Tylenol arthritis to keep joint pain at bay, Midodrine for when I feel dizzy, Imodium for when my sensitive tummy doesn't agree with something, and whatever other pills I may need. I think this is the most important thing in my backpack because my body is so unpredictable. I always feel a bit more reassured that I'll be okay when I'm prepared with any of the meds I may need.
- Face Mask: The next thing I always keep in my backpack is a face mask. Aside from helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, masks can be super helpful for a lot of chronic illness warriors like myself, who get sensory overload which can trigger their symptoms. I personally am extremely sensitive to smells and loud noises. When I feel overwhelmed by smells, I put my mask on and it helps me blockout whatever smell is bothering me or making me feel nauseous.
- Headphones: Another thing I use when I get sensory overload are my headphones. They help cancel out a lot of the noise and allow me just to take a moment to collect myself and ease my anxiety. Plus, listening to calming music can be really helpful if you're feeling anxious or stressed out — I personally listen to meditation music if I am feeling overwhelmed and try to focus on my breathing.
- Hand Sanitizer: The last thing I always keep in my backpack is hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is a must-have for people with chronic illness because something as simple as the common cold can knock our compromised immune systems down for longer than normal. And it helps stop the spread of germs, which is extra important during the pandemic!
Now You're Ready to Go!
I hope you got some good ideas and were inspired to put your own backpack/bag together to give you a bit more peace of mind when you are out of your comfort zone. I love to share my chronic illness hacks and raise awareness for our community of warriors. Not all disabilities and illnesses are visible, and it's important that those who look "healthy" are not dismissed because of their outward appearance. Stay strong and keep fighting!
What are some of your backpack essentials that you never leave the house without? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from the Care+Wear community!