Post-Vacation Stress Syndrome

At the end of March, Justin and I took a little 5-day vacation to Puerto Rico. I had simply reached my limit with work and, more importantly, the winter weather in NYC. I couldn't take another week of trudging to the train under overcast skies, muscles sore from the burden of coats and bags, shaking my fist at unpredictable radiator heat. That's when I found out PR has 80 degree weather year round. Why do we not all live there?!

In PR, we rented a condo right on the beach. We swam in turquoise water. We slept at will and often. We harvested our own coconuts. We drank crappy lite beer and sweet pina coladas and ate more fried beef products than should be legal. Best of all, everything seemed possible. We talked about all the places we could travel, visit, live, and discussed lots of little projects we had dreamed up. We enjoyed every minute of each others company. Then on day 5, when we were finally in the groove and had shed most of our New York grime and worries, we realized we had to go home the next day.

On the way to the airport, I slammed by elbow on a metal bar in the rental car shuttle, and basically lost it. Yes, it hurt like hell and was turning black, but my emotional state was clearly fragile. I realized that my overreaction was due to the fact that I didn't want to go back to New York. It felt like a sentence, not a homecoming.

Back in New York, I was in a funk for a week. I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to work. All of the little things that I found frustrating in my life (the limited space in our apartment, the car alarms, train delays) were magnified by ten. I could feel myself falling back into my old routines, worries, and mental limitations. That song, "Is That All There Is?" played on repeat in my head. Worst of all, it was still winter in New York.

After a few days of that, I self-prescribed lots of activity to keep myself distracted and entertained. I went to one friend's musical performance, helped another paint her new apartment, went out for dinners and drinks, signed up for a class, and joined the local community garden with Justin. I wanted to remind myself of all the things New York has to offer -- even if 80 degree weather in April isn't one of them.

But here's what it comes down to: how does one differentiate between back-in-NYC-itis, and general post-vacation come-down (which I assume is universal)? I mean, no matter where you live, the point of a vacation is to take your mind off of work and the daily stresses of "normal" life. So would I still have been depressed if I were arriving back home in, say, Boulder, CO? Austin, TX? Burlington, VT?

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Comment by Anna on October 11, 2011 at 11:46pm
I can answer this question now! I don't live in New York any more, and I have taken a few vacations and come back to my new home. And the answer is a resounding YES, there is a difference. Coming back to my home in Asheville means coming back to a calm, beautiful refuge. Instead of being assaulted by noisy trains and smelly streets, I'm welcomed by my little cat and the green backyard. Of course there are still daily stresses - work, bills, etc. - but they are within a context that is much easier.

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