Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Go to your happy place

You know how visualizations for air travel (and other) anxiety often recommend you go to your happy place? Pretend you're not on a plane? I can tell you right now: bullsh*t. No way, no how, do those work for me.

I just got back from visiting my dad, and the trip convinced me that the airsickness to which I've always been prone is getting too awful to handle on my own. I need to get some help, and some serious, prescription-strength meds. I can't even describe the misery. Even drugged to the gills with Bonine or Dramamine, I'm a mess: shaking, sweating, gulping in deep breaths of air, and convinced I'm going to vomit every second of some descents, while in others I can relatively easily keep it together. I never know which it's going to be, and my life-long history of being so ill during flights has made it worse and worse, so I work myself up into a state of terror before most flights.

Okay, taking a deep breath. I feel nauseous just *talking* about airsickness. I joke that it's just exhausting trying to keep the airplane up in the air by sheer will-power, and that's why I need a full day to recover from any flight, but it's not really a conscious fear of the plane dropping out of mid-air. I know that it won't. Really I do! It's that my body, for some reason super-sensitive to that feeling of the plane fighting gravity, anticipates every bobble to be a possibly endless freefall. That's why the only visualization that helps is for me to imagine that the wobbles and bumps are of wheels on a road. I have to visualize that I'm somehow in more control than I really am: I can see the horizon, as if I'm on a bus or something, watching the countryside whizz by. Even flying the plane, visualizing that I can control the forward trajectory, is a better imagined scenario to stave off the panic.

So I have steadily been accumulating an arsenal of precautions and strategies to not let the airsickness get the upper hand. Eating something bready before the flight, taking an anti-emetic, taking a mild muscle-relaxant, bringing a baguette or crackers for the flight, staying hydrated, chewing gum, keeping my head still and looking out toward the horizon, deep breathing, visualizations, noise-cancelling headphones. Geez, what a neurotic mess. I wonder if perfume could be part of this arsenal. I mean, why not? It could be put to good use that way.

Believe me, I've tried all those homeopathic motion sickness remedies like the acupressure wristbands, ginger, peppermint, etc. etc. All useless when you're talking neurosis of this magnitude. But I did find that one recent flight was made a little more bearable when I huffed on my vintage Rumeur. (I didn't wear enough of it to assault anyone else's nose on the plane.) I have to wonder if perhaps this animalic carnation scent that I've been so fascinated by lately has therapeutic qualities. I find the costus in it to be a very comforting skin/body odor scent, myself, although I know most would not find those notes to be anything like a comfort scent.

It's probably just that my familiarity with and affection for my vintage juice calms me and distracts me from my misery. But it made me curious: how do other people calm themselves on plane flights, and do others use perfume as aromatherapy in stressful situations? Do you have a scent that you wear when you fly? Do you find aromatherapy oils to be useful when you're anxious, or do you consider Cristalle aromatherapy? Or do you say to hell with aromatherapy, just never fly sober, like my friend M.? Personally, I would prefer to be knocked unconscious upon strapping myself into my seat, because I hate hangovers. But until that great day, I'm hoping you, dear reader, have suggestions or experiences regarding how to survive air travel or other similarly stressful situations. Because I *gulp* have to get back on a plane again in less than a month for my dad's wedding.

Thanks! And happy travel season!


Olfacta said...

All perfume is aromatherapy to me. But your plight sounds so awful. Isn't vertigo/nausea related to the inner ear? Maybe an ENT doctor or even a neurologist would have some suggestions.

I'm lucky enough not to get airsick, just sick of air travel, and I have what I call "endure mode," a sort of robotic, poker-faced state of being which helps me get through endless security and other lines. Deep breath, all that. On the really long flights I've been known to resort to prescription drugs. But your problem sounds much more serious than most; more than simple anxiety. There must be some medically-based treatment for it.

Aimée L'Ondée said...

I agree -- all perfume is aromatherapy for me too. And I think you're right, Olfacta -- there must be something I can do, either medically or maybe with behavior therapy or something. I have an appointment on Monday with my doctor, as a matter of fact!

ScentScelf said...

Okay, remedies from pregnancy: Eating/sucking on/smelling the rinds of orange. (Kid you not...and the aromatherapeutic value of neroli as uplift and calmer is known.) Acupressure bracelet. Taping or holding your nose, like athletes do, do let more air more easily come in (when we get nervous, we tend to constrict breating).

Aromatherapy could of course include a cotton swab in a vial, soaked in peppermint, or chamomile (roman), or a calming blend that you know works for you.

What do you sip to soothe yourself whilst grounded? Perhaps being sure to have something like that on hand will both connect to a familiar ritual, AND help keep you hydrated (which also helps fend off queasy/nerves/airplane suck).

How are you doing in your search?

Aimée L'Ondée said...

Scentself, thank you for the suggestions! I like the orange rinds idea--I do find that a calming scent. I drink a lot of ginger ale before/during the flight, and I always have a water bottle, of course. Little sips of cool water is supposed to help nausea, too.

My search progress has been: went straight to primary care physician, who recommended Xanax plus Meclizine (same thing as in Bonine) drug combo. I said: yes please. Sign me up. I tried it out, and the combo (Meclizine is essentially an antihistamine) makes me kinda groggy, but I'll take that over yakking on the plane. I don't like feeling drugged up, but this is the ONE situation in my life where I'll take better living through chemistry.