Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Laughing and crying, you know it's the same release. Joni Mitchell

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Travel Tips from the Fibro Fog

My husband and I on a helicopter tour of Kauai
Travel can be fun and exciting - but it can also be stressful. Driving to the airport, getting through security, jet lag, and getting around in unfamiliar territory can be difficult for anyone, but for someone with fibromyalgia it can be a veritable minefield of flare-ups. Any portion of the trip, even fun things like snorkeling, can deplete our energy or cause uncomfortable joint and muscle pain. My husband and I had two 5 1/2 hour plane rides on our way back home from Hawaii with a time difference of six hours. Those close encounters with all types of humanity plus the disorientation of jet lag suppressed my immune system, and I came home with a wicked cold. A few days later, I went to the Rothfeld Center and had a Vitamin C IV transfusion to boost my immune response and hopefully nip it in the bud.

Tip #1: boost your immune system while traveling with extra Vitamin C. Here's some advice on dosage from Orthomolecular:
The best way to prevent a cold is to take plenty of vitamin C. Avoiding dietary refined sugar is
Ambersweet oranges, a new cold-resistant orang...Image via Wikipedia
also helpful. One popular preventive method is to take 1,000 mg of vitamin C every eight hours. If you feel a cold coming on, take 2,000 mg of vitamin C every waking hour and continue this dosage until the cold is gone. Many people successfully use even more frequent doses. If you arrive at bowel intolerance with vitamin C (loose stool), reduce the dosage by 50 percent. Taking large quantities of vitamin C lessens the duration of the cold and its symptoms. The higher the total daily dose, the better the result. 
My doctor recommended two other supplements: Thymactiv (with bovine thymus which helps to fight any acute illness by stimulating the bodies natural defenses); Transfer Factor Basics (with colostrum, a pre-breast milk substance with antibodies to protect newborns against disease, and other prime immune supporting nutrients).

Tip #2: Educate your travel companions in how to respond to flare-ups ahead of time. My husband is an engineer-type, left-brained person who likes to know what to expect before encountering a situation. We spent a good deal of time (two sessions with our couples therapist and one with my individual therapist) in strategizing how to handle flare-ups while trying to have fun in Hawaii. One important distinction for my husband was to realize the difference between trying to "manage" my condition and supporting my condition. If I want to hike to a waterfall, even though it might cause a flare-up, that is my decision to make. I can't stop living just because I have fibromyalgia! His job is to stay supportive if that activity causes me to be overtired or achy. How does he know what to do to be supportive? We decided that it is both my responsibility to tell him what I need and it's his responsibility to ask me what I need. Communication is key!

My shaky shot of a mountain goat in Kauai
Tip #3: Decide on a code word to communicate instantly when the situation becomes overwhelming. When the plane is five hours late or your luggage is lost and the situation becomes tense, you don't always have the time or energy to explain how you are feeling in that moment. A code word or phrase tells your travel companions in an instant that the situation is becoming too stressful and you need their help to cope. We decided to use "Remember the Smirking Goat" (from The Devil tarot card) as a reminder to find the humor in any unpleasant situation. But it had to be said with a big grin. I actually invoked the smirking goat after driving around in circles trying to find our helicopter tour and it helped us both to calm down and enjoy the ride - literally! Then the coolest thing happened - while swooping through a valley in the helicopter, our pilot spied some mountain goats and hovered over them for a closer look. I snapped a quick, blurry photo, but I knew that the smirking goat had showed up to remind us to have fun, no matter what flare-ups, fights or problems arose.
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