Today’s post was written by Elaine Schlissel, a MdDS and migraine sufferer. She disembarked with MdDS after a one-week Alaskan cruise in June 2010 but is enjoying a second long-term remission. Please note that when it comes to benzos, “Your Mileage May Vary.”
Written from 33,000 feet above the Midwest:
The days of flying as a simple, routine act of boarding a plane in City A and arriving in City B on-time are long over. Airline deregulation and the centralized hub-and-spoke system have improved the airline profit margins, but the unexpected outcome is that now there is a much greater chance for things to go wrong. Bottlenecks and delays are the rule rather than the exception. Fewer carriers with fewer planes flying to the same destination mean almost every seat on every flight is sold. Many airlines charge for checked luggage, the boarding process is more hectic, and passengers fight to find space in overhead compartments. The physical conditions in economy class are uncomfortable and, even on lengthy flights, food service usually consists of small packaged unhealthy snacks. A broken taillight on a plane in Milwaukee at 6 a.m. can cause long delays on a flight leaving Fort Lauderdale at 6:00 p.m., and forget about it if there’s snow in Chicago.
To quote my neurologist, “Flying is a nightmare for my migraine patients. Recycled air, pressurized cabins, crowds, fluorescent lights, and the inner ear pressure from ascending and descending. It’s a wonder that everyone doesn’t get a migraine.” Throw in claustrophobia due to shrinking seat size, a screaming infant, a five-year-old constantly kicking the back of your seat, a woman with an ominous sounding cough next to you, and an obese man eating a garlic sandwich, and you have the recipe for an unpleasant trip.
Those of us with MdDS also need to consider the other motion experiences required when we fly. Mass transit to the airport is usually available and mostly reliable, but can mean a bumpy subway, train or bus ride. If you drive to the airport and leave the car at an offsite parking facility, you must take a shuttle bus to get to your terminal. Why are there no shock absorbers on these buses and why do the drivers think they are in the Indy 500???
Navigating through large airports requires escalators, trams, trains, people movers, and walking through crowded terminals while dragging carry-on suitcases and laptops. Upon arrival at your destination airport, you have to again navigate from the gate to the main terminal and travel to your hotel. Each change from one mode of transportation to another can confuse our brains.
I recommend discussing your upcoming travel plans with your physician. He or she may suggest starting a low dose of a benzo a few days before each flight and a few days after your arrival at each destination. For a short trip, this means that you will be on benzos for several consecutive days. Don’t forget that MdDS symptoms often start, worsen, or recur AFTER the motion stops. So, ironically, even when you’re safely back at home and you feel okay, you aren’t “home free” yet. If you are traveling with children or you need to drive a car, please ignore this paragraph!
I have done a lot better with travel since I started doing arriving at my destination a day early. The extra night’s hotel stay is costly but it’s important to rest and recover from all the motion, as well as adjust to any time zone change. You will be sorely tempted to hit the ground running instead of relaxing but, at minimum, allow for some downtime before the wedding festivities or the business meetings begin. By structuring a rest period, you will function better during the most important days of your trip. After your return home, try to ease into your routine slowly. The laundry can wait!
Since MdDS entered my life five years ago, I have been very selective about flying. I’ve learned that it is easy to underestimate the exhaustion from travel and it is very hard to overcome the physical and mental stress that is inevitable.
Since I live in Atlanta and have a 2 ½ year old grandson and a granddaughter expected in a few months, I know I’ll be traveling to California as often as I can and for as many years that I can. So I am glad to have found a workable travel strategy that has keeps me rock free and migraine free.
With best wishes for safe and symptom-free travels to you all,
MdDS and migraines
One week Alaskan cruise, June 2010
In second long-term remission