With apologies to Douglas Adams…he was absolutely right.
Regarding the Everything Went Horribly Wrong post, I forgot to add one thing I did right–I didn’t panic. Even as I lay there on the floor of the ladies room, unable to speak coherently, behind my sheet-white face I kept hold of a certain level of calm.
Not panicking is crucial to getting out of a bad situation when something goes wrong on the road. That goes double when the thing that’s gone wrong has to do with your health. Panic causes nothing but problems, both inside and out. Panicky people tend to hyperventilate, heart rate and blood pressure spike, adrenaline pours into the bloodstream, other hormones fluctuate, muscles and fascia tense and knot up, headaches appear out of nowhere, and pain magnifies.
If you’ve got a health flare-up already in progress, the physical symptoms of panic…don’t make it better.
Panic also tends to lead to yelling, crying, and out-of-control emotional responses. Again, speaking from experience–none of this helps make a pain flare better. It doesn’t help the people around you to assist you either, whether those are kindly strangers or your family and friends. Panic certainly doesn’t make travel problems go away–it usually makes them worse.
Despite the friendly letters emblazoned across The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it can be tough not to panic when a sudden health flare hits in a strange location. For me, in Atlanta it wasn’t that hard. I was in my home country, everybody spoke my language, my cell phone was charged and in my purse with me and had my pain doc’s phone number in it, my pain meds were also in my purse, and airports tend to have EMTs and ambulances (just in case things had gotten worse rather than better).
So if you’re caught in the midst of a flare-up in a less friendly place on the road, do the best you can. Now’s a good time to practice 4-4, meditation, or yoga breathing. As much as you can, try to relax your muscles. If possible, get your key meds out and take them (if appropriate). Let kind strangers be of assistance. If circumstances allow, ask if there’s someplace nearby that’s quiet and private where you might lie down for a while. Try to deal with only one thing at a time–getting up, getting to a quiet place, getting water and food, getting comfortable, taking medication…give yourself permission to relax as best you can and do these things one at a time rather than worrying about getting them done all at once.
Finally, keep on not panicking if your flare ends up changing your travel plans. Miss a flight? There will be another plane. Late for a show or exhibition? Ask about transferring your tickets to another day; and if that’s not possible–oh well. Stuff happens. Miss a dinner reservation? What with the health flare, a room service meal or take-out would probably be a better idea anyway.
Responding to a health flare by panicking doesn’t make the flare go away, nor does it make dealing with flare-related issues on the road any easier. So try not to bother. Ford Prefect would be proud.