The wind outside is whipping at a good 30m/h and the waves here in the bay are building. I am inside my house sitting on a chair that doesn't move and am noticing the effects of an over the counter medication for motionsickness I am testing. Since I have never taken any of these recommended drugs, I want to know the effects while I am within reasonable vicinity of a doctor or a hospital. For me, the biggest challenge for my Antarctica journey is the Drake passage. 4- 6 story high waves for about 36 hours feels unsettling. Although I know seasickness isn't really a sickness but a reaction of the body to too many differing signals in the inner ear, I am still apprehensive.
Earlier this year traveling to Copper Mountain in Colorado, my body reacted surprisingly strong to the high altitude. I was sick for exactly 48 hours and then, as if a switch flipped, I felt great. I had to ride out the uncomfortable course of my body adjusting to oxygen deprived air. Between lying in bed and kneeling over the toilet bowl, I visualized my body adapting to this new high altitude environment. Deep breath, relax into the process, don't tighten, no need to brace, deep breath... I visualized blood cells becoming more receptive and efficient, I imagined oxygen flowing into my body. I kept telling myself that I can trust my body's inherent intelligence and that it, just like in childbirth, knows how to handle this and adapt.
Now, as I am facing seasickness I am curious if I can apply the same strategy. I was re-reading Lynn Cox' report on how she handled the rough seas of the Drake passage on her way to Antarctica where she was to swim her arctic mile. She too described how she tucked herself into her cot, closed her eyes and visualized being rocked to sleep. It worked for her, of course it did - the power of the mind in addition to being in synch with your body, your breath works. Trusting in nature works.
I am realizing that a big part of my anxiety toward crossing the Drake passage really is curiosity. How will my body react? What does it feel like to be rocked by two oceans (Atlantic and Pacific meet in the narrow Drake passage) at the same time?
While I am curious I also want to be prepared. I want to have a choice. The choice of riding it out and witnessing my body's inherent intelligence at work or pharmacy interfering with the body 's response to conflicting kinesthetic information. Since I have to cross the Drake twice I might want to experience both.
When I took my first Dramamine (over the counter motionsickness) tablet last week I waited an hour as indicted and then spun really fast in a chair. Normally dizziness sets in really quickly for me. After about 30 seconds I thought I got dizzy until I realized that it was my mind tricking me. The power of association kicked in. For me, spinning equaled dizzy and nausea - learned behavior. Short of knocking me completely out, I don't think there is a drug that could transcend this power of association. Only I could, with conscious reconditioning. So I kept spinning while telling myself that all is ok. Open mind, no anticipation, open mind, where is my breath?
I got up after several minutes of spinning fast and was fine, short of a bit of lightheadedness. Was this feeling of lightheadedness caused by the medication or me being in a new non-habitual paradigm? Who am I without the intolerance of spinning?
Last night I tested the second over the counter drug for motionsickness: Shaws' own store brand Equaline. It contains of 25mg Meclizine HCL, versus Dramamine that's made up of 50 mg Dimenhydranite. I took the tablet an hour before bedtime since I already was feeling a bit out of it and thought this might be a good test. I felt a bit wired, just as the package said "Compared to Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula". So I dove into my reading: Sarah Wheeler's Terra Incognita alternating with William Fox' Terra Antarctica. It took me several hours to fall asleep. This morning I woke up feeling dizzy and tired, completely out of it. I wonder whether this was caused by the drug or just by me staying up late, thinking about all this and the wind outside. Hard to tell, so I throw the Equaline package on the "to pack" pile to bring on my excursion, just in case.
I have the scopalamine patches left to try . The rest of my repertoire, made up of aromatherapy oils and acupressure bands, I trust without land trial since I understand how these work with my body. I can visualize the support and enjoy the good smells that I always associate with strength, ease and well being.
While writing this, an experience from a trip to the Chiapas rainforest about 25 years ago comes to my mind. Joan Halifax was guiding the 5 day hiking journey deep into the Chiapas rainforest. At the entrance of the rainforest, the beginning of a narrow path at the outskirt of the last village, we,stood in a circle and shared our biggest fears related to this journey. Many of us were afraid of snakes. Along the journey we encountered only one snake that was beautifully draped across the path. Since we were walking with alert eyes and mindful steps we saw the snake from a good distance. We paused, observed as it slithered across the path and disappeared in the thick of the forest. What really went under our skin were the swarms of mosquitos. They wear you down as they swarm incessantly and bite any part of your body that's not well covered. It took several days for my body to adapt to the local environment and the mosquitos lost interest in me. Once my body had eliminated all the smells of my western life style, after bathing in the stream without soap and eating the local foods provided by the women in the Lacandon village we visited for several days, I wasn't bothered by the mosquitos anymore. They now recognized me as part of the local environment. My body had adapted without me interfering. I had to get out of my own way and leave habits and products behind. Less was more.
I am wondering if crossing the Drake passage toward Antarctica will be like the path into the rainforest. The liminal space where worlds collide, fears surface, where room for the new is created. Endless potential and possibilities. Each one of these transitional pathways seem to have their own time of uproar and settling. 48 hours to adapt to high altitude, 4 days to adapt to mosquitos in the rainforest, 36 hours to Antarctica?