Roadtrip – Reno Conference

Posted by Cort Johnson

I didn’t intend to blog about my trip to the conference but the trip was for me, like for other ME/CFS patients, half the battle. Several people I talked to at the conference noted how difficult travel was. My ability to travel has increased greatly over the past few years. I no longer worry about being done in by fumes at the airport or of being unable to breathe on an airplane. Nor am I worried about the physical exertion of travel – as disturbing as that can be. But this trip demonstrated how tenuous that grip on health can be.

My trip was a 600 mile journey by car from Las Vegas to Reno. Until I (somehow) got a new car two and half years ago a good part of my life revolved around dealing with the chemical sensitivities provoked by small leaks in my generally busted up and ancient cars. I thankfully escaped these problems for two years but just on the cusp of this long car trip they reared their head again; something somewhere in that maze of metal began bothering me again.

After fruitlessly searching for some sign of a leak (and cursing the car for letting me down just when I needed it most) I gulped and set off on the first stop – a three hour trip to Death Valley – and did very well. Even after being well acquainted with desert landscapes, I found Death Valley, a sunken valley right at the edge of a mountain range, strikingly beautiful.

Sensitivities have a way of creeping up on one, however, and the next morning the odor seemed to be everywhere and I was nauseous within 20 minutes. With Reno over 4 hours away this was real trouble. Meditative techniques I learned from the Amygdala Retraining program and other venues, however, proved to be helpful. An attempt to directly focus my attention on each symptom worked. Deep breathing helped at well as did a technique utilizing ‘distraction’. Each time I was able to successfully invoke these techniques my body (and my mind) would calm down a bit and I would feel better.

One of the chief nausea inducing factors for me is a shortened breathing pattern. Exposure to chemicals appears to short-circuit my normal breathing pattern – shortening it and pushing it ‘upwards’ into my chest. Each of these techniques helped to relax my torso allow a deeper breathing pattern to prevail. The wind itself also helped reduce the fume level in the car putting it all together I arrived in Reno in decent shape.

The I-95 route from Vegas to Reno has been described by some as numbingly boring but I found the long vistas and sparse landscapes enticing. One of the most sparsely settled parts of the US it’s a part of America few have seen. Indeed I was probably better off than many of the people I passed on the way. The desert is beautiful but small town Nevada is in terrible shape.

With the snow lining the hills to the west Reno, however, was a treat. Except for the second day my sensitivities were mostly held in check throughout the conference – a far cry from the Fort Lauderdale conference in which I was hammered every time I stepped into that hotel.

The trip home was relatively uneventful but once I got into Vegas again, with its polluted air, the nausea rose again. The day after the trip was, oddly enough, the worst. This time even a small amount of physical exertion caused further nausea. As my sensitivities get worse it seems like my entire system is set on a hair trigger; the wrong odor or activity or even the wrong thought can sends waves of nausea spiraling through my system.

Again I noticed the autonomic problems; the shallow breathing, the rigid torso, etc. Using meditational techniques to re-insert a more normal breathing pattern was helpful again. They seem to be one way to consciously fight the autonomic and other dysfunctions occurring.

Next Up; “Coming Home” Dr. Peterson Delivers a Stirring Address to Open the Conference

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