Having grown up 600 miles from the nearest ocean, I remember my first time on a boat very clearly. The ocean-obsessed 11-year-old me couldn’t have been more excited for my first deep sea fishing excursion out in the Gulf of Mexico. I mean, Free Willy had just come out–I was losing my cool. Speeding out into the ocean standing at the front of the boat, crashing waves all around me, wind in my hair, that was the most exhilarated I’d ever felt. (A feeling I still get every time I’m on a boat. Even if I am hundreds of miles from the nearest killer whale.)
When it was time to drop our lines, I was the first person on the very full boat to catch a fish. Almost immediately afterwards I started violently throwing up into a garbage can. I ended up spending the next six hours with a 55-gallon trash can next to my head, trying to sleep on a bench in an attempt to keep my insides intact. But… that didn’t happen to young Jason James Richter!
And so went every single boat trip I took after that. (Why did I keep going on boats, you ask? Because optimism, a love of the ocean, and straight-up denial.) I’d always be the first person on the boat to catch a fish (I think that was the universe quite literally throwing me a bone) then the motion sickness would hit me so fast and so furiously that I’d spend the rest of the “full day trip” puking off the back of the boat with a revolving door of perfect strangers coming to check on me. So. Mortifying.
Raise your hand if you know exactly what that feels like. 🙌🏼
Unfortunately for me, the fact that I grew up nowhere near an ocean didn’t help my cause. Though the boat version was the worst of them all (living in Florida later on was REAL FUN), I still spent the first 30 years of my life suffering from debilitating motion sickness in cars, on trains, on roller coasters, in airplanes, you name it. If it moved, you’d be seeing what I had for lunch.
Now, add in a love of travel. Think about a typical travel day which often goes like: car ride to the airport, a flight or two to reach your destination, then a train ride to the city from the airport on the outskirts of town, then a cab ride to the hotel from the train station. In short, traveling was both my love and my nightmare. You’d think that after traveling so much you’d be able to build up a tolerance to motion sickness but nooooo, that shit only works for spicy foods and alcoholism. Needless to say, motion sickness was an ever-present threat in my life, for my whole life.
IN SEARCH OF A PERMANENT MOTION SICKNESS CURE: WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Over the course of thirty years, you can imagine that I tried EVERYTHING imaginable in search of a permanent motion sickness cure. Among my search for a solution I tried:
⇢ Dramamine | Dramamine ’twas but a temporary solution that worked by simply knocking me out cold. Sure, I’d spend a few hours not throwing up, but how fun is a theme park when you’re asleep on a bench? (True story.) How beautiful is a drive through the Tuscan hills when you can’t see through the brain fog? How interesting in the new city you just landed in when arrive comatose?
⇢ Ginger | Ginger apparently is great for motion sickness-associated nausea. I took ginger capsules daily in hopes of finding a permanent motion sickness cure that would fit seamlessly into my life and had no serious side effects. They “worked” for about as long as I could convince myself they were working (which wasn’t long enough.) I really tried to Jedi-mind-trick the hell out of those little pills but apparently the force is not strong with this one.
⇢ Acupressure wristbands | These are wristbands you wear that put pressure on a certain point on your wrists… and somehow this is supposed to magically stop “motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy induced nausea.” This makes absolutely zero sense to me and all those blue bracelets do is single you out to everyone else on your boat that you’re probably going to start puking soon. I don’t know about you, but my motion sickness was so bad ain’t nobody got time for Eastern medicine.
⇢ Looking at the horizon | Amongst the revolving door of perfect strangers who would come to check on my well being, there would always be at least one person who’d say, “Just look at the horizon. That’ll stop your seasickness.” OH, OKAY, IS THAT ALL? How foolish of me to think motion sickness was so much more than simply where I looked.” 🙄
⇢ Scopolamine patches | I don’t even know where to start with these little Hell patches. Scopolamine patches (sometimes called Transderm Scop) are the small round patches you put behind your ears to prevent motion sickness. First of all, these by-prescription-only patches are just a temporary motion sickness solution used during certain activities—like, for instance, during your honeymoon in Hawaii when you don’t want to be puking all over your new husband.
I don’t know ON WHAT PLANET these work for anyone. Using the Scopolamine patches was a nightmare in the purest sense of the word. Think your motion sickness can’t get any worse? Throw in a Scopolamine patch. Believe it or not, using the Scopolamine patches made me so much sicker. Did you know one of the side effects of the Scopolamine patches is nausea? Just kill me.
Besides that, the patches made my vision blur (I straight up couldn’t see for two days), gave me unbearable dry mouth, and made me constantly dizzy (as in, 48-hour vertigo—I couldn’t walk a straight line for two days). Oh, but the funnest part? Removing them will make the side effects WORSE, severe withdrawal symptoms and all. What a romantic way to start a new marriage!
⇢ Seeking professional help | Having spent a lifetime suffering from motion sickness and trying every conceivable remedy, I visited my general practitioner. Now, I knew there was nothing new she could tell me, but my hope was maybe there was a permanent motion sickness cure she could prescribe me.
It was when she pulled out her phone and Googled “How to cure motion sickness” RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME that I knew seeking out a solution to this bullshit was a lost cause. (Yes, she has a medical degree, and no, I never went back to her again.)
⇢ Not going anywhere at all ever | It was starting to look like the only permanent motion sickness cure that definitively worked was not going anywhere, ever. Which, for anyone who is not a recluse, doesn’t work at all.
IN SEARCH OF A PERMANENT MOTION SICKNESS CURE: MY BREAKING POINT
By the time I hit 30, I’d tried everything there was to try in search of a permanent motion sickness cure. I’d accepted the fact that being nauseous much of the time was just my crappy reality–like the way some people have acne well into their 30s (also me) or food allergies (well look at that, also me). Until… an epiphany.
One night my husband and I took the 10-minute train into Boston to have dinner in the North End. And guess what? I got sick (from the train ride, not the Italian food). By the time dinner was over I was back to normal… until, on the walk back to the train station, I started to get nauseous. But wait—I hadn’t even set foot on the train yet? Just the thought of riding the train made me sick.
It was at that very moment I started to consider that perhaps my problem wasn’t purely physical. I pondered this for the entire cab ride back home (during which I sat up front with the driver, trying to keep my mozzarella to myself) and, by the time we’d reach our destination, I’d resolved to seek mental help. Specifically, a hypnotherapist.
Obviously, I was at my wits end. I’d tried EVERYTHING ELSE and I was 30-years sick of this shit. At this point, I was willing to try anything, even if it was something as cuckoo as hypnosis. What helped me decide to go along with this was the fact that I was currently working with a woman who, through hypnotherapy, lost over 100 lbs and had completely changed her eating habits. She made it seem so normal and I could see the results with my own eyes.
I didn’t know how hypnosis worked or in what world it would be able to help me, all I knew was that I got motion sickness simply from fearing I was about to get motion sickness. That told me: something ain’t right upstairs.
THE PERMANENT MOTION SICKNESS CURE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
The very next day (sleep did nothing to convince me my decision to try hypnotherapy was cray cray) I found a psychologist in Boston, through my insurance provider, who also specialized in hypnotherapy and made an appointment. A few sessions later and I was cured of my motion sickness completely, 100%, I kid you not. I couldn’t believe it myself. My husband couldn’t believe it. Even the doctor—who had worked mostly with compulsive eaters, those with phobias, and chronic pain sufferers, never someone with motion sickness—was shocked by my transformation.
Can I explain how psychology helped cure a seemingly physical ailment? Not really. But the fact that my therapist diagnosed me with agoraphobia might help. As it turns out, much of my nausea was the result of anxiety… anxiety that was caused by the fear of getting motion sickness. I was literally making myself sick. Because adult acne and food allergies weren’t enough fun!
Now, I know you’re thinking that can’t be true. That some of the motion sickness must actually come from the imbalance between visual and internal perceptions. That some of the motion sickness is, indeed, physical. And that’s what I thought too. I thought maybe the hypnotherapy could help with the anxiety-induced nausea, but that I’d still never get to ride on a boat without barfing. Until I did. And then did again. And again. Boats! Boats! Boats!
I tell you this to say: no matter how much you believe your motion sickness is purely physical, hypnotherapy is worth. a. shot. You never know until you try and all you have to lose is a little bit of cash. Also, what if. What if it does work? What if it changes your life and you’re free to travel as you please? What if you could finally go on a cruise or a roller coaster or act out Free Willy on the high seas?
WHAT HYPNOTHERAPY IS NOT
Essentially, hypnotherapy is nothing like your preconceived notions. It is not making you cluck like a chicken. It is not making you moon someone when you hear a doorbell. No one is going to swing a pocket watch back and forth in front of you and they’re not going to say things like, “You are getting verrrrry sleepy.” They don’t need to. I’m awake aren’t I? Ergo, I’m sleepy.
When I started seeing my doctor, I became the patient of an actual, licensed clinical psychologist who just happened to use hypnotherapy as one of her treatment methods—not a kook from a late night TV ad.
Hypnotherapy is not scary and, despite popular belief, you’re conscious and in control the entire time. You’re awake and lucid and interacting with your doctor. You’re not being manipulated or brainwashed. You won’t be forced into any unpleasant or embarrassing situations. That’s what the gynecologist is for.
WHAT HYPNOTHERAPY IS
The hypnotherapy page on Psychology Today gives a pretty great summarized explanation of what to expect but, basically, hypnotherapy is a form of guided meditation in which you learn to use your own thoughts to combat real-world issues.
You know how sometimes you’ll drive a long distance and realize you have no idea how you got there? That’s hypnosis. You don’t remember the drive because your thoughts were focused on some other topic, but obviously you stopped at all the red lights, turned where you were supposed to turn, and didn’t hit anyone. You were both focused inward mentally yet operating physically.
During hypnosis, you’ll be guided into a seriously relaxed state (the most relaxed you’ve ever been, actually) and presented with certain real life situations. You’ll then be guided through solutions to those problems that will help change the way you perceive troublesome situations in real life. The whole time you’ll be conversing with your doctor, in total control, and able to wake up and walk out if you so please (but you won’t want to because, as I said, it’ll be the most relaxed you’ve ever been).
As with all types of medical intervention, every patient is different. For me, it took only a couple of sessions before I was a completely motion sickness-free human being. I can still remember the first time I noticed it had worked. I was in the passenger seat of the car my husband was driving (I think I’ve figured out where the anxiety comes from…) and I could feel my stomach start to tighten up and I knew I was getting sick. I used what my doctor had taught me and I could physically feel the motion sickness vanish. I had just used my mind to get rid of a physical sensation. I was officially a wizard.
IN SEARCH OF A PERMANENT MOTION SICKNESS CURE: MY LIFE NOW
Immediately after my sessions with my new doctor I was able to be a passenger in a car (in the backseat even), fly on a plane without sleep-inducing drugs, ride on a train facing backwards, ride on the subway standing up, and sail the stormy seas on a boat without being the topic of the seasickness conversation.
- Flown on literally countless airplanes around the world puking only from bad airplane food and for no other reasons
- Started reading in the car while my husband drives—Did you hear me? I said READING IN THE CAR.
- Spent days on boats all over the U.S., Hawaii, Belize, Italy, France, Austria, you name it. If there’s a boat, I’m getting on it.
- Gone on fishing trips, all day snorkeling excursions, boat tours, and river cruises
- Ridden so many roller coasters – even the Harry Potter ones which you know are the queasiest
- Ridden on so many trains—short subway rides, cross-country European trains, intercity trams, you name it.
- Started a hobby as a flying trapeze artist (again, true story)
What it all boils down to is: motion sickness is not even an issue for me anymore. I never think about it before I leave the house. I never have to plan when to take pills. I no longer have to stress about riding somewhere with other people (“Am I gonna look like a loser if I make all these people I barely know ride in the backseat because of my ‘illness’?”).
I don’t have to carry barf bags around with me or stress about always knowing where the nearest restroom is. I don’t have to worry about being “that girl” who grosses everyone out on the New York City subway–and there’s some pretty stiff competition. I no longer have to ride on the back of the boat so my puke doesn’t splash on other people. (Although, apologies to all the people who’ve appreciated me chumming the waters.) What used to be a near constant struggle is now barely a past recollection of the way life used to be.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DOCTOR
First of all, know that hypnotherapy is sometimes covered by your health insurance (yay!). But sometimes it’s not (boo). When I made the decision to try hypnotherapy, finding my doctor was super easy. I was able to log in to my insurance website and search for doctors in my city whose profiles contained “hypnotherapy” or “hypnosis”. Unfortunately, the insurance company I’m with now doesn’t list that as an option so finding one is a step harder.
- Go to psychologytoday.com.
- In the blue menu at the top, click on “find a therapist” and put in your zip code.
- After the list of therapists pops up, on the left-hand side of the page under “Types of Therapy” click “more +” then on “Hypnotherapy”.
- If you need to widen your search area, under the blue bar at the top you’ll see “Home > Your State > Your Zip”… click on the + sign.
The results that follow will show all licensed therapists in your city/state/mile range with “hypnotherapy” listed as one of their methods of treatment. Read through their profiles and choose a doctor (or two) that you feel would be a good match. It’s time to get super judge-y.
At the bottom of his/her profile, there will be a section titled “Finances” where they show just how much of a hole they’re going to rip in your pocket, but, more importantly, which insurance plans they accept because not all of us have Kardashian money to blow. And while we’re on the subject, YES costs for mental health services are disgustingly WAY TOO HIGH in this country—but that’s a discussion for another day.
WILL HYPNOTHERAPY WORK FOR YOU?
Well, I can’t really answer that. Hypnotherapy is known to be generally effective but, as with any kind of therapy, you get back what you put into it.
If you don’t want to be hypnotized, hypnotherapy won’t work for you. A hypnotherapist can’t hypnotize you against your will—hypnosis is a two-way street. For hypnotherapy to work, you have to be serious about wanting to change and willing to try. For instance, if a person truly loves smoking (ew!), hypnotherapy will not help him/her stop.
It’s okay to be skeptical. Don’t think that because your inner voice is all, “This won’t work, ya dummy!” that hypnotherapy can’t help you. I feel like everyone’s a little skeptical right? I sure was. Did I really think that, after trying everything under the sun, hypnosis of all things was going to be my permanent motion sickness cure? Oh, hell no. But I was willing to give it a try.
You don’t need to be a master meditator for hypnosis to work for you. I know this because I’m not one. I imagine if you’re someone who meditates on the regular, getting yourself into a trance-like state is probably easier for you than it is for someone who has never meditated. However, keep in mind that each and every one of us enters a trance-like state on a daily basis. Ever been caught up in a movie or a book and not heard someone call your name? Ever been so involved with typing an email that you didn’t hear the phone ring? Ever had anyone say, “Yoohooo?? Earth to Ashley!” You were in a trance.
Also, hypnosis is a guided process. Your therapist will walk through the entire thing and all you have to do is relax, follow commands, and use your imagination. You’ll be amazed at how your brain works.
MY PERMANENT MOTION SICKNESS CURE: THE FOLLOW UP
My life was immeasurably changed when I discovered a permanent motion sickness cure in hypnotherapy. I was so shocked at how completely it worked that I wanted to try it again.
From a very young age, I had been extremely arachnophobic. (I think you can feel me there.) My fear of spiders was irrationally affecting almost every aspect of my daily life. And being that I had just moved from the city out into the ‘burbs surrounded by nature preserve, I was now living my nightmare.
My arachnophobia breaking point was the day a spider crawled across my dashboard while I was driving, causing me to almost crash my car. I made it out with just a sob-fueled roadside panic attack and the desire to burn my car to the ground. I mean, that’s the only solution right? That little jerk was still in there somewhere.
I decided to go back to my therapist to see what hypnotherapy could do about my spider issues. Three months later, this happened:
Spiders are not an issue for me anymore. They’re not something I even think about—a far cry from a life that was 99% thinking a spider was going to drop down on me from the ceiling. We coexist out here in the ‘burbs now and it’s a beautiful thing.
Needless to say, I can’t swear by hypnotherapy enough.
I realize this is a super weird topic that invites many, many questions. If you have questions about using hypnotherapy as a permanent motion sickness cure, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments or send me an email!
Also, for legal reasons I should probably let you know that I’m not a doctor—and that I’m purely speaking from personal experience.
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