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Flying Through the Fear

Adventures, Anxiety, Goals

Flying through the fear: Sunshine over Southern CA in an airplane

I am not a good friend to myself when it comes to flying, and really should take my anxiety medicine before I board planes. Alas, I’m too stubborn to admit I need it. So I took half of a pill when we were already buckled into our seats in Seattle on Friday when I couldn’t relax before takeoff and our flight was stalled for 10 minutes until we could get “de-iced.” I looked at J and asked, “What if I don’t want to go?” And he reminded me it was OK to take the Xanax.

Flying Through the Fear: distract yourself on the flight

I spent part of that flight, working through the power sheets I couldn’t finish because of the flu.

On the morning we left San Diego, I woke up worried about feeling anxious on the flight home, and that worry followed me most of the day. The worry about the anxiety really is one of the hardest parts about getting anxiety. Even then, I didn’t take it leaving San Diego yesterday afternoon. Instead I gave myself a lot of quiet pep talks, prayed for peace that surpasses all understanding, and reminded myself to breathe when I felt the signs of a panic attack coming on.

After they subsided, and the plane was in the air, I distracted myself with reading (affiliate links) America’s First Daughter and Real Simple Magazine. I told myself my only job was to finish my book so I could start The Choice, and trust myself to be calm, J to be a support, the pilot to get us to where we needed to go, and God, who has a good and perfect plan for our lives and gives us strength.

Flying with Virgin America is such a wonderful experience. Every single employee, from the check-in to the flight attendants were so accommodating to me when I told them I was a nervous flier (I’ve started saying this instead of saying I get anxious, in an effort speak more healthily over my life). The check-in agent in San Diego even moved mountains to get J and I a seat together on our nearly-full connecting flight in San Francisco. Plus, of course, J is great at distracting at me and always believing I’m way braver than I actually am.

When our flight landed in SFO and then in Seattle, I said, “I DID IT!” and he just looked and me and said, “of course you did” like it was no big deal at all, when in reality I had totally surprised myself. I had my first panic attack on a plane in 2010. I had no clue what it was. That went away around 2011 thanks to frequent flying and medication. After that, I had several years of easy flights and came to love flying again. But the anxiety came back suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015. My doctor believes it has more to do with what was going on in that time in my life (my great-grandma had just fallen so ill that we had to help her move into an assisted living home), but the attack happened on a plane and I’ve been really scared about every flight since. I’ve even avoided flying places because of it. But no more. I made a resolution to fly 10 times this year so I can become comfortable and confident once again.

Flying Through the Fear: I don't want to miss out on my feet in the Southern CA ocean, just because of a couple hours on an airplane

I don’t want to miss out on my feet in the Southern CA ocean, just because of a couple hours on an airplane

I’d highly recommend flying Virgin America when you can. And conquer your fears, the real ones and even the irrational ones that pop up for no reason and try to make their home in your life. It’s worth it. We had an amazing weekend with friends who are basically family, and the view of the sun over the ocean was 😍😍 leaving San Diego (the first photo in this post). It was totally worth the temporary discomfort of fear and doubting myself, and when I say temporary, I’m including the nerves on the days leading up to our flight, as well as the moments of actual fear on the plane. My word for 2017 is “Trust.” It helped a lot to remember it this weekend. I have nine more flights to go to satisfy my New Years resolution, and I’m hopeful that each one will get easier and easier.

Flying Through the Fear: airplane over the PNW

I also hope that I can start being kinder to myself. I would tell any friend who has diagnosed anxiety about anything, to take the prescribed medication if it can make it easier. I would encourage that friend to let the entire experience be easier, and build confidence through peace. I would remind them that they don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to feel ashamed or stubborn when they need help with something. Why don’t I share that same kindness with myself? I don’t know. But perhaps 2017 is the year I find that out. 

I’m also accepting suggestions on where I should go next. I am starting with shorter flights from the Seattle airport. Do you have a favorite vacation spot? Tell me about it in the comments!

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