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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  • Reply
    January 17, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Though I recognize it’s different from true anxiety and panic attacks, I definitely have become a much more nervous flyer as I get older. Thanks for sharing your experience and yay for getting through this trip unscathed!

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:51 am

      Thanks, Shannon! Even nervousness is hard and can be exhausting! I hope that your nervousness subsides as well :)

  • Reply
    Sarah Althouse
    January 17, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Oh girl I feel your pain. I’m a mess flying and also get worse anxiety leading up to it. A vocal anti-drug person I have no problem popping my xanax though. I am also a believer and literally stare at verses before I board a flight. My word this year is “Fearless” and one of those reasons is getting over my fear of flight. We can do it!

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Yay!! I love this, Sarah! We will overcome! I should write down some of the verses that help me to recall in my mind.

  • Reply
    LaVonne Long
    January 17, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Hubby and I went to Tucson last week and I LOVED it. It was nice to get away to the warm desert after such freezing temps here in Western WA. Good for you for taking these steps. Traveling is so awesome!
    LaVonne Long recently posted…Printable Star Wars Valentines Day Cards for the Kids

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:49 am

      It is totally awesome, and it was definitely nice to be warm and dry for a few days! gah! I’m glad you guys got to enjoy some warmer temps as well!

  • Reply
    Ms Rouge
    January 17, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    I used to work for Virgin Atlantic as a flight attendant, and so it’s heartwarming to read that our U.S. counterparts were so accommodating, and that you managed to enjoy your flight to a degree :) I had to smile at the title of your post, as the course the company runs for nervous flyers is named “Flying Without Fear”. I’d say I encountered a nervous flyer on just about every flight, each with their own means of combatting their anxiety. Some would kiss the fuselage just before walking through the door, others loved a good gin and tonic, a few liked to go and see the flight deck before takeoff, and many would ‘pop a xanax’, pray, or engage in breathing exercises. I hope your fear subsides gradually. My personal battle is boats and ferries, so this post has inspired me to try and move past that!
    Ms Rouge recently posted…European Beaches that Are Too Breathtaking to Miss

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:48 am

      That is so fun, Ms. Rouge! I had no idea they had a class that was called that. I hope that you can get over your boats and ferries fear as well! They’re so gorgeous! I get a little nervous on ferries as well, and sometimes even my boyfriend’s boat when we’re in the puget sound (which is water that comes from the pacific ocean). But if I focus on how GORGEOUS it is out on the water, that helps.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I also really struggle with flying. It started after 9/11 and got progressively worse as I grew older. I refuse to let it stop me from traveling. If I have to take medication to travel, so be it. I don’t want to miss out seeing the world!
    Bailey recently posted…(Andy and) Bailey’s Budget {December 2016}

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:46 am

      This is my mindset too, Bailey! I don’t want to miss out on this incredible world!

  • Reply
    January 17, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I used to have serious flying anxiety – and then got a job where I had to do an international flight to get there and then had to fly back twice a year for conferences and the like. Xanax was my friend during those years. I can now fly without meds, though I have to really psych myself into being relaxed. Two things have always helped – doing word search puzzles (totally brainless – totally distracting) and music. It’s awesome now that small electronics can be left on during take off and landing, because those have always been the hardest parts for me. I also couldn’t fly without an I-Pad and lots of mindless entertainment loaded on so I can just pretend that I’m not there. I’m so glad though that I’m able to fly, as I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing places in the world.

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:46 am

      I’m so thankful for the small electronics being allowed to stay on these days as well! I remember the first time I brought an e-reader on a flight and realized I couldn’t keep reading during take off. The music helped me so much this trip, to just turn it up loud and not listen to anything they said on the loud speaker. Then I could keep pretending I wasn’t on the plane. I’ve also found sudoku to be super helpful! I’m so impressed that you did an international flight! I really want to travel internationally and I’m hoping I can work up to being brave enough for that. I will HAVE to be nicer to myself and just take the dang Xanax before I board haha.

      Thanks for giving me hope that I can over come it!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2017 at 6:38 am

    That’s great you fought through your anxiety! I actually have many friends who are scared to fly, so it’s more common than you think.
    Marissa recently posted…Everything You Need to Know About the Blue Lagoon

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Thanks, Marissa! I’ve heard it’s quite common, even though it feels like it’s just me!

  • Reply
    valerie hansen
    January 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Fear of flying is something I don’t battle, but a lot of people do. My husband has to take meds as well…glad you were able to work through it and San Diego is my dream place, trying to relocate there, had enough of NW rain..!

    Fashion and travel

    • Reply
      January 19, 2017 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for sharing! It does help to know that it’s not just me, even though realistically I knew that. Personal stories help. San Diego is AMAZING. My boyfriend had never been to Southern CA. We went down there this fall and he totally fell in love. I’m stoked, because I already loved San Diego haha. It was definitely rough to come back to all of this rain!

  • Reply
    Vet Leow
    March 13, 2017 at 6:16 am

    The struggle is real…I would just keep confessing good things and think good thoughts in the name of Jesus… :)

    • Reply
      March 19, 2017 at 9:49 am

      This is such good advice, Vet. Jesus is so powerful!

  • Reply
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