When I was younger, I was all about the adventure … I’d hop on a plane without reservation. I went sky diving … did that crazy bungee jumping thing at our local amusement park … would ride any carnival ride or roller coaster. It didn’t matter, I was a little adrenaline junky and never considered the risk of any of it. After J & I were married, things changed. In 2009, we were flying home from Miami, and I realized I was TERRIFIED of flying … and roller coasters … and sky-diving … and riding on trains … and anything other than sitting on my couch! ;) Basically, it boiled down to this: I was so afraid I was going to die.
I’m not a psychologist, and I’ve never visited one, so I don’t have a specific ‘reason’ for this fear … all I’ve deduced is that I have more to lose than ever before. So, in 2010, I started taking Xanax when we flew anywhere. I’ve taken-off and landed 16 or so times since then, and those little white pills kept me super calm & rational during flight. Yesterday, before leaving to fly back to Portland, I decided I’d skip the Xanax.
I’ve always hated taking medication. The thought of just covering up a fear or pain seemed weird & unnatural to me. I don’t even like taking aspirin when I have a headache. I like natural remedies … so pumping my system full of anxiety medication wasn’t my favorite thing in the world. After a series of really great flights, I was ready to face it head-on.
Our flight from Indy to Chicago was great. 36 minutes of smooth flight. Soft take-off & landing. I was doing great! After leaving Chicago (en route to Portland), the take-off was rough, and we noticed it took a REALLY long time to get to cruising altitude. I was still doing okay, as I was just focusing on the book I was reading. After about an hour and a half, the pilot came onto the intercom to announce that we were having some mechanical issues with the plane’s tail & air conditioning system. We were being diverted to Salt Lake City, and getting on a new plane as the current plane needed a new tail before flying again. A few minutes later, we were over some mountains, and the turbulence started. It wasn’t the up & down turbulence I was used to … it was more side-to-side. All I could picture was that the tail (the one the pilot said was ‘broken’) was about to detach itself from the plane.
That’s when I lost it for a minute. I started to have a little panic & asked J if this was normal. Of course, in that moment, nothing seemed normal … I thought we were going to crash and I shed a few tears. To not disturb anyone else, I kept it together & put on some headphones to try to sleep. Since I hadn’t taken Xanax, I had just had a STRONG burbon drink, and now I didn’t have the option of taking the pills … Alcohol & medication isn’t a great combo. So, I finally drifted to sleep for a bit.
When I woke up, we were through the turbulence, and we landed in SLC safely. After boarding our new plane, we were off to Portland. Before we boarded, I took a Xanax … In the end, we got home safely. Looking back, I know I could have made it without the medication, and now I’m a little disappointed that I took it on that last leg of the flight.
We fly again in September, and I’ll try it again. I’m learning that overcoming an extreme fear or phobia takes a lot of self-reflection and determination. For now, I’m happy to be back home …