Taking Flight

How I Managed My Anxiety When Boarding a Flight

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Since having my second daughter, I’ve learned to manage my anxiety well. It first started about a year after giving birth to my second child. The most simple tasks seemed to make me anxious, and suddenly I needed order, prior notice and deliberate time management in order to participate in major events like flying or attending conferences.

It was on the tail end of my trip to New York City. After visiting New Haven, I boarded the train to New York City, excited to catch my flight home to Texas. Since I am aware of my anxiety triggers, lack of sleep and too much caffeine, I had a full eight hours of sleep and a limited amount of caffeine. I even treated myself to a great breakfast. My husband is aware of my anxiety around flying and is supportive. As I exited the metro-north train in Harlem, I boarded a bus that would take me to the airport. I was confident and calm. 

Both are two important attributes for my pre-flight mood. When I finally arrived at the airport, I was at peace, and in a good mental space for my 3.5 hour flight. I even had at least an hour to sit at my gate, and I casually chatted with those around me, texted my husband, and prepared to board. When my section was finally called, I boarded and sat in the aisle seat, next to a man who wasn’t especially friendly.

Though we had more than twenty minutes before take off, I found it odd that he was face timing and speaking loudly into his phone. He made sure that I could hear him, though much of the language that he spoke was not audible. I started to feel uncomfortable, but in an effort not to seem racist, I didn’t want to alert the flight attendants. As the minutes went on, he made several more odd behaviors. My anxiety level began to rise. I texted my husband, and he told me to count under my breath, and alert someone if I had concerns.

The flight attendants gave final instructions before take off and I was almost sick with anxiety. I felt intimidated and anxious, but not necessarily afraid for my life. Suddenly the captain made an announcement, “We are excited for our 3.5 hour flight to Dallas. Please keep your seat belts fastened because we may experience weather related turbulence as we get closer to Dallas.” That last statement sent me over the edge. I was done. I immediately arose from my seat, and walked to the front of plane. “Excuse me,” I said to the flight attendant closest to the main door. “I need to get off.” “Are you sure?” she asked, “Is everything ok?” “No,” I answered, “ I have a family emergency and I need to get off the plane.”

She looked at another flight attendant and instructed her to asked the pilot if she could open the cabin door for me to get off exit the plane. They not only let me off the plane, but the ground crew was helpful when I arrived back in the waiting area. They booked me on the next flight leaving at 6:00 pm, which was 6 hrs later. Despite an obvious change in plans, as I sat in the waiting area, alone, sipping on my soda, I felt amazing. I was at peace. No regrets. My anxiety had subsided, and felt safe. For six hours, I worked on my computer, mingled with strangers, and boarded the flight in the evening. It was amazing. It was divine. Later I boarded the flight to home and all was well. It was the flight that I was meant to be on. No regrets. Total peace. 

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