I overcame my anxiety when flying
Ok, sharing time!
I, like many others all over the world, have suffered from anxiety. 2014 was an incredibly amazing and crazy year for me. I had an internship in Iceland, I travelled to Spain where I made the decision to go to NYC to see what the city was all about. I gave up everything I owned, moved back in with my parents, just so I could afford the trip. I lost a friend to lung cancer. I met the love of my life.
The world that I knew, that I had build around me throughout my entire life, came crashing down and it was my OWN doing! In October when I stepped aboard my first transatlantic flight I had my first flight related panic attack. I thought I was going to die. That I was going to have a heart attack far above the ground, hours away from any potential help. To top it off I had a severe stomach cramp that caused me to faint of pain. More went down on that flight, and it is safe to say that it wasn’t pretty.
I was traumatized and I even landed myself in the hospital a few days later with another panic attack where I was SURE I was dying. Since then, anxiety became a familiar part of my life and flying wasn’t a pleasure anymore. I had always enjoyed the feeling of take off and landing, watching the miniature world go by below me, but now flying was the worst.
Having met my now husband I knew I had to endure it to be with him and to go see my family but I couldn’t do it without anxiety medication. I took a cocktail of ibuprofen, propranolol and a mild Xanax type pill that more or less rendered me incapable of any emotions. Without it, I would sit in crippling fear for the entire duration of my 8 hour flight. And that was just for flying. In my everyday life I would get multiple small attacks on a daily basis. Propranolol became my friend and helped me step outside of myself and watch the situation from afar. Eventually, I cut away caffeine entirely from my life. That helped me tremendously and combined with the pils I started getting to know the anxiousness. I could tell when it was coming. And I could even say why. It was often due to an off feeling in my body that triggered my fear of being sick with either cancer, a heart attack, blot-clots or a brain aneurism. Slowly, the fear of sickness became lesser. I didn’t find myself being curled up in a ball out of fear anymore and eventually, my everyday anxiousness was almost entirely gone (except a few small episodes here and there which I am able to crush quickly). In April 2019 I forgot my anxiety medication that I still took when flying for my planeride home to Denmark. Just the knowledge of not having them made me fearful, but I survived. For the first time in 5 years, I was free of the anxiety and the medication for it. Even though I didn’t take a lot, the feeling of being free again was immensely relieving. I felt healed, whole and happy. I stil get a tiny bit anxious about sicknesses but I am no longer a full blown hypochondriac. My internal conversation has changed and I have finally regained control over my brain.
So what is my point about sharing all of this?
Mental illness is such a tabu. You don’t talk about it despite the fact that so many people go through crippling situations on a daily basis. Even taking a shower can for some people take hours. Not to mention getting the groceries.
We fear death in that moment panic hits us. It is illogical and unreasonable. We know the truth, that we won’t die, but we cannot comprehend it truly. We believe it is coming for us and getting over on the other side seems like an impossible feat. We feel abnormal and weird. Alienated from society and we don’t know any better, because no one is telling us this has become normal.
I believe, that if we share our fears, our anxieties and our mental health issues, they will become smaller. We will talk them down. We will persuade them not to control us and above all, we will find that support can be found in the most unexpected places. Let’s break the illusion of needing to stay strong. Let smash the ideal of the Manly Man and the Super Mom. Let’s crush the ideal of the Super Student that is getting straight A’s and are breezing through everything. Trauma can be found in anyone and sometimes it shows its face in the most unwelcome of ways.
But it is always ok not to be ok!
Share the message and maybe one day, we will find the support that we need to get better faster and to feel like we are not a worthy part of society.
PS: I wrote this in the airplane…...no pills.