Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Fear of flying and other scary aspects of life

I wrote a long, somewhat detailed blog post attempting to discuss anxiety, specifically how it affects me, but when I went back and reread it, it didn't sound like I was talking about anxiety.  Nervousness, perhaps, but not anxiety.  That makes sense considering I tend to gloss over my anxiety issues.  What makes me anxious most likely would seem absurd to others so I don't tell anyone (except Rich) how I'm feeling.  Suffice it to say my traveling to Kentucky alone and by plane for my grandfather's funeral was the topic of many, many conversations in our home for many days.  It was actually almost unending until it occurred.

So now I'm going to make light of my feelings, like I always do, because the first flight I took was somewhat amusing given the situation.  Because of the difficulty in arranging for an out-of-state funeral, I had less than 48 hours from booking flights to travel time.  I managed to find a flight out of Providence which only had one connecting flight before it arrived in Cincinnati.  There were no direct flights.  (Before I go any further, I should note that I voted for driving but lost for many reasons.  And yes, driving 900+ miles solo was more appealing than flying.)  Unfortunately, the connection was in Newark and as I purchased the tickets, I was alerted to the fact that I would have to change terminals in Newark.  This news caused some serious stress.

The terminal change really bothered me.  I was obsessed over it.  I've learned over the years that one way to combat my anxiety is to research and learn/understand everything I can about a new situation.  So I hit the internet and researched the hell out of this terminal change, and I'm glad I did.  The layover was supposed to be a little more than an hour but if I had to go through security again, I could  possibly miss my connecting flight.  Through my research, I found a way to change terminals without having to re-enter security.

Rich drove me to the airport that morning, which helped keep me calm.  (Why don't you just take an Uber?  This question causes internal hyperventilating.)  I was there two hours before my flight and there was absolutely no wait to go through security.  I wasn't feeling panicky with respect to the flight, partly because I had made it to the airport without puking.  There was more this greater sense of something bad is going to happen.  The plane arrived late, of course, and all I could think was how it wasn't giving them enough time to check the plane over before my flight.  This was a smaller plane too.  Only 13 rows with 2 seats on each side of the row.  Josef, our flight attendant, announced that today was his very first day!  Someone asked if it was the pilot's first day as well.  Josef went through the instructions and failed to mention the part where the face masks drop from the ceiling if there's a pressure change.  Is there oxygen if we need it, Josef?!  IS THERE? And then Josef had to shut the door to the plane, which promoted me to text Rich because that was making me a bit nervous.  Does he know how to properly shut the door?!  What if the door pops open?!?

When we reached Newark, I followed the signs for the terminal transfer, and while initially the signs were clear, the actual sign for the United transfer was small and unclear and could easily be bypassed.  I didn't think it possible but the second plane was smaller than the first.  There were about 15 rows and while one side of the aisle had two seats, my side only had one seat.

I survived the flights.  I survived the connection.   I barely avoided airsickness.  I survived being picked up at the airport (by family, NOT an Uber.)  I survived day.

I always assume that everyone walks around with fear but there's that line where it takes over your life.  I've noticed that my anxiety has increased over the years as my stress levels have risen.  I was recently reading some online articles and a few things clicked.  For example, I despised my train commute for several reasons, including the delays and being on their schedule which didn't always work with my schedule.  My biggest complaint was the crowding.  I hated being squashed into seats or crammed in an aisle.  I felt like I held my breath during those commutes because I could not wait to get off of the train.  I didn't understand how other people could act like it wasn't a big deal to be in that situation.  Now I see why.

Right now, I'm working on bringing down my stress levels, which should reduce my anxiety.  Maybe someday I can travel to the airport and walk on a plane without being physical ill.


Julia said...

Oh my, I am sorry about how that makes you feel. No, we do not all walk in fear and I hope that soon you won't either! I am prone to the opposite feeling, where I think it is "the normal thing" not to feel fear of mostly anything and brush aside the realness of other people's anxieties. Not a very nice thing, I am sure, and it is good to read you and get some perspective.

Lisa H. said...

I'm sorry to hear about the increased levels of anxiety you've been feeling, especially with your recent travel. It's always easy to forget that everyone else's lives aren't perfect, so thank you for sharing these intimate details. Sounds like you were on a TINY plane. I'm not sure that reassurance is helpful, but I do fly a lot and while I'm generally not a fearful flier, I get nervous on those small planes as well. My SIL lives in a tiny town in Wyoming and we flew on one to get there (with lots of turbulence) one time and ever since we've flown into the larger airport two hours away to avoid that small plane again. I'm not trying to diminish your anxiety levels or say they aren't real at all, so I hope you don't take it that way! Also, no one on a plane wants to hear that it's anyone's first day. Some information should be kept to yourself! I hope as you start to decompress now that you've left your office job that you'll start to feel some relief.

Bargerboys said...

I HATE flying/turbulence as well! I found that my fear has gotten worse after I had kids. Maybe because now we could all crash?! I just flew solo to Georgia. I was a nervous wreck and contemplated driving 12 hours. I checked the weather reports and if there was any storms between Detroit and Georgia I was going to drive. Thank the Lord there was smooth flying both directions! But I still may drive next time!

lesley said...

I totally understand your anxiety. My family, and myself, are an anxiety ridden group and the trend is increasing as we age. I just think the brain is not as resilient as we get older and becomes more and more vulnerable to whatever our baseline tendency has been over the course of our lives. In our case, medical anxiety is the theme. Any little oddity and one or more of us is sure the cause is cancer, dementia or a pending heart attack or a stroke etc. We ruminate and ruminate and obsess until we are practically physically ill. We have to talk about it and I am sure others get sick of hearing about it. I can't even tell you how stressful the regular preventive diagnostic screening exams are for us i.e. paps, mammos, colonoscopies.

Suffice it to say, we get it!! You did good. Well done.

Teej said...

As I have gotten older, I have grown more and more fearful of flying as well. I agree with Bargerboys that it got way worse after I had kids. Also, all the recent news stories about major crashes overseas (especially the ones with disappearing planes!) don't help. My husband keeps trying to plan a trip to Europe, and I keep saying, "Ok, but if we go, we have to be on two different flights so we don't orphan our kids." It's like I am sure 1 out of two planes is going to crash, which I know is statistically extremely unlikely, but then again, I can't shake the feeling.

Oh, and Lesley, I also have the medical anxiety. You just hear so many terrible stories...moms dying young, children dying. Every time I read something like that I suddenly become convinced that I or my children have the same thing. Perhaps the solution is to get off the internet...hmmm.

Aubrey said...

I hope you know you don't have to live with that level of anxiety. Stomach issues, sleep problems, chronic worry, fear, and low mood are all signs of an anxiety disorder and are really treatable with therapy and/or medication. I am a psychologist so it is ironic that I lived with my own anxiety ruling my life for so long. Once I got treatment it felt like I had pushed the "easy button" or at least "easier". I no longer stress myself out over every little thing or feel like if I don't have control something terrible will happen. I've read your blog for a long time and encourage you to get some help with your anxiety. You deserve it!