Flying with Anxiety

Anxious about traveling? Me too, dude.

Every bump, every shake. Every slight pressure change and every rumble beneath my feet. Every noise, beep, ding, and seatbelt sign.

I never used to be afraid to fly.

I used to love it. Flying meant going on another adventure, a new experience, traveling and meeting new people or seeing people I love.

In the last few years as my anxiety started getting worse, I have developed some new fears I am not proud of.

I read a bit too much about bridge construction in and around New York City and now I get freaked out every time I must go over one of them.

True to form, if I am the one driving then I feel more in control and I’m less anxious.

I went on the Ferris wheel on Coney Island and I watched it as we slowly went around. I could see the bolts and the frame, rusted yet still standing. I kept thinking about how if our carriage was to come off, we would slowly drift to our death, floating softly like a feather on the wind.

At least with skydiving and roller coasters, everything happens at high speed.

For flying, I am completely out of control. I am in no way able to control the outcome, all faith is given to a pilot I’ve never met and whose name I don’t know.

Part of it may be that I understand life better as I get older. I understand more about my own mortality after losing people I care about. I have so much to live for.

My anxiety has always been a series of worst-case-scenarios in my head. “What if this bridge collapses?” “What if I fell down these stairs and broke everything?” “What if this elevator plummeted to the ground?” “What if……”

It can take up so much of my brain power just to get through a normal day! “What if I get fired?” “What if the train is delayed and I have to poop?” “What if my husband left me for no reason?”

Almost a year ago now, I went on medication for the anxiety and for me, it has changed my life. I have so much more TIME and brainspace! I can go hours without thinking about death or what-ifs.

But it doesn’t kill my emotions or ‘cure’ me. It simply muffles the anxiety. Which means I can get through each day like what I imagine a normal person is like.

But then there are days like today.

Travel days.

Where I divide my time between being stressed about hitting traffic, being late and missing my flight and being worried about the flight itself. It’s never too bad until I’m physically on the plane, then I’m anxious.

And I do everything I can to stay calm on the outside.

I don’t want anyone to see my weakness, my failures. I don’t want any labels or for people to see me freaking out.

So, I clench my stomach, holding that knot in place. I take an ibuprofen to try to ward off the headache starting behind my eyes. I clutch my book to try an distract myself with reading.

I try to ignore everything and focus on getting where I want to go. I remind myself that if the flight attendants are calm, then nothing is wrong. I remind myself the pilots are professionals.

I think about getting a pilot’s license, so I can fly myself. I calculate how long the trip would have taken me to drive. I abide by my mother’s rule of always saying we love each other before we take off. Just in case.

Here I am, on a flight. Tickety-tapping away on my computer looking like all the other busy young professionals getting some work in.

As I silently freak out slightly and drink my bloody mary, which helps!

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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