anxiety attack on an airplane

Instead of giving up, I decided to write this to you.

We recently returned from an appearance at Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle, WA that was bookended by some of the worst travel-related anxiety attacks I’ve ever experienced. My situation has only worsened despite Xanax and therapy.

Howie Noel at Emerald City Comic Con

Set up and smiling for the photo at ECCC.

I read recently that flying on an airplane is perfectly designed for an anxiety attack. Confined sitting room, tight seat belts, changing in pressure, physical shaking and a total loss of control over the situation. I’m in a state of panic while sitting and I worry about everything. I worry about others looking at me. What they’re thinking of me.

Float Anxiety Comic Book

Life imitating art as I take the plane to Seattle.

In reality, the other passengers on the plane don’t care about me. And I mean that in a positive way. As my friend Patrick explained to me, other people aren’t thinking about us as much as we think they do. Social anxiety’s cruel trick is to convince you that people judge you when you stand up to go to the bathroom in class or at work. Or that they care how you eat in public. It tricks you in believing everyone’s staring and watching and judging. The average person doesn’t worry about us like we worry about them.

During these anxiety attacks, I truly believe I’ll get sick or even die. I feel completely helpless. All of my hard work spent on therapy and learning breathing exercises is forgotten in a rush of fear. Fear wins. Anxiety conquers. I suffer.

This is the worst they’ve ever been.

The panic attacks from flying have seeped over into the rest of my once enjoyable life. Concerts, movies and other public events. I recently attended the opera at Lincoln Center with my wife and couldn’t sit through the second and third acts.

Before Anxiety Attack

Smiling before the show.

The anxiety attack symptoms from the plane rides now found me at the theater. I felt the same loss of control and started suffering. I began hyperventilating. Our seats were in the first raised section and my sadly horrific fear of heights overcame. I remembered I forgot to take Xanax. Fear rushed over me in a panic.

Throughout the attack, I worried what others would think. How I was potentially ruining their show. I worried about what my wife thought of me. She was looking forward to the night for so long. After the end of the first act, I immediately stood up for the first intermission and embraced my new freedom from the situation. I apologized to Shelley and she understood. She felt bad that the seats were too high but I tried to explained it doesn’t matter. These anxiety attacks have just been getting worse. I’m not getting any better at controlling them.

A side effect of my anxiety is anger. I’m angry I have this disorder. I’m angry I’m not strong enough to control it. I’m angry at my anxiety. I wish it was a real person like in my new book about my disorder – Float. I want to fight him. I want to make him feel pain. But I can’t because Anxiety is me. It’s my own mind doing this to me.

A now a word from anxiety

My Anxiety as he appears in my book Float.

I’ve had to learn I can’t trust my mind. I can’t trust my perspective and I can’t trust my memories.

It’s incredibly painful. Anxiety’s lies seem so real. And I’m so quick to believe them.

I had to write you to let you know Anxiety won again. And that I’ve been hurting over the past few weeks ever since winter. A season long depression blanketed me. It may have been exacerbated by the Float project as I opened a lot of wounds and discovered some new ones while creating the book and this site. I learned a lot about myself and the disorder. I learned how it affected me throughout and caused me to lose so much. Float has proved to be an incredible form of self-therapy.

Through out all of this, I’ve been pushing through to make updates and slowly combine all 3 of my websites into this new one – beautifully designed by Shelley Noel.

Somehow anxiety and depression haven’t stopped me from thinking of new ideas for stories and writing and drawing. I’d still think of new ideas through the darkness. Motivating myself to get out of bed and get up was not as easy.

Fortunately I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from this site and from Float. It’s truly keeping me going as it reminds me my artwork is helping others. I hope this entry helps you by reminding you that you’re not alone in the battle against anxiety disorders.

Anxiety makes you feel isolated and helpless. But we’re not alone in this battle as we have each other.

You’re always welcome at this site. And you can always find comfort as we Float.

You can order my new graphic memoir about my battle with generalized anxiety disorder at this link:
https://hcnoel.com/?page_id=906#!/Float-Graphic-Memoir/p/84928680/category=27733490