I experienced a new form of anxiety attack a few years ago before boarding a flight out of New Orleans, LA. Like many others before me, I partied hard in New Orleans during my stay there. Consequently, I was extremely tired and dehydrated while waiting at my boarding station. Suddenly, a shiver erupted in my skull and traveled down my spine. I feared it was the return of a stomach flu I had years before.
I have pretty bad luck but do I have ‘spontaneous stomach flu while flying on a plane’ luck? Possibly. This fear of throwing up soon became a full-on anxiety attack. I boarded the plane with my wife Shelley and hoped it would go away. My anxiety kept building. A lump in my throat grew and I held my hand over my mouth to stop it. I clenched my mouth and it somehow gave me a little comfort. I felt like I was holding myself hostage.
A very kind flight attendant suggested I use a cold napkin on the back of my neck to relieve discomfort. It worked. It helped take my mind off of the lump in my throat and my increasing panic that I will get sick on the plane. I apologized profusely to Shelley. Not only was I afraid of getting sick, I was afraid of getting sick in front of the rest of the passengers. I didn’t want to ruin their trip. I didn’t want them to hate me. This was anxiety hurting me more. Anxiety was filling my head with these additional fears.
I kept repeating the breathing and counting exercises I had learned in therapy. It helped, but anxiety won. I was defeated. Now I suffer the same attacks on every flight. It even happens on some subway rides. I’ve recently managed to stop it and tell myself it’s a worthless rush of panic.
I write about these flights in Float. The feeling of hopelessness inspired me to finally create this book.