Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Surviving the panic attack
I wrote this in the middle of a layover. I’m posting it unedited 6 hours later because…well, hell, because this is my blog and I CAN. Obviously, I survived. I’ve never been a lover of airplanes. They get me less and less efficiently from point A to point B on every trip, but for some destinations – say, Europe – they really are necessary since I don’t have the kind of vacation time it would require to cruise back and forth across the Atlantic. I’ve learned that I’m going to be nervous. That the first step on the plane is accompanied by the tightening of a tail that evolution still hasn’t convinced my body is unnecessary; the deep-lung-breath of air that holds me over til the next deep one comes when I set foot off the plane; the temporary hand-clutching that slowly eases as I make my way to my seat. It’s a ritual. I was raised Catholic – I’m good with rituals. Sit in the seat, open the book. Read merrily along through jostling, crying babies, The Stewardess Address, The Captain’s Welcome. When the plane actually begins to move, my eyes close, I say a prayer to the first saint that comes to mind, and then I concentrate on breathing and pretend to read until the plane is winging it’s way through the air that surely it was never meant to occupy. I’ve flown many times before. I’ve flown alone. I’ve flown with a large group. I’ve flown with just a few people. I’ve flown through turbulence so bad that 20 people I knew personally were throwing up in their bags. I’ve sat next to a pregnant woman who had a seizure and threw up on me, causing my own gag reflex to rear its head. I’ve flown across the ocean a few times and I’ve flown around the US. I’ve spent hours watching movies, sleeping, reading, talking, eavesdropping. So why in the name of all that is holy did I have a freaking panic attack this morning as the wheels left the ground? I broke out in a cold sweat. I clenched my hand so hard that I still have indentations in my hand. I took deep breaths and got scared looks from the woman next to me. 50 minutes later, when the plane landed in Atlanta, I felt a relief on the level that I felt last night when I realized My Guy won. Where the hell did that come from? And how am I supposed to get on a plane in another 80 minutes? Funny thing - the second half of the trip? No big deal. I dozed, I read. What the heck was that about?