When we booked the trip I was in such a good place, and it was only a few weeks before I started to worry that it could be harder than expected to go away for a weekend. I was so excited about going to Copenhagen, and couldn’t wait to see the Christmas Markets and get merry on Mulled Wine. But good ol’ anxiety came back with a vengeance , and I had completely underestimated the impact of PTSD on the first anniversary of a traumatic event.
My boyfriend was well aware of my anxiety and what I had been through in the past, and he was confident he could calm me down and reassure me should he need to. When I woke up that morning I point blank refused to go. That pretty much ruined his only persuasion technique of ‘think how much you want to go’ so it was really downhill from there. He managed to get me out the door and we headed to the airport butthe further away from home we got the more I could feel the ache building in my chest. My stomach started sinking, and I started getting the shakes. I kept telling my other half to take me home and that I wasn’t going but he persisted, despite my rudeness towards him at this point. I’m surprised he didn’t drop me off on the motorway I was being that unbearable.
By the time we got to the airport I had calmed down a little and thought the worst was over (LOL)
Suddenly we were at the boarding gate and it. Was. Mental. There were so many people. So many children. SO much noise.
I freaked. That was it. The tears came, the feet were planted and I point blank told my other half that I wasn’t going. He was going to have to go without me as I’m not getting on the plane. Nuh-uh honey.
He tried to calm me down, he tried everything. Tough love, reasoning, the anxiety attack tactics I’ve suggested to him before. Bless his heart but nothing was working. I was hysterical at this point in the middle of a crowded terminal. People were staring.
Before I knew it there was nobody left to get on the plane. In my hysteria the entire plane had boarded. So now the flight attendants were walking towards us to tell us to hurry the F up. Suddenly the friendliest looking flight attendant was running over to me.
“Oh darling, have we got a fear of flying?”
“Kind of.” I say, lying through my teeth. (I actually LOVE flying and have no issue with being 33,000ft in the air…the irony)
Queue him and my other half pretty much dragging me onto the plane. I was still sobbing. I was ranting. I sounded like a crazy person.
So suddenly I’m at the front of the plane. Literally refusing to put my whole body on as I was scared they’d shut the door on me, so I defiantly kept one leg on the walkway, the other on the plane. Spectacular.
“JUST GET HER OFF, I AM A DOCTOR AND AM FLYING TO A CONSULTATION, I CANNOT BE LATE” I hear a man shout from the back of the plane.
**Excellent idea Sir, get me out off this stupid plane, listen to the Doctor, people!** is what I wanted to say…
By this point my poor boyfriend was out of ideas. The pilot had now come out to see what the hell was going on and kindly inform us we’re about to miss our departure window. But the flight attendant was having none of it. He grabbed my shoulders, looked me dead in the eye and said to me:
“Fuck all these people. I’m going to move you to the back of the plane and at any time you need, you just get up and come and sit in the storage area with me or on your own if you need the space. The only time I can’t let you do that is if the seatbelt sign is on. But otherwise, you have somewhere to go if you need. I’m going to get you a water or a vodka if you prefer and we’re going to talk about the fact that I have to do this flight 4 more times today on a hangover.”
And that was it, I started laughing. I was brought back to reality. I could feel my hands again. I wiped my eyes and I started to walk to the back of the plane, and everybody glared at me (fun times). When I finally made it to my seat, I still desperately wanted to get off. I cried some more. By this point the doors had closed and they were preparing for take off. It was done, out of my control, which ultimately was my biggest fear. I couldn’t escape the anxiety any more and I couldn’t turn back.
30 minutes into the flight my anxiety started to ease, as it always does. I threw up from the stress I’d gotten myself into. I got a migraine. But I had done it. 1 hour and 45 minutes later we landed.
And what followed fromt that point on was an amazing weekend. I was SO proud of myself. We drank Danish beer, we almost froze to death, we spent too much money on Christmas decorations, and we ate. So much. I had the best time. Look here’s me having a great time as evidence:
Everybody responds differently when having a panic attack. But the way the flight attendant dealt with me was absolutely perfect. When you’re mid panic attack you don’t want someone to rationalise with you, as your braing isn’t working that way in the moment. You don’t want to be told to calm down or to ‘not worry’. You don’t want to be told it will all be fine because it just feels like a lie.
You want to be told that you are not alone and to be understood.
For people who underestimate what it’s like to have a panic attack, that story is not unusual or extreme. It turns you into a selfish, angry, irrational brat. It is unbearable and if you are ever with someone who’s having an attack, just be there for them and do your best to bring them back to reality without judgement or pressure. Reassure them!
For anyone who suffers with anxiety, this is proof that you can go through the most unbearable panic attack and still end up having an amazing timke. It is worth pushing through and avoiding the avoidance. You have got to beat the bully.
I’m so happy I made it, Copenhagen is a beautiful place. But sharing the reality of this hopefully will show others suffering that you are NOT alone!