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When Fellow Passengers Judged a Woman Who Had Flight Anxiety


I took a girls trip with my mom over the weekend to Ft. Lauderdale, and we flew down and back. Our flight down was a breeze, but our flight back had my anxiety and panic disorder on high alert.

A small, packed to the brim plane with a screaming kid, no airflow and an hour delayed flight makes a stressful situation for anyone, especially if that someone deals with anxiety and panic. I noticed a woman on our flight who looked nervous. On our flight back home, I took notice of her again. She was the last one to get on the plane.

We sat on the plane for a solid 30 minutes before even backing out of our spot, with no airflow. It was taking everything inside of me not to freak out. Breathing and observing people are usually my methods for distraction because my biggest trigger is feeling like I can’t breathe fresh air.

The plane began rumbling with whispers when I heard, “Someone is having a panic attack,” and my heart dropped. I knew judgment was coming. I could feel the eyes rolling around me. I began listening to the women in front of me:

“Well now they have to make sure it isn’t terrorist related.”

“She is so self-centered.”

“Send her a bill.”

“I wonder how many planes that delayed.”

I could feel the lump in my throat because I felt bad for the girl. I can relate. I have been there many times. I had to bite my tongue to not lash out at the women in front of me. I knew if I lashed out, then I would have a panic attack myself and delay the plane even further.

Long story short, the lady got off the plane. I’m sure she had flight anxiety. (This was also an observation by the ladies in front of me, who said she should have never gotten on the plane knowing she had anxiety.) If we, as people with mental health issues, let our elements run our lives, then we would just sit in our homes in fear. And what then? Would we be called lazy?

I am still learning how to control my emotions when it comes to my anxiety. So I hate that I wasn’t able to muster up an educated response to the ladies in front of me. My only hope is they went home and out of their own curiosity researched panic attacks and learned something from the situation.

There are snakes all in this world. Ones that will put you down, tear you apart and judge you for your mental illness. The only thing we can hope for is through their own uneducated judgements, they will find clarity and understanding.

Image via Thinkstock.

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