Continuing Flight

After we concur fear, doing it again becomes challenging. Similar to an athlete or team in any sport. When they prove to themselves great performances are within. The test would be completing another good performance. Following years of fear with flying, breaking through was exciting. To fly again opened all kinds of possibilities. Maybe going on vacations could become part of my life again. It provided much excitement for myself and my family. Soon after returning from our trip to Cancun, we began talking about vacation. We wanted to take another trip together. This time going to Hawaii a couple years later. Our thought was planning the adventure for early 2016. One good fear concurring adventure deserved another attempt. The idea made perfectly good sense. If flying down to Cancun worked, then flying to Hawaii shouldn’t be too far behind. Hawaii did sound like fun, but there remained insecurity over whether flying could be done again. All the circumstances around our trip to Mexico set up well. The wedding was strong motivation to board the airplane. Witnessing the marriage drove me past my fear of flying. Now, would another vacation motivate me onto another plane?

It felt like years since my last trip to Hawaii. There was difficulty remembering what being in the islands were like. However, this trip would be to an unfamiliar island. We had spent time on many of the other islands throughout my youth. This time would be going to Oahu. The thought was stimulating, so looking into going became fun. My family had been there before, which added comfort. They filled me in on the golf we could play and what the resort was like. Then came the final step, how would the flights work? We would leave on a Sunday evening and fly home on a redeye flight the following Sunday. Our vacation on the island would last seven days. The trip length felt comfortable to handle for us all. Flying in the evening would be advantageous, allowing for a good night of sleep before departing. Leaving early always seemed to cause restless sleep before flying. Being tired might have contributed to my fear of flying. Coming home would give similar time during the day, as the plane would depart at 11:00pm. So, the plan for our Hawaiian vacation was set in motion.

Having fear allow me to skip the last trip to Hawaii remained vivid. My thinking was flying would be easier this time. There seemed to be less fear upon departing for the airport. The last attempt had seen me back out of vacation just before our car arrived. With anxiety low, it seemed medication to help wouldn’t be necessary. It felt important to try the process without meds. There was self-inflicted fear of becoming too reliant on the medication. When we arrived, there was plenty of time for checking bags and comfortably getting through security. Thinking it wasn’t going to be crowded that night was faulty, as we found the security line to be long. The medication was inside my bag, but still hadn’t been taken. This time things in the security line wouldn’t turn out so smoothly. We made it past the station for ticket checking without a hitch. Moving toward the security belt my anxiety began creeping into my emotions. We could see crowds of people moving through with ease. You could tell some travelers had experience with the process, while others did not. However, most were getting organized in time, placing their things in bins, and walking through the screening machines. Everything appeared to be moving relatively quick, which brought about increasing worry as we neared the bins to start our process.

Reaching the security bins, the presence of people could be felt behind and in front of me in line. They were awaiting their turn to unload laptops, remove belts, shoes, and bags into the bins for security checks. The speed and perceived pressure seemed much greater than the year prior when we left for Cancun. At the most inopportune moment, that pressure overwhelmed. When my turn came to empty things into the bins for security, nervous energy had cerebral palsy jump up, and while attempting to move quickly my hands trembled. Unzipping the pocket holding my laptop became more challenging. Once it was open, pulling the laptop out was tricky. On my first attempt, the grip was lost and it fell back into its compartment. Then, my grasp worked, but once out of the bag, the grip was lost again, leaving my computer falling to the floor. The carry-on bag turned out to be difficult to work with. The unforeseen struggle with my bag left me behind the perceived time to execute, as stress engulfed my emotions. Short of breath and in chaos, everything was left on the floor. An unconscious scramble had me moving back through people waiting in line. Suddenly I needed out of the area. A security gentleman helped by opening a rope, allowing me free, and out into the ticketing area of the airport. Once out into the open space my breath began returning to normal.

As my heart rate began receding, a row of chairs provided rest. Family sat down in some seats alongside. We all took a deep breath following an interesting moment. The first thought coming from my brain was consideration of not continuing the trip. Similar to the last attempt at traveling to Hawaii, this panic seemed an indication not to continue my travel. My idea of returning home followed. The only thing concerning me was ending the panic. Then something happened, as our family’s response was simple, if my fear took me back home, they would be returning home too. Whatever was decided, we were going to stick together. We continued to sit, as my brother began conversing about sports. He’s always had a unique way of helping in these difficult times. It relieved the stress of the moment and got my mind on something else. The conversation also had me feeling less anxious. Once relaxation began to steady my emotions, my decision was made to take the anti-anxiety medication and try moving through security again.

My decision to take the pill would go against predictability and in a seemingly simple moment begin to change my life. The trip became about much more than me, it was about everyone involved. If fear was allowed to control my decisions, it could impact those around me as well. The predictable decision would have been to remain stubborn and selfish. Deciding like before to give up and go home. But, those past decisions weren’t allowing for growth. So, after the decision was made to take the medication, we all sat calmly for a few minutes. Within ten minutes or so, my body became totally calm. Sometimes the right pill can do wonders to help. My fear wasn’t going to win this battle. We gathered our things and headed for the second venture with security. As we approached, my brother reminded me to take it slow, he would be right behind if help was needed. With more preparation and renewed spirit, we methodically got through security with relative ease. Before long we were seated on the jet, off to Hawaii.

Flying over the Pacific Ocean that night was pretty smooth. We watched a couple movies and read to pass time on the six-hour voyage. Arriving in Hawaii and walking outside brought forgotten familiarity. The warmth and smells rushed back from memories of childhood. There was anticipation of a fun vacation awaiting. Which was exactly how our vacation played out. It was one of the most fun vacations we had experienced to that point. Sometimes rough beginnings turn into positive outcomes. During the trip we played golf, sat on the beach, explored the island, and enjoyed the resort. The whole week had me thankful for the courage to board our flight. Our time on Oahu had felt like an escape.

Cerebral palsy can cause feelings of difference. For me, many physical tasks can be challenging under normal circumstances. When pressure and fear are added, getting my body to move can feel almost impossible. The frustration over being different can seemingly mount quickly and on occasion revert into panic. Many times, these situations have found me simply quitting. This vacation reminded me of the process taking place to change those outlooks. The support of family and medication, helped me make a better decision. The accomplishment of flying again moved me past years of stifling fear. The journey of overcoming fear hasn’t been easy or pleasant. There have been moments of frustration, panic, and tears. But, getting to the other side becomes worth every ounce of uneasy effort. Even when it feels like we might not be moving forward, we would probably be surprised to know we most likely are. It has taken many small steps to achieve the larger goal of getting back on an airplane. Overcoming fear, no matter how many times we achieve it, can feel pretty good. My hope becomes that we all choose to take on whatever might hold us back.


















Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s