Growing with the Fear to Fly

Flying might always cause me nervous energy. It was an emotion keeping me from flying for ten years. Missing out on trips with family and friends. Finally, traveling to a destination wedding broke the cycle of fear. Medication was found to help calm my anxiety around flying. Taking the anti-anxiety pill before reaching the airport helps me board an airplane. After finding a method for me to attend the wedding in Cancun, it was time to try going on a Hawaiian vacation. Traveling to the islands had been something on my list. The possibility of that trip came to fruition after finding a way to fly again. While the trip to Cancun went seamlessly, my first flight to Hawaii was challenging. However, I made it through my fear of moving past security and had an awesome vacation. Our first trip to Oahu in years went so well, we all wanted to return. Plans were made for another Hawaiian vacation the following January. The challenge of flying still remained, but wouldn’t hold me back anymore. There must be other ways of making the airport experience better. Hopefully ending the feeling of panic experienced before boarding the plan. I spent time going over what went wrong, having panicked and left the security line a year prior. Looking for ways to set up for success in addition to medication.

My carry-on bag became the center of my thought process. It was causing trouble while preparing to move through security. Getting my laptop out of the bag was a struggle, leading to emotions of panic. After two attempts at removing the computer from my bag, the laptop was dropped on the floor. Overwhelmed with anxious emotions, the situation drove me out of the security line. So, finding a bag that was easier for me to handle would probably help. Luckily it didn’t take long to find the right bag to fly with. Sometimes we find ideal things to purchase in random places. The best carry-on bag was found during a trip to San Francisco. Following our return trip from Hawaii, my college roommate invited me to meet him in San Fran. So, in February we met in downtown San Francisco for a few days. We spent some time in the city, then drove up to Napa for one day. While walking around one of the small towns, an awesome bag was found.

We meandered around the town, into and out of shops along main street. One of these shops contained all kinds of outdoor gear. There was a North Face backpack that caught my attention, so I took a closer look. It struck my eye as a possibility for replacing my existing carry-on bag. Removing it from the rack, this bag seemed to contain many different pockets. Each compartment appeared easy to access. Zippers were used to enclose the pockets and the handles to theses zippers were large, making them easy to operate. The backpack also had a separate pouch running down the back, just for a laptop computer. This bag could go a long way in helping security lines go more smoothly. We left the store, giving me time to ponder the purchase. After eating lunch in a small-town diner, we went back for the backpack. The purchase felt right, but it would be months before the backpack was put to its intended use.

There seem to be tools we use to help us with fear. Those tools can also help with the symptoms of cerebral palsy. When difficulties become easier to manage, fear has the chance to subside. After returning home, I took a closer look at the backpack. Sliding my computer into the pocket designed for the laptop was easier than imagined. It was also relatively easy to retrieve the laptop from the pocket. When loading the bag up with things for an overnight trip, there was still empty compartments. For the purpose of taking items onto the airplane it would probably work better than expected. The prior bag had been fairly old and worn out. Zippers would get stuck when attempting to open compartment. It didn’t feel like a problem for me at the time, until my struggle with the bag occurred. Plus, having not flown for years, it was difficult to anticipate things needed to help my success when flying. Many times, it seems we need to experience the process before understanding how to become calm and proficient at the task. Cerebral palsy adds to the experience needed to be comfortable with movements. Because, things around us usually aren’t designed for people with disabilities, those disabilities make tasks a little more challenging.

When we packed up for our second trip to Hawaii in 2017, I was more prepared. Over the previous few years of traveling many things had been learned. The medication had worked to calm nervous energy. My newer suitcase was easier to pack and manage moving through the airport. One of the final pieces in this process would be trying the new bag in a hope of making security easier. I wanted a second attempt at making it through security without taking medication. We were processed though around the same time as the previous year. The same Sunday night flight would be taking us to the island in 2017. This time security went more smoothly than the year before. The new backpack being used to carry-on was relatedly simple to work with. Zippers to open compartments were easier for my trembling hands to grasp and the laptop computer slid seamlessly out of its compartment. As we went through, my family was there with some extra hands of support. But, most of my movements through security were becoming more independent, both flying to Hawaii and flying home on that 2017 trip.

Our trip in 2017 was another turning point, when the medication was taken after getting through security. It was now being taken purely in preparation for a flight. That January vacation became the first time in years I traveled with minimal anxiety. During our ten days in Hawaii there weren’t many anxious emotions. The whole trip was pretty relaxing, with knowledge that flying had become easier. Following our return home in 2017, we were already looking forward to going back the following year. It was something new for me, to look forward to vacation instead of experiencing trepidation around the idea of travelling.

The trip this year was the second year of experiencing more secure emotions. Our trip this January was even better than 2017. Moving through the airport was calmer than the two years prior. I felt familiar anticipation as we went into security. It often feels like knowing what to expect can be half the battle when overcoming fear. Being able to anticipate were anxious moments would arise can make them easier to handle. Finally, the trials of fear in years’ past were behind me and flying was becoming somewhat normal again. Fear was being overcome by patience, perseverance, and experience.

Fear can be defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. My symptoms of cerebral palsy have the ability to cause pain through uncertainty of movements. Sometimes it’s tough to gauge how my body will react to situations, especially when becoming flustered in unfamiliar surroundings. When activities are performed consistently it becomes easier to anticipate how to handle them. Often cerebral palsy asked me to find different ways to accomplish those physical tasks. Maybe requiring me to find specific tools to help make situations easier and more comfortable. My fear to fly was challenged, then concurred by new tools. Finding a suitcase that was easy to pack and move with, finding medication to help calm nerves and help freedom of movement, and finding a carry-on bag to easily hold items and provide easy access. All these tools helped improve my stifling fear to fly. Also, the support of family and friends. But, like is often said, a horse can simply be lead to water. It was my responsibility to push through the uncomfortable emotions and find ways of taking on the fear. These yearly trips to Hawaii have been a blessing, not to be derailed by that fear. Hopefully we all put in the time and effort to find ways through those scary obstacles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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