I have always been a nervous person. Exacerbated by a long illness and stressful job, I developed a pretty sever panic disorder in my 20's. Until that time I was never a great flyer but I would do it without too much trouble. I was really only scared at takeoff and turbulence, until I flew through a tornado in central Florida. About 25 minutes into a very bumpy flight the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, “Flight crew on the ground.” The flight crew dropped to the ground and lay down in the aisle. As soon as they did, the plane started rolling and dropping so far, that if I didn’t have my seatbelt on I would have hit my head on the ceiling. This didn’t last more than 30 seconds but in my mind it was at least 30 minutes. We then flew another 2 hours back to Chicago in thunderstorms. I was curled up in fetal position crying for most of it. I tried to fly a few times after that, but I now had PTSD from that flight, couple with the panic disorder. The panic attacks started a month before I flew and continued during vacation as I anticipated the flight back. Eventually I decided it just wasn’t worth the misery and spent the next 25 years crisscrossing the country on Amtrak.
3 years ago, coming close to a nervous breakdown, I quit corporate America. The panic disorder I had had for the last 25 years was suddenly gone, literally overnight. Surprise! I can not begin to describe the freedom and joy that comes from not having the constant fear and panic you've known you're whole adult life.
To celebrate my father’s eightieth birthday we decided to take a family trip, an Alaskan cruise. In my usual fashion, I booked my cross-country Amtrak sleeper car from Chicago to Seattle, where I had to arrive 2 days early to make sure I was there in time to catch the train with my family for Vancouver. Amtrak is notorious for being up to a day late on their cross-country routes. There was no end to the grief my family gave me for not flying.
Boosted by my newfound lack of anxiety and a plethora of Xanax in my pocket, I decided to bite the bullet and fly. You’re probably thinking I flew back on a jet to Chicago. You would be wrong. I, in my ultimate wisdom, decided that the first flight I was going to take in 25 years would be a 6-seat floatplane into the middle of Misty Fjords national park. Although terrifying, it was the most amazing thing I had done in my life up to that point.
Yes I was as scared as I looked. At one point the pilot said "I think I see something down there, lets go take a look."
I shouted, "Let's not!"
But that did teach me that I could get over my fears. The world was now mine. All the places I had been dreaming about going to for the last 25 years, I now could.