I was completely terrified during our plane ride home from Mexico back in March.
We usually fly in the morning, in the daylight, which seems to make my 'flying anxiety' less intense. On this trip, however, we took off in the dark.
As I sat upright in my seat, watching the misty clouds whizz past the windows at great speed, my fears began to take over. My heart started to pound as I looked around frantically in hopes of finding someone else who was sharing my fears so I wouldn't feel so alone. I looked at their faces and their body movements, anything to signify they were afraid like me, but everyone around me was doing their own thing, opening their books, adjusting their pillows and plugging in their headphones.
The plane shook for the first half of the flight. I felt so tense that I wasn't able to sit back in my seat for more than two hours. I felt angry that I put myself in a situation where I didn't have any control, a situation that I perceived as "unsafe." I felt I was risking my own life, and I was mad at myself for doing so.
The thing with fear is that it may not be "real" as some may say but in moments of fear-induced anxiety, it sure as hell feels real. It may not mean its "really" going to happen or become "reality" but those fears, those thoughts, that anxiety, it all feels more real than anything in the world; it's the height of reality for those who suffer with anxiety. It feels so real because all of your senses come alive: you feel, hear and sense everything around you more intensely; even the most normal sounds can become frightening. Your fight or flight response is activated.
Shortly after taking off, a woman sitting in the front seat caught my eye. She was casually talking to her daughter and husband, who sat an isle away, and she did this with such ease that she became my main focus. My partner was listening to music beside me and was almost asleep and I didn't want to disturb him. So I let him be.
I decided I needed to talk to the woman, to ask her questions because I so desperately needed respite. I wanted her to tell me things that would help make me feel safe. I wanted to know I'd be okay and that I wasn't going to die.
I got up from my seat and made my way over to her. I approached her with openness and honesty as I shared with her how terrified I was feeling and that I was hoping she could help me. She told me that she had flown many times throughout her life and that turbulence was completely normal, like bumps in road. All the foreign sounds I was hearing that triggered my adrenaline were typical sounds, and nothing was wrong with the plane. She mildly eased my mind and my fears for those brief moments.
I didn't receive the complete relief I was hoping for from her but looking back I have realized something very profound for me. I realized how courageous being vulnerable truly is. In my moments where I was feeling my weakest, were the same moments I was acting my strongest. I didn't fear her reaction or her rejection and I was not afraid to ask for help from a person whom I've never met before. She was ready and willing to help me in any way she could, and I believe most of us would respond the same way; we would all understand and do our best to help someone in distress, someone in need of emotional relief.
But I don't think we ask for help enough. We often alone endure times of fear, anxiety, depression, heartache and trauma because we're afraid to ask for help. We're afraid to appear 'weak' and we fear being rejected or misunderstood. But there is an undeniable power in vulnerability. It holds a reservoir of courage and strength. I wasn't weak that night, my fears didn't concur my courage, I was brave and bold because I asked for help when I needed it the most. And I truly didn't care how I appeared to others that night, I didn't fear their judgment.
It's okay to not be okay, we need to accept and embrace that we don't have to be perfect and have it all together because nobody has it all together, all the time. If people showed more often all the parts of themselves, especially their "dark parts," we would know we're truly not alone, and maybe it would help us become more understanding and compassionate with ourselves and with our own hearts.
I'm sharing my story in hopes of encouraging others who need help but are afraid to ask or too scared to reach out. Most people don't see vulnerability as weakness, they see it as an opportunity to help others because we've all been who I was in those moments on the plane that night.
It's okay to reach out and to ask for help from others.
It's okay to be brave.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
Vanessa Marie Dewsbury