Monday, June 27, 2016
While having lunch with a friend on Saturday, she began to tell me a story about someone she knows who has developed a fear of flying. “But,” she said, “someone who hasn’t had a fear before, that doesn’t develop without some kind of traumatic event -” She seemed to be implying that because there had been no near death experience via flying that there couldn’t or shouldn’t be any reason why this person would now be afraid of getting on a plane.
“I’m afraid of flying now,” I shared. She blinked and said nothing so I continued. “Ever since the cancer last year and the surgery, I’m afraid of flying and that was never the case. I’m okay after the take off but before that my stomach churns, I am jittery and afraid. Fear of death will do it, I guess.”
She nodded but didn’t seem that convinced.
I realize I put her in a bit of a spot because is she really going to argue with my assessment? That’s the thing about mentioning the C-word, it has an unfortunate ability to shut things down. The laying down of the Cancer card isn’t anything I do intentionally, nor do I really even like bringing it up. But this wrong idea that the brain always works in such a linear fashion made me want to speak up. I was a psych major for a reason; the way that the mind is constantly making connections, trying to make sense of the world or the way it can sometimes misfire is fascinating really.
If I spend time psychoanalyzing myself it isn’t that hard to figure out why the fear of flying has come into play. Being diagnosed with cancer and having to have body parts cut out in order to cure it, then spending weeks waiting to hear if the cancer had spread, there was no controlling that. Nothing I did could change the trajectory of that life event. Flying is a bit like that, right? Once I’m on the plane, whether I make it to my next destination isn’t up to me. Of course, we could say that about pretty much any action I take every day of my life but to worry and be on high alert every minute of the day would be ridiculously overwhelming so let’s thank the brain for choosing to only do this when I have to fly. That’s manageable, mostly because I don’t do much traveling!
Still, I’m hoping that with a little more time passing, the anxiety around flying will fade away. Just because I can pinpoint it to a particular traumatic part of my life doesn’t mean it makes it any less annoying to have to deal with.