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Fearless Flyer

the elevator dropped several floors, and with it went my confidence in any machinery that propelled humans off the ground.

I sat in the window seat of the airplane on the eve of my 25th birthday, clutching a pill bottle and waiting for death to take over. That feeling of impending doom which left me paralyzed with fear or sent me into a full blown panic attack whenever I stepped foot in a small, confined space. We were taxiing to the runway for takeoff. The feeling should have hit me by now. I was waiting for it, anticipating spending six hours thinking about how the plane was going to crash and how I would die. How we would all die. But something was off this time. The fear and anxiety didn’t grip me like it had for the past thirteen years of panic attacks, tears, loss of control and feeling physically paralyzed by a fear that kept me from taking jobs, taking risks, taking chances, living life.

I was 12 years old when I got stuck in an elevator at Columbia Hospital. It was crowded, people were screaming, the elevator dropped several floors, and with it went my confidence in any machinery that propelled humans off the ground. There were years of biofeedback, some therapy sessions, and practice taking elevators one-floor-at-a-time.

But this time there was something different: a pill no larger than a pearl that my doctor had prescribed. I hated taking pills, but a lifetime lived in fear was a much worse prospect. This tiny pill jump-started my rational thinking. The chemicals helped my brain to release a confidant thought, a truth: The plane will fly and you will arrive safely on the other side of the country. You will be ok. Reason had finally won out over doom. In that moment, sitting on my Jet Blue flight from JFK to LAX, I was filled with calm. No anxiety. No fear. The plane sped down the runway, the wheels lifted up, and we began our ascent.


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