I have a fear of flying. Although I love everything building up to the point of lift-off—going to the airport, grabbing a coffee in the lobby while I’m waiting, watching people hurry around pulling their carry-on luggage as I wonder where they’re going—but as soon as the engines fire up and we catapult down the runway, I experience acute symptoms of anxiety. I have to force myself to breathe deeply to prevent hyperventilation, I sweat, and I feel an overwhelming sense of impending doom. Usually once we’re in the air at cruising altitude, I settle down a little, but if there is any kind of turbulence, all bets are off.
A few years ago when I was flying to Australia, I decided to visit the doctor’s office before flying, and they prescribed me Xanax. “Take a half a pill before you fly, and if you need another half later in the flight, take that too.” Half of a Xanax did absolutely nothing. Within the hour, I had taken a whole pill. A few hours later, I took another half. By the time I finally got to sleep on the plane that night, I had taken two and a half of those suckers. I guess I have a pretty solid metabolism and/or medication tolerance. I will say that once I awoke after sleeping eight hours, I did feel pretty calm.
I don’t take Xanax for flights anymore. Now I just take Ambien. I might as well just sleep and not experience anxiety over whether or not I will have anxiety.