I am almost sure the mechanics of breath must have come naturally to me, at some point. It feels hard to believe, now, as I force myself to suck in a breath, and then feel the process rattle to a stall… what’s supposed to happen next? A bird attempting escape flutters in my chest… what’s next again? I try to remember. Ah, yes, push the air out. This is supposed to be the relaxing part, letting worries go along with air. I try to do it, but my exhale is incomplete, slightly alarming.
When did I start having panic attacks on planes?
The attendants with the carts inch up the aisle, slowly, and park it right where they block off my escape. I try to tell myself there’s nowhere to escape to, anyway, so what does it matter if I’m trapped? But that is not soothing at all.
“Feeling okay?” asks the attendant, looking at me with concern. It surprises me. I can feel the melting on the backs on my shoulders, the start of a runny nose, but I don’t think I’m acting funny.
“I’m okay.” I answer.
“Anxious?” he asks.
It feels good to tell him, so I do. “A little,” I say.
“The turbulence?” he asks. I want to explain that the turbulence doesn’t help, but the last time I had an all-out anxiety attack, there was nary a bump, so that’s not it. I actually have no idea what it is.
“I guess,” I say, without much conviction. “How can you tell? Do I look anxious?”
Vaguely I wonder if he’d have guessed I was freaking out if I’d taken the time to do my eye makeup and put on some blush.
I am disconcerted that my body can make up new quirks, that it can decide now I visibly panic on planes after four decades of being fine with them.
I go back to my National Geographic History magazine, but I can’t make myself focus. I read three pages each of the three books I brought with me. I want to get away, and not being able to is the worst part.
I write this, on my phone’s notes. It is the only thing that feels vaguely good.