The plane ride was an okay one, but a relatively long one. There had been a few disturbances, of course. The rough air from the bouts of anxiety caused by storms and clouds, the crying child and cursing man, representing the worse parts of my ego trip, troubles with my carry-on almost not fitting in the overhead bins, held for only the right amount of trauma and PTSD, and starved from lack of nutritious meals, like friends missed and connections lost on this long flight. But there were also hours of smooth sailing, similar to a Mercedes Benz S-Class, expensive to maintain, fueled by mindfulness practices, victories, and self growth. Smiles and nods of affirmation and shared experiences, friendly exchanges shared by strangers on the plane, destined to share this ride with you unbeknownst to you both; strangers who became friends, even for this one trip. And some who will take other trips with you, both purposefully and accidentally in the future.
There was hope. A destination is always hopeful and exciting, even when you’re unsure where this trip may take you.
The initial descent of a depressive episode came without warning. I thought I had more time on this plane, to endure the flight, before this happened. I always knew the plane would eventually have to land. And on those hours of rough air that made me sick to my stomach as I tried to reason with why I even fly, unable to throw up in a barf bag, from fear of looking inexperienced and pitiful, I guessed that the descent may come, but brushed it off. And yet, the initial descent into my unknown destination, came with a familiar pit of stomach feeling as the plane begins to descend into a dark cloud, followed by the turbulence of anxiety, rocking the foundation of this plane.
I quickly remind myself that planes are made for flying, made for turbulence, disruption, worry, sadness, crying, isolation… People like me, I mean planes, strong, steel reinforced, impenetrable, weatherproof (from the wetness of the tears from the storms of course) can handle this landing, this turbulence.
We are only at the initial descent. So we all know that means 30 minutes, 30 more hours, 30 more days – who knows long this descent will take?
I want to trade the strange acquaintances I made, with the familiarity of people on the ground, at my home, that I love and hate. Fear has a way of making us crave the familiar – dysfunction and all. The flight attendants announce that we are closer now, but this descent gets bumpier and bumpier, and I become more afraid and afraid. I fear I’m going to die in this descent. I just close my eyes and wait, pray, beg, for the moment we touch the land, when I’m grounded again.
I think we are closer yet again. I’m not sure though. The storm has made my descent into a foggy hell of depression and sadness, and I can’t make out the destination anymore through my raindrops of tears stained window. I’m even more afraid of the landing now, because well, anxiety mixed with depression is a tornado. And tornadoes make landing dangerous. I am positive that the air masks should have dropped by now and allowed me to breathe more easily. But they never come to my rescue. And I can’t remember how to access the life saving float under my seat as we fly over the wide river heading into the airport, that I’m sure I will drown in – we seem so close to the sorrowful water. I wonder if it’s as cold as I feel? Or as hot as my cheeks flushing?
Who said planes could weather storms anyway? I remember now. My old classmate who was a pilot and lost his life – to himself. I wonder if he once had a rough landing, and it frightened him so much that he wasn’t sure he’d survive his own landing on the other side of the storm?
At some point, we begin the final descent, and I am deep in the clouds and I am not sure whether or not we will make it, and I become numb to it all and tune it all out. I fall back asleep, hoping to not have to move for awhile. I prepare myself for the crash that is inevitable. I don’t talk to anyone and it seems the baby’s cries have completely disappeared, but when I look around his mouth is still open, so clearly, I’ve gone numb, dumb, and deaf to everything. I hope someone remembers my mask after they assist themselves.
The plane jerks. Except, it’s not a jerk. It’s the wheels. We are close to my destination.The sound of wheels is like the sweet, sunrise of a new day. It is the sound of survival and arrival. “You made it,” I whisper silently to myself.
I prepare myself for the abrupt and fast skidding of the wheels across the runway of destination and growth, and brace myself as we brake to take a break, from flying. And I see that the rain has stopped at the destination, the baby is cooing, and the cursing man, eager to make his next connection, has taken to talking excitedly about how he has to get off the plane first.
Arriving to the gate, I wait my turn as those who were fated with me for this ride, take turns in an orderly, yet rushed, fashion to exit the plane. I let the rushed man go by. I can’t help but wonder if that descent was just as awful and crazy for them or if they think I was the crazy one on the trip or was I simply a figure, that set the stage for them in that trip. I will never know, because at that moment I take my carry-on which contains the luggage of my life that I carry with me, exit the plane, and look towards my final destination.
Until the next plane.