I used to feel nauseous anytime I knew I had to take a flight. For days leading up to the flight I would be anxious and in a rotten mood. Once Luis mentioned that we were going to take our regular trip to Puerto Rico to see his parents, as we do regularly, and I burst into tears. Let's just say that flying wasn't my thing. It started when I had a turbulent flight to Atlanta in my twenties, with the plane diving and dipping so much that we were all lifted out our seats like on a roller coaster. The only thing holding me back from flying into the overhead storage bins was that little lap belt, which you'd better believe was low and tight across my waist. I deplaned in Atlanta, went straight to the bar, and called everyone I knew to tell them I loved them. It was that kind of flight.
This continued for years, with anxiety and shaking before and during the flights. Finally, in my thirties, I realized that an anthropologist who can't get on an airplane is pretty pathetic. Also, I didn't want to pass on any of my neuroses to my young girls, or have them see me break down and cry under the airplane blanket every time we went into a cloud. I went to see a counselor, who referred me to a psychiatrist, who gave me the best present a girl who wants to travel could have: drugs. Legal drugs - Xanax - that I could take pre-flight or mid-flight on my way to Puerto Rico from the West Coast. They made me relax and feel sleepy, allowing me to sleep through most flights or at least a portion, but still completely able to function and attend to the family (when I wasn't sleeping). I've now had so many pleasurable flights mostly sleeping, that it's broken the cycle of panic. I actually can look past the flight and look forward to the arrival in whatever place I am visiting. This is huge.
I am especially thankful for the good people who make anxiety medication because in five days, I'll be boarding a plane for Mumbai, India. It will take me so long to reach my destination that I'll actually be in the future for a few hours before the flight ends, missing an entire day completely. I leave from San Diego at 8:15 AM the morning of the 17th, and take a short hop to Los Angeles. An hour later, I board a plane for New Jersey and arrive in the late afternoon. Then, at 8:30 PM, I board a 15-hour flight to Mumbai that arrives at 9:30 PM the next day. Hmm. It's like being Dr. Who flying in the tardis to India. I have no idea how this happens, but I think it involves a wormhole.
Unfortunately, the late arrival in Mumbai means my usual schedule of sleeping through the flight will not work. I asked Karen - my friend that has lived in India for 10 years and with whom I'll be staying for three weeks - if she had any recommendations for the long flight. She told me not to sleep, or at least to sleep a bit early on so that when I arrive, I'll be tired and able to sleep that night. This throws the entire plan out of whack since I was actually planning to sleep for at least ten of those fifteen hours so it just felt like a short jaunt to New York. Oh well. I guess I'll catch up on some movies - like five or six - and hope for the best.