Rough Day Leads To Anxiety Attack

January 23, 2010

in Passenger Stories

I am afraid my story incriminates me as a passenger from hell, but it has to be told so that some people can see the other side of bad behavior and maybe sympathize just a tiny bit. Some people don’t mean any harm and just find themselves in a bad situation they never wanted to be in.

Last month I had an anxiety attack coming home on a short flight. I’m a normal person with no mental issues, and it was the first anxiety attack I’d ever had in my life.

Basically I was standing up waiting for the bathroom in the very back of the plane when we hit some rough turbulence. My spouse was way up at the front of the plane and I could see him waving for me to come back. The seat belt sign went on, and even the flight attendants were looking worriedly at each other. I started to panic because there was a food cart in aisle and I could not get back up to my seat.

Now, I KNEW we weren’t crashing, but it had been a rough day. I had been told that morning I was going to be laid off from my job (one that I love wholeheartedly), I was just getting over the flu and was exhausted, my beloved dog had been hit by a car the previous day while a neighbor was walking her, and my brother had just broken the news to me that he was seriously depressed and thinking of suicide… I know, the whole thing sounds like a sad country song. My wonderful life appeared to be falling apart before my eyes with no warning in a space of less than 48 hours.

So without so much as a glimmer of warning I had a major anxiety attack in the back of that plane. Prior to this point I had been holding it all together for a while and was acting brave, but now the turbulence was the final straw (I’m a nervous flyer anyway). So I burst into tears, climbed OVER the food cart, jumped over the guy in the aisle (smashing his foot and spilling his drink in the process) and dived into my seat. I sobbed loudly the whole flight and yes, I got many dirty looks from passengers because the flight attendants were constantly checking on me and trying to help. I heard one man yell “can you please shut her up!?” It was terrifying, I just could not control myself – I was shaking, crying, and panicking all at once – and it lasted for about 45 minutes, which was about how much of the flight we had left. It was a very rough flight as I mentioned, which did not help matters in the least.

This little breakdown was caused by one of the worst days of my life, and of all places I had to fall apart on the plane. It was already humiliating enough for a strong person like me to lose it in the first place, nevermind in front of so many people and my shocked husband.

All I’m saying is, you truly have no idea what is really going on in your fellow passenger’s lives, and if you are being annoyed by someone incessantly talking (maybe out of nervousness), being rude (preoccupied by worries) or other alarming behaviors, please give them a break now and then.

By the way, I’d like to send out a huge thank you Southwest for being so understanding and kind to a passenger in need. The flight attendants and an off-duty pilot never treated me like a mental case, although I was certainly acting like one. They just correctly assumed I was a very scared human being in need of some comforting words – and a good stiff drink! I was quite happy by the time we got on the ground!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Marta January 23, 2010 at 8:27 am

Nice to hear the story from the other side of the fence. I hope everything has settled down for you.


TheBigM January 23, 2010 at 9:02 am

I used to suffer anxiety attacks on planes, either Valium or gin fixes that, no problem.


dm January 24, 2010 at 8:17 am

Really sorry to hear about your crappy trip. Hope all is getting better, your dog is okay and you found a job you like just as well.


LGS January 25, 2010 at 5:52 am

TheBigM is right. Now that you know you're prone to the anxiety attacks, make sure you bring some kind of medication to deal with it. I think everyone deserves one break, and you had yours (except for the rude man asking you to shut up). Next time, no excuses.


pvk February 1, 2010 at 6:00 am

since when does southwest have food carts, just asking…


Narm February 1, 2010 at 7:52 am



Increasedosologist February 2, 2010 at 11:59 am

Laid-off your job ey? When Mr. Obama flew that big 747 with a fleet of support aircraft to Coppenhagen to beg for Olympics, it was not good enough for Mrs. Obama to fly there just her and her husband on that private jumbo jet. No. She had to take a separate transatlantic big private airliner flight, just her and her daughters, and then they wondered why the olympic committee did not buy her sob story about growing up poor in Chicago, and eliminated it first. I might feel sympathy for you if you clearly state that you did not vote for this man (you did not have to vote for the other guy, just not voted for this one.)


USMom February 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm



USMom February 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Southwest does have drink carts, she may have mixed up her words.


Anthony Allen February 25, 2013 at 8:16 am

Thanks for sharing your experience. Some people have anxiety attacks, at least once a week. Please visit my blog. It aims to bring awareness to mental disorders. Hope to see you there.


patsytp January 28, 2016 at 7:42 am

I had my first panic attack on a flight in 2009… I had flown in from Esperance (only a 90 min flight) the night before, but as it was delayed, didn't get in until past midnight, and was on a 0530hrs flight the next day. I had met the boss of the company I was showing around a minesite in the QF lounge and felt faint, to say the least. I had also "undone" his PA's booking of sitting us next to each other, as I knew I would need some sleep. But shortly after take off, I had that horrible, "crushing" feeling in my chest- I couldn't breathe and could hardly stay conscious. It was truly the worst feeling I've ever had, and ironically, I've flown planes (as in pilot- PPL) before and since- but that flight got me. My GP put it down to sheer exhaustion, asthma (never suffered from it) and low blood sugar… but for anyone that has honestly had a panic attack on an aircraft, it is the scariest feeling going. And to me there was no justification for it apart from not being 'in control'. I didn't scream, cry nothing, as I didn't want to draw attention to myself- but I did have to disclose it when I went for my Aviation Medical again. Sleep deprivation etc has a hell of a lot to answer for!!


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