Are you afraid of flying?
You are not alone: fear of flying is quite common but fortunately, there are a lot of useful techniques that could help you overcome it. But I do not think I am the best person to tell you how you can get over your fear of flying: simply because I am not afraid of flying – I am suffering from another condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And in today’s post, I’d like to share with you what it feels like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight. Obviously, everyone’s different and I can only talk about my personal experiences, but if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them in the comment section!
As you may have noticed, I have not published any new posts for the last few days – not because I’ve been lazy or I had writer’s block, but because I had to travel to London. I love traveling: it’s one of my biggest hobbies and sometimes I have to travel for work too, which is absolutely amazing! So over the years, I’ve got used to flying but the OCD monster never sleeps and it can definitely make your travel experience a little bit more…hm…let’s say challenging.
So what does it feel like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight?
OCD used to make my life a living hell, but thanks for God I’ve been feeling a lot better nowadays. I’m still getting intrusive thoughts and I have a couple of compulsions I haven’t been able to get rid of yet, however, I can say that I’m pretty much able to keep my OCD under control. But taking a flight can still be pretty challenging for me. Why?
The first challenge is getting up in the morning. I’ve always been a night owl, so I’d never be able to wake up without an alarm. On an average day, I do not really stress over waking up in the morning, but when you have a plane to catch, it’ll obviously be a different story. So the night before my flight, I always check if the alarm is set – and do not think I check it only once or twice! No way, I just have to check it at least 5 times – or until it feels right. And I usually set the alarm on two different phones, because at the end of the day, you can never know: what if one of your phones turns off by itself? I’d never want to take that risk. Obviously, it’s much easier if my flight is in the evening – cause then, I do not have to worry about getting up early in the morning.
Note: Repeated checking is one of the OCD symptoms. To read more about different OCD symptoms, please check my post about: 6 types of OCD
So I was able to wake up on time – with the help of a hundred alarms and a back-up phone. But this only the beginning of the journey. I do not like packing so I usually do it at the very last minute. I guess I’m one of the most disorganized people on this planet (disorganized, with OCD – how is it possible? Check my article about 5 common misconceptions about OCD) so I usually throw all my stuff in a suitcase, but I’m always worried about forgetting to pack something important. And this worry makes me pack, unpack and repack my suitcase a couple of times. Again, until it feels right. Because at the end of the day, you can never know. Did you really put that t-shirt in your luggage? And what if you forgot to pack your underwear?
And the most hilarious thing is that there are things that I’ll always forget to pack. Even after unpacking and repacking my suitcase a million times. But obviously, this has nothing to do with my OCD.
Then, we’re looking forward to the next challenge: leaving the house. You can not just easily leave the house. It doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I think I should become a risk analyst, because I can come up with an endless list of possible disasters in just a few seconds:
– what if you forgot to turn off the oven?
– what if you forgot to shut off your hair straightener?
– what if you forgot to close the windows?
The list of “what if” questions is never ending. And obviously, these intrusive thoughts will also force me to check everything. So, I check if the oven is turned off at least 5 times and the same goes for any electrical equipment.
But most importantly: the doors. One can not just leave the house without making sure that the door is locked! Now, checking if your door is locked is a completely normal thing to do, but in my case this checking can easily go out of control.
To be honest, the journey to the airport is not too interesting. I usually take a bus and I do not like touching the handrails on public transport but I would not blame this on my OCD: handrails are definitely not clean and it’s better not to touch them. Do not get me wrong! I’m not obsessively worried about getting contaminated or something, I just do not like touching them.
Spending time at the airport can be much more challenging though.
Let’s start with the security check: what if you faint while standing in the queue? That’s not very likely but it is not impossible. And if you faint, you can even miss your flight! It would be extremely embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
Another thing that I’m afraid of is doing something crazy. Do not get me wrong! I wouldn’t want to blurt out obscenities and I would never want to harm anyone. But I am afraid of doing it. Sounds irrational? I know, at the end of the day, OCD is not the most rational disorder. Thanks for God, there’s one thing that helps me fight my intrusive thoughts: talking to people. So when I travel with friends, it’s always pretty easy for me to overcome my anxiety – traveling alone is more difficult but there’re a lot of people at the airport so you’ll always find someone to talk to.
So I managed to pass through the security check, but there comes the next danger: Duty Free. Duty Free is a dangerous place, there’re so many things to be afraid of.
Like what if I accidentally or even intentionally steal something? Of course, I would never want to steal anything from Duty Free, but how do I know that I do not want to? What if I want to do it? What if I am a kleptomaniac? You can never know, can you?
Surviving Duty Free can be very challenging – and expensive: I do not only suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I am also a shopaholic. But then, boarding is much easier for me. It calms me down: it’s an amazing feeling to finally get on the plane.
Killing time on a flight may often be pretty difficult. And getting bored is quite dangerous if you have OCD. If you have too much time to think about different things, you’ll easily end up overthinking your intrusive thoughts.
What if I do something crazy? What If I light a cigarette on the plane? What If I accidentally set something on fire? What if I start shouting? I mean I do not want to do any of these things, but you can never know, can you?
So the intrusive thoughts are one of the reasons why I’d never get on a plan without a book. Reading helps me get rid of the little OCD monster that sits on my shoulder and keeps whispering horrifying things into my ears.
Finally, arriving to your destination is definitely the best part. OCD can make your life difficult, but do not let it control you! Avoiding situations that you’re afraid of will not help. The world is full of wonderful places and you shouldn’t let OCD rob you of all the amazing experiences.
As you know, there’s one more thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your OCD travel stories in the comment section!