It is no secret to most people who know me, that I suffer from claustrophobia. It has been getting worse over the past few years and now sitting anywhere besides an aisle seat on an airplane sets my heart racing. This, of course, is a slight problem since I now fly a lot. I actually never worried too much, because most of my flights are with Nicholas and if one of us gets a middle seat, the other has the aisle. He always switches with me, bless him, and I never have to worry.
I shared with my dad that I have been getting worse and more things are triggering my claustrophobia, and how airplanes are my new torture chamber if I get a window or middle seat. He suggested that I might need to talk to someone about all this, since I fly so frequently and that there is always a chance that I won't be able to get an aisle seat. What? Never, I tell him. I always pick my seat out in advance and have never had to sit in a seat I did not want. Shortly after this conversation, ironically on my flight home to Cleveland from New York, I get the dreaded middle seat. I am puzzled how this happened. I am an elite flyer, so I automatically get the better seats (economy plus and upgrades, if available) so I do not understand how I got a middle seat.
I had a decision to make. I either could talk to the flight attendants before boarding, share with them my fears and hope someone would be able to switch seats with me. Or, I would try to overcome my fear and ride in the middle seat. I decided I would go ahead with my assigned seat and I would practice some techniques a friend taught me about breathing, smiling, laughing, singing, etc., when in a situation like this and to try to trick your body into having an opposite reaction. I figured, worst case, I would stay out of my seat as much as possible and best case, I would have no one near me.
When I boarded the flight and headed toward my seat, my heart started to race and I did my best to talk myself out of the crazy thoughts in my head. "Everything will be fine." "Middle seats are fun. (said no one ever...)" "I'll probably just sleep the whole time." "It is all in my head. It is all in my head."
Smiling like a fool, forcefully laughing to myself; "Change your reaction," I thought to myself.
Then, I saw my seat.
It was an emergency exit with so much legroom I couldn't even reach my leg to touch the seat in front of me! Success! I am so proud of myself for not giving into my fears... this was a piece of cake ride all the way to Cleveland ;) phew...