The Girl on the Plane

The Girl on the Plane

I really struggle with how to handle people who are suffering from anxiety. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, I would have thought I’d be better at it, but I’m really not. I spent the last few days in Phoenix, Arizona. I was at a fantastic professional conference and had an awesome time. But the flight home…another story.

I was so excited when I got to my seat in coach to see that the flight was not full, and that I was going to be sitting next to two empty seats. That’s the best thing that you can ask for on a midnight flight home. I also really needed to sleep that hour and 54 minutes. I needed to go to work early the next day and didn’t have time to mess around with my sleep schedule.

The moment that the seatbelt sign was turned off, a woman sat down in the aisle seat of my row, visibly upset. Crying loudly, shaking, and pulling at her clothes. This is what a severe panic attack looks like. I hit the call button for the stewardess, thinking that maybe some water would help.

That stewardess was so helpful. She picked this woman up and took her to the galley, gave her water and let her walk around a little. Ten minutes later, she came and sat down, and seemed great. Calm, collected. She pulled out a book and started to read.

Less than a minute later…back to sobbing, pulling at her clothes, and now…pulling at my clothes. She also began to mutter distressingly about how “we’re all going to die on this plane” and that she “saw this coming”. She was physically touching me and causing me and the surrounding passengers a lot of panic, including two small children seated across the aisle.

This continued the entire flight. I was uncomfortable, and I felt a lot of pity for her. I was able to get her to stop touching me, but only after nearlyhalf an hour of grabbing at my hands, arms, and leg. I didn’t know what do. The flight attendant didn’t know what to do. I’m not making this post to draw attention to my terrible experience, or my even worse reaction to it. I want to know what I should do, what any of us should do, the next time this happens. Maybe not on a plane, but at a restaurant, in grocery store, on the city bus. What do you do? It seems like a hard question to answer, and I want to know what the right answer is. 

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