I had a panic attack while boarding a plane. The pilot refused to let me fly, but I learned a lot about managing travel anxiety.

This article is based on Quincy Cardin. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Last summer, I traveled to Johannesburg with my mother. This trip is a great opportunity to see other cultures up close. But being away from home in Los Angeles also heightened my anxiety, a condition I’ve struggled with my entire life.

It all came to a head when my mother and I went to the airport to fly from Johannesburg to London, where we would catch another flight to Los Angeles. My mom and I both have anticipatory flying anxiety. Once we’re in the air it’s great, but getting there can be really difficult.

At the airport, my anxiety was worse than ever. As I prepared to board the plane, I began to panic, tremble, and even vomit. When I boarded the plane, the flight attendants didn’t know what to do. The pilot is coming. I tried to explain it was anxiety but they thought I had a virus or some other physical illness and they asked me to get off the plane.

It’s frustrating because I know I’ll be fine soon

It was incredibly frustrating to be forced off the plane. I know my body and my mind. I’m at the peak of my panic attacks and it’s not getting any worse. I tried to explain this and tell the crew how my anxiety manifested itself through physical symptoms, but they just didn’t understand.

Fifteen minutes later, my mother and I returned to the airport, and I was fine. The attack has passed. But suddenly we encountered a bigger problem: we missed our flight home and were stranded on the other side of the world.

Luckily, we found a hotel room and booked a new flight a few days later. The second time I walked into the airport, I was very nervous. The airline would not let me fly. However, I was able to keep myself centered with slow, rhythmic breathing until I was airborne.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in fifth grade

As a kid, I had a hard time going on dates or even attending after-school activities. It’s very isolating. I just think I’m nervous. But in fifth grade, I started seeing a therapist and he diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. Learning this term to describe the problems I face has been empowering. I knew that my reaction was not caused by something wrong with me; They are the result of this named condition.

However, in South Africa, I realized that there are still many people who don’t understand anxiety. Many people are unaware that anxiety can cause physical symptoms. They don’t even have the language to talk about things like panic attacks.

Being asked to leave a plane was the biggest impact anxiety has had on me in my life, and it inspired me to change the conversation around anxiety. When I got home, I started writing a children’s book, Frankie’s suspicious feelings. It helps other children and families record what they are going through and use three key coping strategies when anxiety strikes: deep breathing, counting, and grounding yourself by feeling your feet in your shoes.

I still deal with flying anxiety, but it doesn’t keep me grounded

Back in Los Angeles, I was in no rush to get to the airport again. But I knew I wanted to travel in life and I couldn’t let anxiety hold me back. So, I made plans to visit my grandparents in Oregon.

Before the flight, I had planned everything that could happen. If I ever have a panic attack, I know there are safe places in the airport where I can wait it out. If I don’t get on the plane, I know there’s a flight the next day. Knowing the solution helped me overcome my nerves.

Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique. Even though my mom and I both have this disorder and share some of the same triggers, we don’t always have enough words to talk about it. Now, after writing this book, we have a shared vocabulary that we can use to support each other.

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