Growing up, I dreamed of traveling the world and going on adventures. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at an early age and my symptoms worsened into my adolescence. For awhile, I gave up on my dreams of traveling and focused on school and my health. I didn’t think I would ever be healthy enough to see the world.
While in the 6th grade, I took my first flight and traveled from Texas to Washington D.C. I’m terrified of heights, even to this day. That first flight was brutal. I was already having a bad flare up but didn’t want to keep going to the bathroom. I had the window seat and had terrible anxiety about asking the other people sitting in my row to get up…again. My stomach was making so much noise and I was so self conscious. The take off left me feeling incredibly nauseous. I had a sharper than usual pain in my stomach. There were so many crazy thoughts going through my mind. I felt panic starting to set in. Then I forced myself to really look out the window. I thought I was going to throw up, realizing how far above the ground we really were. I couldn’t even see the ground. That was destabilizing at first. But slowly I felt myself calming down. It was really peaceful up there.
I loved seeing the clouds from that point of view. I had always enjoyed looking up at the sky, as Texas has some of the most beautiful skies (I’m biased, I know). My body relaxed a little. Then we would hit turbulence and I would go right back to square one. Nauseous, in pain and terrified.
The landing was scary and so hard on my stomach. I had held my vomit bag tightly the entire flight but I came very close to using it during the landing. Once we stopped, I felt much better. I was beyond proud of myself for having made the journey without throwing up all over or going to the bathroom a million times.
The flight back was easier. I was excited to sit by the window again. I knew what to expect this time through so I had a lot less anxiety. Most of it was even enjoyable. When we landed back in Dallas, I was elated to have completed the trip with minimal issues. I had been very sick in D.C. and was in constant pain (nothing out of the ordinary) but I survived the flights and had an overall positive trip experience. It gave me hope that I could actually have the life that I dreamed of as a very young girl.
While I still don’t like being crammed in confined spaces, flying has become something that I look forward to. My health has had many ups and downs but I have taken many trips since I timidly boarded that first flight. A few years ago, I even quit my job and left everything behind to go on a long-term solo trip to Ecuador (and then to Mexico, which wasn’t originally planned).
Crohn’s has been and will continue to be an obstacle in my life that I have to overcome on a daily basis. Some days I come out on top. Other days, I get my ass kicked. But I’ve learned that no matter how difficult, it doesn’t have to be a dead end. I have proven to myself time and time again that I can rise above adversity and live the life I want to live.
So far, I have visited 7 countries (England, Finland, Italy, Croatia, Ecuador/Galapagos, Mexico and Colombia). I lived in Ecuador and Mexico for three months each. There was a time that I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to live alone in foreign countries. So, while every single day is an uphill battle, I continue to climb. I continue to take steps toward building a life I love.
What was your first flight experience? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below!
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