Struck by Lightning

If I had to list my fears, flying would be right at the very top.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and will continue to take any and every opportunity to travel the world. But I’m a nervous flyer to say the least. I’m that passenger that gasps when you hit a rough patch of air, grabs the arm rest (or maybe your hand pre-COVID) during sudden drops, and has cried a time or two just because I was terrified.

This wasn’t always the case, but I’ll save that whole story for some other time. I really just wanted to write about an experience I had early last year. I was flying down to North Carolina for a couple days to look at potential homes for the family. Of course it wasn’t an ideal scenario because I was alone and the weather was awful, so I was more nervous than normal. Not a “start sobbing when my butt hit the seat” kind of nervous, but enough to know that a Xanax would be in order, along with lots of prayer and deep breathing.

Given the weather, the turbulence actually wasn’t horrible, but about halfway through the flight, there was a loud bang and bright flash outside the plane. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve had a nervous breakdown. Did we lose an engine? Did something break? Or are we just way too deep into a storm cloud? After whipping my head around to see how others were (weren’t) reacting, I took a deep breath and tensely waiting for landing an hour later.

I always thank the pilot and crew for the flight and this time was no different. But before I could get to the exit, another passenger commented to the pilot that she couldn’t believe we’d been struck by lightning. He laughed and said, “Yep, it got us alright!” as he waved at everyone leaving. “Good thing they build these things for that just in case.”

Am I the only one who had no clue that this was a thing? That airplanes are designed to handle lightning strikes? It’s funny that I spend so much time reading up on things and doing research but really know very little about the mechanics of an airplane. My thought process since my phobia developed at age 19 has been to avoid too much information so that I can’t dwell on it. I have a friend with a fear of flying that takes the opposite approach and wants to know every tidbit about flight, going so far as to watch “Why Planes Crash” regularly.

It’s safe to say that I will never hope to experience a lightning strike while flying just because I know the plane can take it. But will I react differently now? Is it worth educating myself further?

I’m curious how you approach your phobias and anxiety triggers. Avoid and try not to dwell? Or take the knowledge is power route?

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