On Monday 13th of November, myself and the MindOverMarathon team were invited to the VGM Mind Media Awards at Odeon Leicester Sq, where we had been nominated for the Best Documentary award.
After the slog of training for the marathon, of talking in public on TV about my depression and PTSD, it was so so amazing to be there. I was so excited by the fact our words had changed the way people see others with mental health and that mental health was finally starting to lose its taboo. I was even more excited when Prince Harry got up on stage and announced that we had won the Speaking out award (as if the night couldn’t get any better!!) On stage he hugged us all and gave us our medals. My anxiety and paranoia were kind of under control all night because I felt as if I was in a safe place surrounded by my friends. I was so happy to see the team including the BBC production team and the man himself, Nick Knowles! I went home with a massive sense of achievement and empowerment at knowing that me speaking about the battles I have to deal with every day had touched so many people.
On the morning of Thuesday 14th November, I had a flight to catch back to Malta (this is usually where it always goes wrong). Me being someone who suffers horribly with anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD, airports are my worse nightmare. But I was in a good place because of the amazing night I had the night before at the awards. I was all packed and on my way to the airport, going through photos that everyone had posted and feeling really really positive. I got to the airport and through to departures with no sign of me having an episode. Finally, the gate number came up. I made my way to the gate and took a seat. As many people know Easyjet is normally a simple and easy way to fly (hence the name). This time was different. I was sitting within a metre of the desk to board with no one sitting around me. The staff looked like they had a lot on their plate because the flight was totally full, but I assumed this was kind of normal for them.
So I’m sitting there waiting to board and a member of the EasyJet staff comes up to me and shouts at me “YOU CAN ONLY TAKE ONE BIT OF HAND LUGGAGE ON THE FLIGHT OR YOU WILL NOT BE BOARDING”. Let me just make something clear, I had a small handbag and a carry on suitcase. He was very tall and big; I am quite small and felt really intimidated. I asked him, as calmly as possible, what I should do and he replied That’ss up to you to decide”. Everyone waiting to board the flight was now focused on me. Double nightmare. Within seconds I was having the worst panic attack I have ever had. My chest was tight, I couldn’t breath let alone get any words out. I was in tears and clearly distressed by the situation. I managed to call my dad and he demanded I put someone else on the phone because he could hear that I was in trouble. They asked him to pay £56 so I could go on with my carry on – something that could have been explained to me in a calm and kind manner. All the while I’m still sitting alone unable to catch my breath, feeling extremely vulnerable and alone. Still, not one member of EasyJet staff came to my aid. My panic attack was brought on due to the manner the staff member spoke to me and singled me out in the crowd. I ended up getting on the flight in tears still not able to catch my breath and still, no one asked if I was OK or needed any help. They just all looked as if I was being silly when inside I was scared that actually, I might be dying. Anyone who has ever had a panic attack will know the pure terror that is involved in them.
Due to the way I was dealt with by all the EasyJet staff that day it sent me into a dark episode of “maybe I did something wrong”. I think EasyJet need to have a look into how their customer service can affect someone with a mental health issue. You can’t always tell if someone battles with mental health, so they should treat everyone with a little bit more love and care. I don’t think I’m going to be able to face another flight anytime soon.
I really want mental ill health to be taken into consideration on flights and at airports. It can be a very scary place for someone who has any type of mental health issue, the airport staff and airline staff should be trained in how to spot when someone may be slipping into an episode, not single them out and cause them to have a panic attack. If someone had checked that I was OK, things could have been so different. We should be a bit kinder to each other. I hope my story makes them think and stops anyone else having the kind of experience I did.
*If you have experienced something similar to Poppy whilst using any form of public transport that has negatively impacted your mental health then please get in touch with us using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, we want to hear your stories. Let’s make sure huge companies like EasyJet wake up to the serious responsibility of keeping passengers wellbeing a number one priority.