Landing a Plane at 13


Jade Von Doepp, Contributor

When I was 13, I attempted to learn how to land a plane against my will. It was quite the process, a whole 30 mins of cramming information into my brain on the way to Indiana. Yep, I was on the plane, learning how to fly the plane. 

I have always been a nervous freak of sorts. To be plain, I was an annoying child. The type that would drive babysitters away, who would ask creepy philosophical questions.

So, when I flew out to Indiana, the disturbing idea struck me: this plane could crash. ow, this is obvious: everyone knows planes can crash but it’s very unlikely. Trust me. I know the statistics are a slim one in a million but for some reason I knew that I at thirteen years old would have to emergency-land it. 

So, I sat down in the leathery seat, buckled in, and got to work. I was presented with three information pamphlets shoved into the back of the seat in front of me. I was no longer Jade, I was some savior, sent by the gods to land this plane. American Airlines would be in shambles without me, literally. 

When I decided that the peeling and worn emergency landing cards weren’t enough, I turned to my only other recourse. My iPhone. At that point there were only five minutes until take off, around three hundred seconds to prepare to land this plane. I went on the only website I could think of: Wiki How. To my dismay, Wiki How did not pull through, whatsoever. I looked around the isles and saw scaly old men and women sitting next to youthful millennials, all stuffed into the god-forsaken plane. 


Three minutes until I kill everyone in this plane.

Selfishly, I gave up on playing god. I looked at my mom for the last time before the plane took off. Wow. This was it. 

I put on my music and closed my eyes. Waiting for the sharp impact or crumble- whatever the hell you feel when a plane crashes. 

It never came, obviously as I am writing this article. 

Around a week later, I was diagnosed with OCD. Big surprise.

I thought about anytime in my life where I could have triggered this disease. Perhaps it was when I willingly stuck my metal hello kitty hair clip in their electrical socket and shocked myself in third grade. Maybe it was when I got kicked out of multiple daycare for biting other girls. Really, I have no idea.

Sometimes people are just strangely irrational because that’s just the way they are wired, but the thought of my brain being the way it was “just because” was unbearable. There had to be some reason. No way was I born with a crippling flaw, that’s just not possible. 

Maybe it’s not a flaw, I was just more evolved. Equipped with an extremely sensitive survival instinct. Lets just say, I would probably survive any apocalypse ever, just keep me away from planes, germs, cliffs and bridges. 

Often I’ve had people look at me very confused when I reveal to them my little secret. When I tell people I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder they don’t believe me. I don’t get why. Sure, I am undoubtedly a terribly unorganized person but I know how to emergency land a plane! Is that not enough? I know what they are waiting to hear though.

They are waiting for me to tell them that I can’t step on the lines in the sidewalk or that I vacuum my room every night. They are looking for some stereotypical OCD ritual like the ones portrayed in movies and in books. 

I don’t blame them, as there is underrepresentation in the media, and honestly OCD is not talked about enough. 

OCD will exaggerate your fear to the point of acting crazy for the sake of reassurance. To break it down everyone has intrusive thoughts that cause fear. People without OCD usually ignore these thoughts. However, people with OCD create an emotional attachment to this thought which then drives them to do a compulsion to get rid of or cure the fear that they feel. Usually the intrusive thought will linger because of the emotional attachment to it, leading to repetitive rituals like counting or asking for reassurance.  There is no logic behind it and there are no explanations. So, for many people they experience OCD in a more recognizable font with needing to have straight lines, or counting the tiles on the floor and for others it can be more extreme. 

Living and growing up with OCD has taught me many things. One of which is a painful hard truth: you have to be uncomfortable and face your fears, there’s no way around it, you just have to. 

The medical process for this, one that still makes me cringe, is called “exposure therapy.” I have done many exposures in the course of my lifetime. The most memorable would have to be sitting in my therapist’s office holding a barbecue chip and crying. I was a mess over this salty snack. 

To anyone else it would be an easy task to hold a chip in their hand. To me, it was the end of the world. I watched the orange and brown dust smear on my fingers and I saw the earth cracking open wide. So I sat there, a fully grown (almost) adult, crying over the chip in my hand. 

The logic was simple. If my hands smelled of any food I would get one whiff and I would become disgusted, therefore never want to eat a morsel of food ever again. This wasn’t the issue, the issue was when I would become so emaciated that I would die, and my family would be so upset that they would die as well. At the end of the day this one barbecue chip was apparently going to massacre my family and me.

About five minutes into holding this potato chip my hands were sweating and there were tears in my eyes as I prepared for the end world, but it never came. I walked out of that office alive. How could I have been so irrational? The fear of a barbecue chip. Soon after, I stopped washing my hands obsessively and I started using my hands to eat my pizza again and soon I never thought about it again. 

So to my dismay, facing my fears had actually worked. 

Facing your fears is uncomfortable and hard but take it from a compulsive and obsessive freak: it works.