Eight Steps to Conquering my Fear of Flying
This baby boomer traveler suffers from a fear of flying.
There. I said it.
I suppose the most obvious question is, “then why do you fly?”
Truth is, I love to travel, I just struggle greatly with the flying part. The odd part is, I’ve not suffered from this all my life.
About 15 years ago, Carol and I were flying home from San Francisco on a business trip. I wasn’t feeling very well as we got on the plane, and about 15 minutes into the flight I found myself on the floor. The flight attendent was pushing an oxygen mask on my face, and my poor wife was petrified as we heard the captain announce, “is there a doctor onboard this flight?”
We later learned that the flight crew was communicating with Mayo Clinic and flying somewhere over Wyoming the decision was made to turn the plane around and drop me off in Sacramento. There was a helicopter waiting for us when we landed, and off they shipped me to the hospital.
After a barrage of tests, primarily on my heart, it was discovered that I had a panic attack at 36,000 feet. “What the heck is a panic attack,” I inquired, “and what the heck am I afraid of? I’m not afraid of flying.”
The mind is a very strange thing. It can lie to you and make you believe something that isn’t true. And now, it seemed, my mind was telling me that I had a new found fear of flying.
In my case, it wasn’t a fear of flying, per se, but more a fear of being cooped up in a confined space for a prolonged period of time. I don’t seem to have a problem flying around the good ol’ USA. But the thought of flying on our upcoming trip to Italy has me laying awake at night a month before our trip! Sheez!
H.P. Lovecraft is quoted as having said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” I agree with that. It seems to be something mankind has struggled with since being booted out of the Garden of Eden. Even in the Christmas story, we find the shepherds in great fear when the angels appeared to them in the fields.
My dictionary tells me that fear is caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. But I’m not afraid of dying in a place crash.
So …. perhaps my dilemma is more phobia?
“A phobia ( meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”) is, when used in the context of clinical psychology, a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.” (via wikipedia)
Oh for heavens sake, get out the metal hat, I’ve gone completely bonkers!
Well, I’ve learned that I haven’t gone nuts. Evidently a lot of people suffer from all kinds of nasty little mind games that their own minds play on them.
Here’s a few things that I’ve learned to do to help me cope. While these won’t apply to all suffers of a fear of flying, perhaps it can give someone like me the courage to get back out there and travel.
Eight Steps to Conquering my Fear of Flying
- We charge absolutely everything that we can our our American Express Travel Rewards cards ultimately looking for upgradeable tickets. As my anxiety seems to be more one of confined spaces, the extra room in First Class seems to greatly eliminate my problems. Note: this is a bad idea if you don’t pay your credit cards off each month.
- If First Class isn’t available, airlines are now selling “Premium Economy” seating. We’re trying these seats for the first time flying from New York to Rome. We know that we’ll be loosing some of the frills of First Class, but we’re hoping for First Class roominess. Fingers crossed!
- I get to the airport early. With the stress of flying, I don’t need to add to it the stress of crowded airports.
- I drink lots of water to keep my body hydrated. I do this because my grandmother said that water is good for me. 🙂
- I have a bottle of Ativan with me (security blanket). I haven’t looked in years, and I haven’t taken one in years, but I think I have six pills in the bottle. Frankly, I’ve been thinking about getting my prescription updated in case I need one some day. I had a very rough time on my flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti. I’d forgotten that I had the pills with me. They’ve probably expired and are are no good anymore anyway. Note to self: get an updated prescription.
- I talk to myself. I learned it from King David. You know, the guy in the Bible. He talked to himself all the time. Here, in Psalm 42:5, he says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” He was just caught with Bathsheba, and God wasn’t happy with him. When King David was in severe turmoil, he talked to himself. I do it all the time, and it works well. I’m constantly telling myself that my minds perceptions are not accurate.
- A little glass of wine before boarding the plane is not a bad thing. However, don’t combine with medication!
- Don’t let fear steal your dreams. I love, love, love to travel. There was no way I was going to let this nonsense destroy my ability to see the world. While this phobia is still completely bewildering to me, I’m still out there seeing the world. Albeit, sometimes a bit knock-kneed.
Well. There you have it. My own little personal phobia, and my steps to conquer it.
How about you? Do you suffer from a fear of flying? How do you do battle with it?