Fear of flying: Can I overcome it?

BA plane taking off in blue sky

I love travelling! Hubby and I spent a year in our mid twenties travelling Oceania and North America. I hope that J shares our love for adventure, discovery and new experiences. What’s the problem I hear you ask? Just the teensy weeny issue that I am terrified of flying! I am not exaggerating. I’ve heard of plenty of people who dislike flying or get bored. I am literally so terrified that I have a: find any alternative; avoid at all costs; full on anxiety and for at least a week beforehand style fear.

 

As a child I was fortunate enough to experience flying but I don’t recollect a fear of flying then. As a bookworm I actually rather enjoyed it. When else can you spend hours reading with no interruptions as a child? The first time I remember being uncomfortable was the only flight I have ever taken alone. But even then I wasn’t too bad on subsequePlane landing, city background behindnt flights. I even managed an almost direct flight from London to Sydney without any more than a stomach clench when we hit turbulence over the Himalayan mountains. There was a seed of fear but it was to get much, much worse.

 

 

 

I believe that the real phobia of flying kicked in whilst I was in Australia. 6 months into a year long trip we found ourselves living in Perth, Western Australia for 3 months. I had suffered panic attacks after my dad passed away but had been coping reasonably well with only a few ‘episodes’ in Australia, however, here there was an increase in frequency of attacks.

 

We left Perth and travelled up the Western coast of Australia and then through the Northern Territory. These very isolated regions with low population densities only made things worse. I had panic attack after panic attack.  I became convinced that I was going to have a heart attack and die before the flying doctors could get to me. I even researched how long they took to get to patients and how many heart attack patients they saved. If you have never suffered from a panic attack then it must be very difficult for you to understand, in fact you may now be thinking that I am crazy and plan never to read my blog again. Before you do this though, I would recommend reading the description of panic attacks so accurately written by the lovely Occupation M(other). This will hopefully help you to appreciate what was happening to me and why I felt this way.

 

6 weeks after leaving Perth we had a flight booked from Alice Springs to Cairns. This was the first time the phobia showed real signs. I begged hubby to drive instead days before the flight, I monitored the planes flying across our campsite, I imagined what a mess my mum would be in, having only lost her husband 2 years previous, when we crashed and died and never made it home.

 

By the time we got on the plane I was a pile of nerves. I remember as though it was yesterday being terrified that we weren’t going to be flying across water; I remember the sharp turn as we approached the Cairns airport; I remember the slightly bumpy descent; I remember the relief I felt as we landed. My phobia was well and truly in place.

looking out of a plane window, land below and part of the engine and wing of the plane

 

To make things worse we were now on the other side of the world from home and we had 6 more flights before we would be safely back on English soil. Then to add salt to the wound, there was the liquid plot a couple of weeks later when suddenly all liquids were banned and queues at airports were crazy. The final nail went in when another 3 weeks later we flew from Sydney to Christchurch. As we approached Christchurch I could see mountain tops out of the window, then suddenly we ‘dropped’. To me at the time I thought we were going to crash. I just about made it into the toilets in arrivals before I burst into tears. My phobia was now well and truly ingrained.

 

 

inside of a plane, seats and aisle

 

Since having J, the fear seems to have escalated. Before my recent holiday to Spain the anxiety was almost at breaking point. I could feel a fully blown panic attack brewing and I haven’t had one for years (thanks to 2 bouts of counselling). So what to do? I turned to my blogging friends for help. I am so lucky to be a part of #tribalchat a wonderful blogging community set up by the fabulous Katie at Mummy in a Tutu. It turns out that several of them are also terrified of flying and recommended a visit to the GP to get something to help, but I had 2 problems. I had a 17 month old to look after so couldn’t risk falling asleep and I was flying in 2 days and it was now a Sunday…

 

Luckily, my wonderful fellow Tribsters were not deterred and instead sent me off to buy Rescue Remedy. Now here I must admit that I was highly sceptical. I am open to alternative therapies but Rescue Remedy has always left me dubious. However, I bought the spray and the pastilles. I tried them the day before and much to my surprise they actually worked! I felt relaxed and happy whenever flying was mentioned. The knot in my stomach had gone.

 

The following morning, I was dubious again. It was all well and good thRescue remedy packagingat they worked yesterday, but today was a whole different kettle of fish! I was actually having to fly. I sprayed and sucked… it wasn’t working… I was still feeling nervous. I took another 2 sprays on the tongue and then suddenly I could feel it working. I had hope.

 

As we settled into our seat I also used my hypnobirthing techniques (it has been 17 months but they are so ingrained that I can call up my happy beach in a second). I felt relaxed. My heart wasn’t hammering in my chest; I wasn’t hyperventilating. The airplane started up the runway. I closed my eyes and focused harder counting down from 5-1. It was working!! I felt relaxed. Then J decided he wasn’t so sure about the flight and I had mummy duties to perform that I was fit for. I was able to comfort and reassure my little man because I was calm myself.

 

I was so relieved that it worked. It made the whole flying experience much more bearable. For the first time in 9 years I didn’t have tears of relief upon landing because I was relaxed. To my fellow Tribesters – I cannot thank you enough! To all of you who suffer without help seek out some as it really made a huge difference for me. And to Rescue Remedy – thank you so much!

Diary of an imperfect mum

You may also like

17 comments

  1. I feel for you. I don’t suffer anywhere near as badly as you but I HATE flying and days before hand become convinced that something bad is going to happen, I can’t sleep and I become extremely stressed. The rescue remedy is amazing and does help, in that I think you feel more in control, if that makes sense? I’m glad you fround it works for you too. I also have a LARGE glass of wine before I get on the flight 🙂 #stayclassy

    1. Thank you! This is the same as me, I am convinced that something awful will happen. It is horrid! It absolutely made me feel in control and that was what allowed me to rationalise and therefore calm down. I just think about the thousands of other planes in the skies across the world at that exact time.

    1. Thank you! It certainly made flying a far more manageable experience and the whole holiday was made less stressful as a result.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you have anxiety about flying – especially since you love travel so much. Isn’t it great to have people you can turn to and ask for help? It makes me happy to hear you found something that seems to help settle you for your flights. Great post about anxiety and still needing to be a mom!
    ~Jess
    #stayclassy

  3. Oh this made me quite emotional…it was really interesting hearing you describe the onset of the fear and the start of your panic attacks. And I really do understand how awful those must have been for you. I’m so glad that your most recent flight was so much better – reaching out for support and empathy can make such a difference…I’m glad you got that and I’m happy you found the wonders of rescue remedy too. Mostly though I’m soo pleased for you that you were able to find it in yourself to work through the anxiety and the fear. That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience generally with everyone and in my capacity as cohost, thank you for sharing with #FamilyFun xx

    1. Thank you for all of your advice! 🙂 Thank you for writing such an accurate description of panic attacks. I could never have put the emotions into words without feeling the anxiety myself. You were very brave 🙂

  4. Rescue remedy is great stuff! I hate flying. I have only done it once when my husband and I went to visit my sister in Toronto 6 yeas ago. It was funny as my first flight was like 9 hours! I hated the take off part! xx

    Thanks for linking up with #stayclassy

    #triballove

    1. I wish I had discovered it earlier! Wow! A 9 hour flight for your first one. That is brave! I hope that you are able to have another go though as there are so many wonderful places to explore… although if you really hate flying a cruise to NYC and then a drive to Toronto is always a possibility… 😉

  5. Thanks for sharing. Im not afraid to fly but have dealt with panic attacks before. They are so difficult to deal with. Im sorry you had to experience them this way. Thankfully as a therapist I have developed many coping skills to help myself.
    Love your honesty!#triballove

    1. Thankfully I saw a therapist once I returned from my travels (not specifically about the flying mind) and she was able to help me find a wide range of techniques to cope. My favourite is reciting all the times tables. I also found that recognising the early signs was a crucial coping mechanism.

  6. Oh I feel for you. I love flying but can see how quickly events can come together along with a dip in mental health to change this, and how it can happen to anybody. I am so, so glad you took the advice and that it worked!! What a life change. Well done for not letting the phobia stand in your way of getting on with your life, the world is your oyster again now! xxx #FamilyFun

  7. I agree, I don’t think I’ll ever completely get over it. I think the anxiety will always be there, but the Rescue Remedy allows me to be calm enough to rationalise the safety and to focus on other things rather than being all consumed by the fear. Thank you 🙂

    1. These are so helpful! Thank you. I will have a watch of them before I fly next. It is very useful to speak to those in the industry as it definitely helps to relax me!

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *