Fear of Flying

Farewell 30s

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This week I passed my Masters Degree in Television and Radio Scriptwriting.

It has taken two years and eight months of hard work, tight deadlines but to be totally honest I enjoyed every minute of it so much that it never felt like I was studying at that level.

Having a passion for storytelling and writing, it meant that I had a reason to sit at my laptop for hours on end, buy different coloured writing books to make notes on and spend a ridiculous amount of money on text books.

It is also a good excuse to binge watch fabulous television shows where I’m merely analysing how the storyline runs, how characters conflict etc.

The MA is also a fitting way to say farewell to what has been the best decade of my life so far.

I turn the big 4-0 in September and I’m already trying to think of things I need to plan on completing in my forties. How on earth can I match the past decade in terms of developing as a person?

I don’t recognise me as a thirty year old. Back then my life was all about getting through every day and not suffering with another panic attack, or a bout of depression. Anxiety and low self-esteem were part of my character back in 2004.

I was in an unfulfilling job and seemed to be afraid a lot of the time. Don’t ask me what I was afraid of – perhaps just living? One things for sure I felt stuck in a rut and the only focus in my life were my young children and husband.

Family is of course important but I also felt like I needed more in my life.

Then I had one of those life changing conversations with a work colleague.

I’d always wanted to study for a degree. My colleague had studied for her degree with the Open University when she was a single mother. She was then an Early Years Advisory Teacher, who ended up getting a job in the Grand Cayman islands training their teachers. She encouraged me to study with the Open University too.

“I’ll be 35 by the time I get a degree” I’d wailed to her, to which her response was just the response I needed. “You’ll be 35 anyway – you can either be 35 and with a degree or 35 and without one”.

That moment right there changed my life forever. The person I am sitting on my sofa typing this blog post is not the same person contemplating her future on her 30th birthday.

I graduated as an undergraduate in BA (Hons) Humanities with Media Studies in July 2009, age 34 (combining credits).

I will graduate in July 2014, age 39 with a Masters in Television and Radio Scriptwriting.

I learnt to swim age 33 years old. I can still remember my boys faces when I dived in the swimming pool in Spain and swam under the water with them (instead of my usual clinging to the side).20130821_140843

I went on a Fear of Flying course age 34, my first flight as an adult and since then have travelled to USA, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Menorca, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Amsterdam and Ireland.

From being paralysed in fear at talking to groups of people, I now present a weekly entertainment show on my local community radio station.

I have a fulfilling job working for a university in Media City where I get to help students on a daily basis. A complete career change for me leaving local government finance to move into Higher Education (wouldn’t have been possible without the degree).

It really has been a metamorphosis of character for me in the past decade and it both worries and excites me at the prospect of the next decade.

Will it be as exciting? Is there anything else I should do to improve my life? Or is this the decade where I should just chill out and appreciate life in general, enjoy the extra time now the children are getting bigger and swim in as many oceans as I can?

One thing is for sure. I’m a firm believer that there are key moments in your life and you can either choose to ignore them, or embrace them and make those changes.

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K is for Kids

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Only one of my “kids” came to New York with husband and I last summer. The elder of my boys accompanied his grandfather to Ohio for a couple of weeks before meeting up with us for a family week in Vancouver, which was our third and final week away.

As parents we both agree that it’s very important that our children experience as many things that are offered to them as possible.

My eldest son was eight when he first went away with his grandfather to Ireland for five weeks. Then two years later he went to the USA with grandfather for four weeks. It was an awful time for me as I missed him so much, but that certainly wasn’t grounds to not let him go.

Some people don’t understand why I would let my youngish children spent such long periods away from home to go on holidays. I think a bit of it was implying that I was a bad parent for doing it, as I know of some parents who don’t even like their children going away with school for a weekend.

Of I only feel rest when my two boys are in their beds at home, but I love my children and I want them to experience everything they can, even if it means that I miss them dearly for periods of time.

They of course won’t appreciate all of the trips that they have been on already until they are older.

In New York I made sure that my youngest son did lots of different things, so that when he looks back in years to come, hopefully he will be glad he did them.

Things like dancing on the ‘Big’ piano in FAO Schwarz, cycling and horse drawn carriage transportation around Central Park, seeing the stone lions outside the New York Public Library (once we got home and watched Ghostbusters he understood why I made a big deal out of that), watching a baseball game, singing in Times Square, seeing the T-Rex in the Natural History Museum and then watching Night at the Museum when we got home and visiting the 9/11 Memorial Site at the World Trade Center.

Both my boys have been on many holidays and experienced a variety of cultures in their young lives. We’re not rich parents, we don’t have a fancy house, we have no savings but  we both agree that holidays are more important than having a pristine house, fancy cars or a conservatory like some people.

We’ve got plenty of time when the kids are older to spend a fortune on the house. As far as I’m concerned they are only young once and I would rather them have a culturally rich life and look back with fondness on the adventures that their mum and dad took them on, rather than how expensive the wallpaper in the lounge was, or the wooden floor being changed every couple of years.

Travelling was something that came late in life to me. I say late, I was thirty-three when I went on my British Airways fear flight.

Followers of my blog will know that I had a crippling phobia of flying for many years.

The best thing I ever did was investing money into a fear of flying course and a course of hypnotherapy sessions.

Life is certainly enhanced by travelling. The best times of my life are when I am learning about a new country, language or different customs.

With a trip to Egypt coming up later in the year, I hope to visit Sri Lanka, Thailand and maybe Australia one day.

I hope my kids continue to explore this beautiful earth that we live in when they are all grown up with families of their own.

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J is for Jet Lag

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Although I am blogging about my adventures in New York for this April challenge, this wasn’t the only place that I visited in the summer of 2013.

Connecticut, Boston, Toronto and Vancouver were also on the list of destinations that we would visit.

Sightseeing and meeting members of the family that I had never encountered before meant that it really was a three week adventure, rather than a holiday.

We used the transportation of cars and planes to carry out  our schedule. We flew from Boston to Toronto, Toronto to Vancouver and flew home from Vancouver which was an even longer flight than our Manchester to New York outbound flight.

With all of that flying, and all of the different time zones it was inevitable that jet lag would kick in at some point.

Now I had never experienced jet lag before, given that my previous flights were all around Europe and I think the longest flight I had taken was three hours.

Jet lag hit me like a baseball bat when I flew back to Manchester from Vancouver.

Thank goodness the next day was a Bank Holiday Monday as I felt absolutely dreadful. I felt like all of the energy had been drained out of me and the simplest task such as making a cup of tea felt like a real physical effort.

I couldn’t eat and remember my speech being affected too. It was the most peculiar thing. The energy drain only lasted 24 hours. This was followed by waking up in the middle of the night and being fully awake. In contrast to the afternoon when I could have quite easily fallen asleep at my desk.

At work I had our exam reassessment board a couple of days later and thinking I wouldn’t be able to get through it as I felt so exhausted.

Luckily the jet lag seemed to go after a few weeks. A small price to pay for having had the adventure of a lifetime.

A is for Airways

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z CHALLENGE 2014

Or to be more precise British Airways, who were my airline of choice when booking the flights to New York City last year.

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I have already blogged about just how scared I used to be about flying – resulting in never holidaying abroad and getting off two aeroplanes a number of years ago and spoiling family holidays.

Thanks to British Airways and their life-changing Fear of Flying course I was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean last summer and finally visit the one place in the world that I wanted to see more than anything.

New York City.

It was a no-brainer when booking the flights. Although slightly more expensive than other airlines, this didn’t matter to me as I knew that flying with BA meant that I would be looked after throughout the whole flight. If I got nervous I could just tell them that I’d done their course and felt confident that they would look after me.

I flew the eight hours on a Boeing 747 which was my first experience of not only flying long-haul, but also flying on a jumbo. Wow! What a bird.2013-08-03 10.40.28

The eight-hour flight flew by (literally) and I spent a lot of the time walking up and down the plane stretching my back, and looking quite scary to my fellow passengers as I just had the biggest grin on my face for the entire time.

Spoilt for choice with the entertainment system, I had the choice of watching movies, TV shows or listening to music. I watched Les Miserables, Song for Marion and a couple of episodes of Girls. It was impossible to sleep as I was too excited about my destination.

Every few hours we were served snacks, then a main meal following by another hot sandwich. Drinks were available whenever we wanted, and this was in the cheap seats too.

The best part ever for me was as soon as the plane was on the ground and the flight attendant came on the radio to say the words I had longed to hear “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to New York’s John.F.Kennedy Airport”. The adventure was about to begin.

Thank you British Airways.

If I never travel anywhere again I will always treasure my adventures in the USA and Canada last summer.

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Fear of Flying – Part 2

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I cannot thank British Airways flying without fear course enough for educating people like me in the mechanics of flying.

It was very reassuring that I wasn’t the only person with such an intense fear as the class of a hundred people was full. They educate you with the statistics of how safe flying is, the mechanics of how the plane manages to get off the ground in the first place and stay in the sky. I knew that I was much safer being on a plane than I was being in a car. During the flight there is commentary about every single sound, sensation and experience that passengers feel when they are flying. I felt confident that the next “real” flight I would experience would be a nerve wracking one, but that the safety wouldn’t be an issue for me.

Given how incredibly scared I was at the prospect of getting on a plane I also had a series of hypnotherapy sessions which I found also really helped me in coping with my feelings of anxiety. Overcoming that fear was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and ten years ago I would have laughed at anybody who suggested that I would stop taking holidays to Wales.

In the years that have followed I have flown to Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Menorca, Portugal, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Munich, Nice and Rome. I’ve seen a lot of places, experienced different cultures and can quite honestly say that I am richer in life because of the travelling.
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However, I still hadn’t made it to New York yet, or managed to fly past three and a half hours. The flying was becoming comfortable but I knew that I had to step it up and do a long haul flight.

I don’t do things by halves that’s for sure. An offer came at the start of this year for a holiday to the USA and Canada with family. I immediately felt nervous about the flight, and doubted whether I could sit in one place for so many hours with only my thoughts to drive me to panic. The only way that I would get on a long haul flight would be if the first flight was New York bound. This was in our budget so it was something to look forward to.

Anyone who is scared of flying will sympathise with how anal you can get when booking these things. I must have spent hours looking at the routes to New York from Manchester. I would then look to see which size planes they were, and which seats were available. Crazy I know, but a lot of the fear is about staying in control so I needed to control all aspects of this. It wasn’t like flying to Portugal where I knew I would be airborne for only a few hours.

Thank goodness that British Airways (my saviours again) allow you to view the aircraft type, the seating arrangements and give you control of most aspects of the journey. Back in April 2013, I finally booked the tickets. First stop London Heathrow, then to New York, then a short flight from Boston to Toronto, then a long flight from Toronto to Vancouver and finally flying home to London from Vancouver which was the longest flight.

I didn’t really think about the flying in the coming months. I was getting so excited about going to New York that it was merely a means to get from A to B – right? Wrong. The anxiety that I had experienced a few times when I first started to fly kicked in again. It was horrendous and I couldn’t seem to shake it off. What should have been an exciting build up to the holiday of a lifetime was turning into a nightmare – although I would have welcomed a nightmare as I sure as hell wasn’t able to sleep much.

Again though this was the product of my visualisations and the fact that I couldn’t ever imagine myself in Times Square or seeing the Statue of Liberty. Only a brave person could get on a plane and be up in the air for eight hours, I’m not that brave!

The week leading up to the flight I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully my mind was preoccupied with work and a script idea to try not to think about the eight hour flight that was imminent. I got really cross with myself given that I have flown so many times in the past five years, so I know what to expect, I knew I would be fine but for some reason it was really was a huge anxiety with it being long haul. I visited my hypnotherapist again for a top up session and downloaded his mp3 onto my iphone so I could at least listen to him should I have feelings of panic on the plane. After all, keeping calm for three hours is a lot different than eight hours.

The night before the flight I ensured that I had a bag full of activities to keep me occupied. My ipad was loaded with some movies and TV shows that I could rely on to entertain me should the inflight entertainment be dull. Wordsearch, audiobooks, kindle with a selection of easy reading chick lits, notebook and an elastic band. Anybody reading who suffers with panic attacks will know that distraction is a key thing for getting through an anxiety attack. For me flicking the elastic band when it is on my hand firstly takes my mind off the feelings, plus it’s a non-verbal signal to my other half that he may need to distract me.

First flight was a short one from Manchester to London Heathrow. Apart from the ham and cheese snacks smelling vile and making me heave this flight, although bumpy was fine. It was only forty minutes long – a walk in the park.
On arrival at Heathrow passengers on long haul transfer to another terminal by tram. At this point my levels of fear were increasing and I recall saying to my husband “No matter what happens, you get on the plane and make sure @#### has a fantastic holiday (@#### is my youngest child).

Then something happened to me when I saw the aeroplane at the gate. I looked at the sign which gave the flight detail and that it said NEW YORK, and I got incredibly excited. Oh my goodness I was about to fly to New York.

New York! This was what all of this hypnotherapy and tackling the fear was all about – New York. “Do one thing every day that scares you” is an affirmation that I live by. Today was no different, except I was heading to Lady Liberty and the Big Apple.

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So I did. Once on board the fear went away altogether when I saw how huge the plane was. Not the most leg space considering we would be sitting for eight hours but there was plenty of room to walk around and do you know what? That flight went by so quickly. At one point I wrote in my notebook a reminder to myself that I felt calm, the flight was smooth and I shouldn’t be afraid of the trip back to the UK in three weeks’ time.

For the trip I flew six times including three long hauls, and coming home from Vancouver I experienced my first real turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean which occurred when my son and I were queuing for the toilet. We were knocked off our feet and managed to stagger back to our seats, but it didn’t phase me at all. I won’t be a prisoner to my fear, and being able to visit different countries and build memories and adventures makes it all worth while.

My travel blogs will be following this post in due course.

Thanks to British Airways for not only delivering their Flying without Fear courses, but for always being courteous and professional to all of their passengers, even the nervous ones.

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Fear of Flying – Part 1

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fear of lfyingApparently one in ten of the population suffer with aero-phobia, also known as fear of flying. Fear of flying is mainly linked to the fear of aeroplanes or other problems such as panic attacks and claustrophobia. Sufferers have in increase to anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of flying.

I am one of these people and I want to share my experiences with whoever is reading this post.

People suffering with fear of flying commonly fall into one of two groups. The first group are people who fear an “internal loss of control”. For such individuals, their fear of flying stems from a fear that they will lose control of their emotions during flight and therefore embarrass themselves in front of fellow passengers. These people may express concern about suffering a panic attack, loss of control of bodily functions or become hysterical. For others, the fear is associated with external factors such as turbulence, bad weather or a fault with the aeroplane.

I suffered with both of those factors. Like many people my childhood didn’t involve any air travel. I vaguely remember a family holiday to Spain when I was five, but since then nothing. At the age of twenty I began suffering with panic attacks which at one point were so crippling that I wouldn’t leave the flat that I lived in, and if I did I had to be accompanied by my boyfriend. Flying was something we had discussed when talking about holidays, but I knew how terrified I was when a panic attack happened at home, let alone at 36,000 feet with hundreds of other people.

So, then came the holidays to Devon, Cornwall and Wales because I couldn’t even begin to imagine that I would ever be brave enough to fly anywhere in the world. Maybe one day I would wake up and be brave enough to see Paris and New York (the two places on my list of places to visit before I die).

With parents who are very nervous travellers, perhaps this was a lot to do with my psychological barrier into the whole flying thing. If my parents were scared then there must be something to really be fearful of? In a space of three years, I did try to be brave and booked two holidays but ended up for the first holiday having a panic attack at boarding and not being able to proceed onto the aircraft. The second time I didn’t even get to the airport. The latter was in 2003. That was my last attempt (in my mind). I would forever be a regular at Haven, St Ives and Ilfracombe.

That was until August 2006 when my eldest son who was ten at the time went to the USA with his granddad. I recall standing on the aviation viewing car park at Manchester Airport crying as I was worried that if anything happened overseas I couldn’t get to him.
And you know those moments in your life when you will meet someone, or have a conversation with another person that will change your life forever? Well I’ve had a couple in my life and this was one of them. I was sitting in a board meeting at work when for some reason myself and a senior colleague were talking and I told him about my son being in America, my fear of flying etc. His wife had the same fear and he recommended to try the hypnotherapist that helped his wife.

At that moment I decided that not only would I try a hypnotherapist to help with the fear of panic/flying but I would also book onto a Fear of Flying course. The only person I told about this was my best friend at the time, because if I didn’t go through with the flight that was part of the course then nobody would know any better.

Let me tell you that flying was the biggest worry in my life. It took so much courage and guts to get on that plane for that course. Right up until the moment I boarded I didn’t think I would go through with it. Firstly, because I didn’t think I was that brave a person and secondly because I couldn’t ever visualise myself looking out of a window at 36,000 feet and seeing the world below.

In the end it was only 19,000 feet as we flew to the Isle of Man. That moment, right there when I sat on the runway shaking and just wanting it all to be over was the moment that my life changed forever.
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Best Achievement – Challenge number 7

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There are a number of things that I have achieved during the past eight years. The main one being is overcoming my fear of flying.

As a child I flew twice, and both times were before the age of six so I don’t have much recollection of that experience. In my early twenties I began having panic attacks which became such a problem. At the height of them I wouldn’t leave the house on my own. I would avoid supermarket queues, doctors waiting rooms and even driving on the motorway.

I managed to overcome those obstacles, but I then refused to board an aeroplane to go on a holiday to Majorca with my husband and son who was only one at the time. I couldn’t face the thought of being trapped with all of those strangers in case I had a panic attack.

Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who accepted that this was a difficulty that he would have to live with. So, we holidayed in Devon and Cornwall every year.

Then my eldest son went on holiday with his Grandad to the United States. As I watched that plane take off from the Aviation Viewing Platform at the airport I broke into tears. What if something happened when he was away and he needed me? I decided at that point that I had to do something about this. So, I started a course of hypnotherapy sessions with a recommended therapist, and I booked onto a Fear of Flying course with British Airways at Manchester Airport.

I’d had six hypnotherapy sessions before the course and didn’t tell anybody apart from my close friend that I was doing the flying course. That way, if I didn’t get on the plane then nobody would know any difference.

The course was fantastic, and it was so reassuring that I wasn’t the only one who was nervous. I recall talking to one of the airline staff from British Airways during the lunch break and telling her that my husband and children didn’t know where I was. I made up my mind then that I was determined I would get on that plane. I did, and the feeling of triumph was exhilarating. We were told of every noise and every sensation that we would experience, which reassured us all.

Since then I have been on holiday to Spain, Menorca, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Holland. This summer will be my first long haul flight as I jet off to the USA and Canada. Don’t get me wrong I still get nervous in airports as I don’t enjoy waiting around, but my life has been enriched so much since I have been able to experience new countries, cultures and create my own adventures. Image