Apparently 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.
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.