My fear of flying
In 2006, it had been 12 years since I had flown on a plane and I was petrified. I couldn’t remember anything about my previous flights and the thought of going up in a plane horrified me but I wanted to go on holiday abroad so I either stayed in the UK or faced my fear.
I didn’t understand why but every time someone asked me if I was excited about my holiday, I would do my best to forget the fact I had to get on a plane. I only concentrated on what I was going to do while I was there, swimming, sunbathing, going to local markets, checking out the town and going on little road trips. The actual getting there part was pushed to the back of my mind.
Anyway, I was quite teary as we went through security but I did well not to full on blubber in front of everyone haha. I was taking slow deep breaths and reminding myself that thousands of people fly every day and they are all fine. The crew all knew what they were doing and would make sure we were safe.
It wasn’t until we were in the queue to board the plane that I really started to panic. I started crying, I was sweating buckets, shaking all over so much that I must have looked like a blur. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, it felt like my heart was beating so fast that it would burst right out of my chest like a scene out of an Alien film.
The problem was, I didn’t even know what was making me so scared, I just couldn’t calm myself down. I held my husband’s (Sean) hand tightly and kept looking at the ground, concentrating on following the people in front of me.
We took our seats on the plane and I was still panicked, I thought that I would feel better once I was on the plane but I felt like I was having a heart attack while we were taking off. I even held my breathe when I felt the acceleration of the plane in order to get us into the air.
Once we levelled out, I did start to feel better, I even let go of Sean’s hand and tried to distract myself by reading a book (Harry Potter of course). It was only an hour flight so we were soon starting to land and the panic came rushing back. I just held onto Sean and closed my eyes tight waiting for a sign that the wheels of the plane were actually touching the ground. When we landed, I was one of those people who clapped purely because I was so happy to still be alive.
We were flying out to see my parents so as soon as I saw them in arrivals, I just ran to them, thankful it was over. For 2 weeks any way as I went through it all again on the way home.
It’s strange because my mum told me that the flights I took when I was younger, between the ages of 6 and 10, I was perfectly fine. I was looking out the window, I was being shown the cockpit (this was the late 80s/early 90s when it was allowed), I was quite happy but I have no memory of those flights. I remember parts of the holidays, I even have a picture of me meeting the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit but no memories of the airports or the flights.
I’m not sure what happened between the ages of 10 and 22 to scare me that much but it had left a mark in some way.
2 years later I flew to France again but this time on my own. I was trying to put a brave face for the whole thing but inside I was crying like a baby. Sean was meant to come with me but hadn’t got his passport renewed, I either had to go on my own or miss out on a holiday so I opted for the holiday.
I knew my mum was waiting for me at the other end which was a small comfort, I kept trying to focus on that and picturing the swimming pool. I must admit I did feel like a plonker sitting on my own at the gate facing away from people because I was crying. Didn’t help that when I looked round, I saw a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 6 years old point and laugh at me. I know she didn’t mean any harm, I just felt so stupid being scared of flying when I didn’t even know what I was scared of.
Lucky enough, the cabin crew on the flight were amazing. I said to one of the stewardess’ that I was scared of flying and on my own so she and the rest of the crew kept an eye on me during the flight.
When we landed, I nearly forgot to pick up my bag from baggage collection as I just wanted to get to my mum and give her a big hug. The flight home was the same, lots of crying and feeling stupid for being scared.
It wasn’t until my trip to visit family in Tasmania in 2012 with my mum and Sean where I took off and landed 4 times in less than 28 hours that I finally got over my fear of flying. It was one of those once in a lifetime trips that I couldn’t say no to and the thought of meeting family members that I had never met before was far too tempting.
We took off at Gatwick with me holding onto my Sean’s arm for dear life and bending my other arm around my seat (I was next to the window) to also hold my mum’s hand during take off, to landing in Hobart without a care in the world.
I truly believe that going through it that many times in a short space of time forced me to get over my fears. The flights home were fine, other than a sand storm at Dubai that delayed us by 5 hours but I only cried once and that was when we left Hobart because I didn’t want to leave my family behind.
Now when I fly, the only thing that bothers me is my ears popping on take-off and landing so I’ve had to learn a few tricks to help with that.
I understand people who are scared of flying because of turbulence as it can be very scary. That flight from Dubai in a sand storm was scary enough when we were told that we would be boarding and taking off while the storm was still happening. Everyone just looked at each other petrified but we got on the plane anyway. Taking off was the worst part, the plane was shaking with a big dip every now. I held onto Sean’s hand and did my best to concentrate on the film I had selected to watch but once we got above the clouds, it was amazing.
Everything levelled out and I looked out of the window to a thunderstorm lighting up the clouds, it was beautiful.
For anyone with a fear of flying, I would suggest working out why you are so scared. Is it fear of the unknown or turbulence? Have you watched too many films or tv shows about plane crashes? Or is it the idea of a plane made of metal somehow staying up in the air? Working out what makes you so scared will help. I really wish I had done a few of those tester flights that some airlines run to help people who have a fear of flying, it definitely would have helped me with my fear and maybe I wouldn’t have had so many flights in tears and panic.