because I’m superstitious and always worried about the ‘evil eye‘. But I did come across this article and I thought I’d share-
“Earlier this month, NBA rookie Royce White disclosed that he is afraid to fly and said he expects to travel by bus to play in at least some of the basketball games for his team, the Houston Rockets.
“But psychologists who treat fear of flying and travelers who’ve overcome it hope he’ll ditch the bus and get help instead.”
John Madden gets a mention in the article. Some of you must remember him- the former football coach and commentator who was so afraid to fly he bought his own travel bus.
The article suggests a genetic or familial component to the fear of flying. My grandmother, for instance, refused to fly and yet her oldest son was the bombardier on a B-17 in WWII. His plane was shot down over occupied France and he spent two years in a German POW camp, but my uncle was never afraid to fly. His job as a journalist took him all over the world. And none of his children are afraid to fly.
On the other hand, my father spent years too terrified to fly. Of course it didn’t help that the very first time he flew, and we flew as a family, we were caught in a horrible thunderstorm and couldn’t land anywhere near our destination. Had to fly several hundred miles out of our way, wait out the storm and take another airline home. After that episode he couldn’t fly without drugging himself into a coma.
Thus at a young age my sisters and I developed a fear of flying. All three of us have suffered panic attacks in mid-air. Hey, I don’t even like elevators. Not fun let me tell you.
So, since we all came to the conclusion that flying is essential if we want to get everywhere we want and need to go, we have all attacked the issue in our own way.
My father took fear of flying lessons, even took some flight lessons, and he continued to do so until he felt comfortable enough to fly in a tiny two-seater. He now flies with impunity.
One of my sisters continues to use anti-anxiety medication with reasonable success. My other sister is terribly fearful. She does fly, literally perched on the edge of her seat, and she always ends up sick from the anxiety she suffers.
I resort to a variety of techniques because the fear never leaves you, it simply becomes manageable.
1. Like AA members, when I step onto a plane I give myself over to a higher power. Seriously. What choice do I have? I relinquish control and assume, right or wrong, that the pilot and co-pilot want to live every bit as much as I do. I’ve always said if I could just sit on the pilot’s lap I’d be hunky dory!
2. If I’m feeling anxious I make certain to get an aisle seat. If I’m not sure I can score an aisle seat I tell the flight attendant I’m afraid to fly and I ask for an aisle seat. They’ll usually figure something out. Often they’ll put me up front where they can keep an eye on me. Once a flight attendant stuck me in the empty jumpseat next to her.
3. Whenever possible I pay a little extra or use extra miles on SWA to purchase a business select ticket and then try to grab a bulkhead seat, which allows me breathing room. Or I pay an extra $25-$50 on Alaska Air to upgrade to First Class. Definitely breathing room up there. In fact, I make sure to use credit cards from the airlines I fly most frequently so I can get miles and upgrades. The feeling that I have some personal space helps more than anything.
4. As soon as the plane leaves the ground I close my eyes and count slowly to 300. Why? I once interviewed a pilot and he told me if anything terrible is going to happen it usually happens within the first 15 seconds after takeoff. So my warped logic says if 15 seconds of deep breathing and meditation is good, 300 seconds is even better. Usually by the time I’ve counted 300 deep slow breaths, the flight attendant has come on to say, “We’ve reached 10,000 feet and electronic devices may now be switched on.” And I’m good.
5. I read the trashiest romance novel I can find. Not really, but I do bring an old standby I can guarantee will engage me for the duration of the flight.
6. I always get a beverage… Nonalcoholic with one exception, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. Doing something routine helps you feel normal. I like Coke. It’s familiar and comforting and any clear sparkling beverage gives me the hiccups. I get a Coke with ice and I chew all the ice. But only one drink – don’t want to waste my calories on sugar. I’m fortunate in that caffeine makes me drowsy. (ADD-ish, you know.)
7. I say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. I speak to my seatmates and I’ve met quite a few nice people, often people who are much more fearful fliers than I am. I’ve even chatted with a few famous people who are afraid to fly. See? They aren’t so different from us common folk. It actually helps to engage, to smile, to be courteous. Makes you feel like yourself. I also list myself as an RN – which is why I’m usually asked to help someone with a medical matter in flight. And that keeps me occupied. (Yes, I am a real RN!)
Knock on wood, I’ve done well for a long time. No, the fear is not gone, but I recognize the fear for what it is – irrational and, well, plain old fear.
Remember Dune? Fear is the mind-killer…
I can now fly on tiny planes – which is the one time I’ll have a beer if it’s offered. Skimming the treetops doesn’t bother me. In fact, I find it interesting. And I don’t worry about turbulence. Maybe I should, but…
Here’s the deal. I love to travel. There are many places in the world I hope to visit and I don’t have time or the money to say… drive to NYC from the West Coast so I can hop on the QEII, cruise to England and then take trains to parts unknown. And I’m not sailing across the Pacific. I mean, sure, I might one day if my goal is to sail around the world, but if it’s just to get to Hawaii, no.
I was determined to overcome this challenge, not only for myself but for my children– I didn’t want them handicapped the way my sisters and I were handicapped by my family’s fear of flying.
On the other hand, I’m very particular about the airlines I’ll fly. I do check safety records and consumer reviews.
And above all, for people who are afraid to fly– I recommend you avoid all movies involving plane crashes. No need to stimulate the fight or flight response. I suppose you could join the Mile-High Club, but man, those bathrooms are tiny!