I hate flying. Hate it. Just thinking about being on an airplane makes my lungs tighten and my blood pressure rise. I’ve flown many times before (across the country, across the Atlantic, etc.), but it’s never been remotely pleasant for either me or the person stuck sitting next to me. I cry, I hyperventilate, I get diarrhea, I grip the arm of my poor seatmate. I actually once canceled a vacation to San Francisco and Los Angeles because I was too afraid to fly alone.
Yeah. It’s bad.
For me, my fear of flying isn’t so much about the fear of being in the sky, but about claustrophobia: the fear of being in a confined space in a long period of time with no way to leave. Although I realize it’s very different, for the past couple of years I’ve tried to train myself on stalled subway cars or trains to take calming breaths and not freak out. But even that challenge is difficult.
Everyone has an opinion on how I should cope with my fear of flying, a fear I sincerely do want to overcome because I will hug a panda in China some day. I don’t want to live a life without travel. I want to go back to Paris and Italy and go on a honeymoon to a tropical beach. I’ll be disappointed in myself my phobia means I miss out on those experiences. Here’s some tips from friends and coworkers on how to handle a plane ride:
- Dramamine, relaxants, and anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan
- Crosswords (the more distracting the better!)
- “Keep the damn window shade DOWN. You do NOT need to see what’s going on out there.”
- Soothing music — Winona’s friend chillaxes to Sarah MacLachlan
- Prayer rituals
- “Tell the flight attendant that you’re scared of flying. Depending on the airline/general awesomeness level of attendants, they might be able to keep an eye out for you and give you some encouragement.”
- “Learn about the mechanics of flying, because I tend to be more afraid of things I don’t understand. When I’m thinking a plane is just magically being held up in the air it feels like a very precarious situation, but when I remind myself of the actual scientific laws that make flying possible, I feel more confident.”
These are all really good ideas and some of them (praying, glomming onto sympathetic flight attendants, Ativan) are ones I’ve tried. This phobia is tricky, though; it’s not something that I can just rationalize.
I do hope I’ll be able to fly (with a friend/emotional crutch by my side soon) someday soon. After all, there’s panda somewhere waiting to be snuggled.
[Image of woman with an airplane from Shutterstock]