My Fear of Flying
Written by Julie Weinstein
Fears are common. We all have them. Sometimes we can work through them and sometimes we can’t. Though, having a fear is nothing to be ashamed of. With this month’s theme being “bold” I’m going to chat with you about my fear and how I conquer it…
I’m not positive when my fear of flying began, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with an awful flight I was on flying into Denver during my first year of college. Though I’m not 100% certain. Whenever it happened, let me just tell you it’s been a journey ever since.
To give you a bit more background, my first ever experience with anxiety began my junior year of college. I vividly remember the day, the moment, the second. Looking back, I’m pretty positive it was just a really bad hangover (#college), but I ended up having my first full blown panic attack. My roommate had to take me to the ER where they ran all the tests, and you guessed it – they told me it was a panic attack. This happened again later that year. I would then have bouts of anxiety here and there – not full blown panic attacks again thankfully, but pretty bad anxiety.
I didn’t go on anti anxiety medication until about seven years ago. I was very resistant to meds for a while, but finally realized I shouldn’t have to suffer with this anxiety anymore, so I went on the meds. And they changed my life. I take Zoloft daily, in case you’re wondering!
Now, onto the flying anxiety.
There was a period of time my anxiety was so bad with flying that I would cancel flights, not get on flights, or the worst case scenario which happened twice – I would get on the plane, but then get off it before the cabin door shut (one time it was literally AS the door was shutting). Slightly embarrassing to say the least.
It was very hard on not only me, but my family and friends, too. I let down several people very close to me because I ended up missing their occasions (birthdays, bachelorette parties, weddings). It, for lack of a better word, sucked. Big time.
The weird thing is I’ve flown a ton of times. I’ve been in long distance relationships, have friends all over, and have moved 12 times – there were many reasons to be flying, and I’ve done it a lot.
But for whatever the reason, the anxiety got the best of me. And unfortunately, fears aren’t rational. They certainly aren’t.
I took a fear of flying course, did a flight simulator, read all the articles and books, and nothing really helped.
Because my fear isn’t about the plane going down. My fear, or rather discomfort, is the turbulence. I hate it. If there was a stronger word for hate I’d use it. I despise it!!
I know the facts – I know driving in a car is SO much less safe than being in an airplane, I know planes don’t crash because of turbulence, I know why there’s turbulence – I know all that!
But it doesn’t matter.
If the turbulence even gets remotely bad, I’m a wreck. Those who have flown with me can vouch for me with that. I wouldn’t say I’m the most fun person to fly with!!
But I still fly.
Do I like it? Nope. Not even a little.
But I do it.
So, how have I been able to do it despite the fear?
Here’s what “works” for me. I put “works” in quotes because it doesn’t work where it takes away the fear or discomfort, but at least I get on the plane, right?
The Steps I Take to Get on the Plane Despite My Fear of Flying
1. I set myself up for success
It might sound silly, but in order to feel my best getting on the plane (i.e. comfortable, confident, in control) I need to get in that mindset from the inside out. So, this means I might go to a gym class the morning of a flight (assuming the flight isn’t at 6am), then I might get a blow out, then I’ll organize the house so when I come back it’ll all be in shape, I’ll get organized with my packing, and I won’t rush myself. I essentially get everything in order and feeling my best self possible.
2. I self medicate
Disclaimer: I am not promoting drinking. And if you are of the age to drink and choose to, of course drink responsibly. 😉
I drink. Drinking calms me down. Do I get totally and completely inebriated similar to the scene on Bridesmaids when she’s dancing up and down the aisle? Maybe. Just kidding. I do not. But I do enjoy a few glasses of wine and it relaxes me. Honestly, if tranquilizers were legal I could use one pre flight.
3. I communicate my fear
Every single flight I take I speak to the pilots before take off. It helps immensely. There was only one time in all my years of doing this where they said I couldn’t because there was a huge rush. Every other time they have let me. So I go up to the flight attendant and tell him / her that I’m a bad flyer and it always helps me to talk to the pilots prior. I then tell the pilots I’m a bad flyer and we chat for a few minutes. They oftentimes show me the flight path and where the expected turbulence is and we talk through it. I know it’s ridiculous that this helps because the turbulence is going to happen regardless, but having this conversation helps me more than I can describe. It humanizes the pilots. And it helps me.
4. I continue to communicate my fear
Once we’re in the air of course I can no longer speak to the pilots (trust me, I wish I could), but I’ll speak to the flight attendants when possible and talk to them. Some people can’t talk when they’re scared, but for me – I need to talk. It distracts me and helps. I also am known to make friends on my flights and chat with the person next to me. There are times they don’t want to talk (How rude! said in a Michelle Tanner voice), but usually they do. And that helps, as well. When you’re open about your fear and show that vulnerable side, you’d be surprised how well people respond.
5. I breathe (and drink some more)
I try my hardest to stay distracted during turbulence, but I can’t typically focus on anything BUT the turbulence. So, I do some deep breathing and drink my wine. Sometimes I cry, but that’s neither here nor there.
While I realize these steps aren’t ground breaking, they help me as much as possible. Again, it doesn’t help me to love turbulence and want to fly everyday, but I do it. I get on the plane and I fly and I feel proud of myself every time I get off the plane. I also feel slightly hungover. But it’s fine.
I know there are many fearful flyers out there. Know you’re not alone. Know it’s a very common fear, and you should not be ashamed of it, at all. I’m here if you ever want to chat!!
You can read two past articles I’ve written on the topic here, here, and an interview I did with my fear of flying instructors here, listen to my solo podcast episode all about it here, as well as my podcast with Ashley Rose where we talked a lot about it here (speaking of my podcast, did you know I recently interviewed Carrie? We talked about all the things!). And, finally, if you want to enjoy my fear with me, check out my Instagram “flying” highlights, as I document pretty much every flight and my experience.
Share below if you have a fear of flying and how you get through it! Have a great day and if you’re traveling anytime soon – safe travels!