Everyone has something they fear. For me personally, I have many fears. I have learned over the past couple of years that it is okay to fear, but it is how you manage and possibly conquer that fear that matters most.
I once had a TERRIFYING fear of flying. It was not, just a, “I hate flying, because it’s uncomfortable” or, “I hate flying, because I’m scared of heights” fear.
My fear of flying was CRIPPLING.
But I wasn’t always afraid of flying…
As a child, I remember loving to fly. I didn’t fly very often, so when I did, it was a total treat. Packing my stuff, going to the airport, boarding the plane… it was all the most amazing experience to me. My favorite parts of the flight were the take-offs and landings. I lived for the feeling of when the wheels sped on the ground until the very last second when they would lift up. It was like magic, then take-off! The weightless feeling, as the plane finally lifted off the ground and accelerated into the sky was the best. Then it was smooth sailing. When it was time to land, I always wanted to feel the bump as the plane hit the ground! Feeling that thud as the plane hit the ground meant I had finally reached my destination and it was time to get my vacation on. Flying was so much fun!
When I was about 18 years old, in 2001, something happened… 9/11 happened. As I watched the Twin Towers fall to the ground, it changed my flying-game forever; I no longer wanted to fly. Even though it was probably more safe the first few years after 9/11, there was absolutely no way I would get on a plane again. I valued my life and was not willing to die for a vacation. I did not even go to a family member’s wedding that I was all set up to attend; I just could not do it. After a couple years of saying I would never ever fly, my friends convinced me to get on a plane to go party in Vegas. I was very antsy, but I knew I was flying with friends so I would be distracted. I had not been to Vegas as an adult and did not want all my friends to experience it without me. With a lot of prayer and a few shots of vodka, I decided to once again try my luck and fly. The flight to Vegas was smooth sailing. The flight back… let’s just say we were all crying and praying for our lives.
Okay, now that was last straw. I was absolutely, positively DONE with flying! The thought of stepping onto a plane made me sick to my stomach. I knew flying wasn’t in my tarot cards and the next time I got on a plane, I would for sure die. I did not need to fly again. I could surely drive or take a train all over the country. Anything out of the country, well, I guess i would have to visit in my dreams. I would NEVER FLY AGAIN…
But then, I met my husband.
Marcus was a seasoned flying vet; all he did was fly. Playing collegiate and professional football, every away game, every season, year-after-year, he flew. He flew so much, that as soon as he sat down on the plane, he was conditioned to fall asleep! I was absolutely astounded that he was that comfortable enough on a plane to actually shut not one, but both of his eyes and fall asleep. I envied him. I wanted to be just like him when I flew. Marcus had no understanding for my fear of flying. He had no clue why I wouldn’t just give it up to God and go. See, I tried giving it up to God, many times. But the way my anxiety was set up, I could not get past my own thoughts. I would pray about it and end up with the same result… not getting on a plane. I had faith in God, of course. But as we all know, if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. I wanted to control my time by not dying on a plane. My fear started to affect Marcus’ plan for us. Our honeymoon was spent in Seattle… SEATTLE, PEOPLE! He wanted to go on vacations, not stay-cations. I told him let’s plan out our trip by train and of course he was not having that. Therefore, in Seattle we stayed, while all of his teammates and family members boarded planes for vacations. I felt bad… naw, I didn’t feel bad, I felt relieved. I felt safe and I felt like I was saving my own life. Let’s not even talk about how my fear of flying grew exponentially after having kids…there was NO WAY I would get on a plane and risk never coming home to my babies.
After a while, I did start to feel guilty about not taking vacations with my husband. He was working hard during the season and he needed to get away. He asked me to go to Vegas over a bye-week and…
I said yes.
A friend recommended I see my doctor and have her prescribe me some anxiety medication to calm my nerves during the flight. I did not like the idea of popping a pill to fly, but at this point, I would try anything. The trip was weeks away and I was scared out of mind. The flight was all I could think about; boarding a plane and dying. The thoughts consumed me. My doctor prescribed lorazepam, a medication that helps with anxiety. I felt a little bit better about getting on a plane. The week before the trip came and I was moody, irritable and very emotional. At the time, I didn’t realize this was heightened anxiety caused by my fear of flying. I powered through the week, acting like a complete hot-mess and drove my poor husband crazy. The day of the trip, I was a mess, shaky, jumpy and really out of sorts. I tried my best to pack my things, but all I could think about was my plane going down in flames. Remember when I said as a young girl, I loved going to the airport and the entire process leading up to the flight? Well, as of now, I was a HOT MESS! I know I keep saying that, but it is SO TRUE! Palms sweating, snapping at my poor husband. As we walked through the airport, I was on edge. Any little thing, like waiting in line to go through security, had me ready to jump ship.
As I boarded the plane, I had never been more excited to bust out my anxiety medication.
I sat down, popped my meds and had a drink. Yes, an alcoholic drink. After about ten minutes, the involuntary shaking of my body and sweating of my palms stopped. I no longer felt like I was going to die and I thought if it was my time to go, at least I was relaxed! My entire way of thinking had changed. Everyone just stop and take this moment in with me… I was sitting on a plane, completely relaxed. It was almost a miracle. I said a prayer, closed my eyes and woke up in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I think I had finally conquered my fear.
Marcus and I had a BLAST in Las Vegas! We partied like rockstars! BUT, as soon as we landed in Las Vegas, in the back of my head I was already feeling anxious about having to fly home. No matter how much fun I was having, my anxiety would quickly slap me back into reality and remind me of my fear.
During our last night in Las Vegas, we went to dinner with Marcus’ teammate, his girlfriend and his teammate’s agent. The dinner was amazing and then somehow they started talking about… plane crashes. I mean, come on! I wanted to yell, “I HAVE TO FREAKIN’ FLY TOMORROW AND I’M TERRIFIED, SO COULD YOU PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP?!” But, I didn’t. Instead, I sat there soaking in every last word.
The rest of my night was ruined. Wherever we went, I was no longer there mentally. My mind was consumed with anxiousness. I was for sure going down in a plane crash.
The next day, I was once again a MESS at the airport. We were sitting in a restaurant near where we were boarding when Marcus’ friends got up to board the plane. I told Marcus to hurry up, because it was time to board and he insisted on finishing his pizza. As we walked to the boarding area, I decided to take my anxiety pill.
The door to the plane was closed.
We walked to the front counter and they told us they called our name for final boarding, (while Marcus was eating his pizza) and we were too late. We begged and pleaded, and talked to everyone we could, but no one would let us on. I watched in horror as the plane left without us.
We were now waiting on standby, in Las Vegas, on a busy weekend. The next plane came in two hours.
I WAS HYSTERICAL! I was sobbing like someone had died. I slumped down against the wall in the airport and cried my eyes out. At this point, the medicine had kicked in, so I was crying and dozing off, waking up and then crying some more. Looking back, it’s hilarious! Marcus tried to console me, but he couldn’t, I thought for sure I was going to die in a plane crash and leave my one-year-old baby behind. It was my fate, everything that was happening was all a part of my death-plan.
That next plane that arrives two hours later… it was full.
I lost my shit. I was yelling at Marcus for eating that last bite of pizza that caused us to miss our flight and I was still sobbing uncontrollably. I had to look CRAZY! Another couple waiting for the next flight back to Seattle noticed my hysterics and offered to give up their seats for Marcus and I.
OMG! I started praising GOD immediately. He heard my frantic, delusional, drugged-up cry!
As we got ready to board the plane, apparently one of the seats they were going to give up was for a lap-child, so we couldn’t get on the flight… wait, what?
I stood in the window and cried as I watched the plane take off once again, without us.
The only flights left were connecting flights that would take six hours to get back to Seattle. OH, HECK NO! At this point, I was so completely overwhelmed and out of my mind that I refused to do a connecting flight. I was trying to save myself from my impeding fate, I was not going to die taking a connecting flight! Not only were there only connecting flights left, BUT there were only SINGLE SEATS LEFT!
Guess I was staying in Vegas forever. THERE WAS NO WAY I WAS FLYING ALONE!
The next flight came and left.
It was getting late and Marcus had to be at practice in Seattle the next morning. As we all know, he can’t just call in and say, “my wife refused to board the plane, so I guess I will be living in Vegas until she calms down.” He had to go. Marcus boarded the very last flight leaving Vegas.
I, however, remained in the airport, in Las Vegas, Nevada, alone.
I walked through the airport to find a taxi to go rent a hotel room. I was completely drained. Tears were rolling down my face, but I was no longer sobbing. I didn’t know what I was going to do, or how I was going to get home to my baby. A teammate of Marcus’ and his wife that were boarding one of the final flights saw me on the escalator crying. They caught up with me, I told them what happened, and they made a call to a hotel and got me a room. I was so grateful.
On the way to the hotel, still crying, I called my mom and told her what happened. She was watching Karmyn while we were gone. My mother simply said,
“Im on my way.”
My mother and Karmyn caught the last flight from Seattle to Vegas.
My mother, to this day, says, “I knew if I didn’t go get my daughter, she wasn’t going to come back.”
They stayed the night with me in the hotel and the next morning we all flew back to Seattle together. I did not take my pill, so I was shaking and sweating the entire flight… but I did not die. I made it back home and all was well.
After that experience, I never wanted to fly again, but I did give up. I kept flying. Not very often, but I still flew. The more I flew, the more comfortable I became. Don’t get me wrong, I STILL have thoughts about dying in a plane crash, but I no longer let those thoughts control me. I continued to pray and take my lorazepam. Those two things were really my lifesavers. I could not have been relaxed without the medication and I couldn’t have felt safe without prayer. I would not have been able to conquer my fear without it. I even got hip and started taking my pills hours before my flight which made my entire airport experience much more enjoyable. I flew more and more and more. The more I flew, the more confident I became.
Today, I fly ALL THE TIME! This year alone, I flew seven times. From Cabo, to Hawaii, to Florida. Here is the kicker, I have become so conditioned when I fly, that on short trips I no longer take Lorazepam. Before the plane even takes off, I am ASLEEP! I mean, how amazing is that?! The flight attendants always tell Marcus and I we are their favorite passengers to serve, because we sleep the entire flight!
I am such a smooth flyer now, that Marcus and I were on our way back from California and once the plane landed, Marcus said that the flight was one of the worst flights he had been on and he thought we were going to die…
But I had comfortably slept through it all. Imagine that.
Anyone that has a fear of flying, with the right tools, you can conquer it. Try different methods until you find what is best for you. You are not alone with your fear and your fear does not have to control you forever. My fear will never go away, but I have learned how to manage it, therefore, I have defeated it!
TIPS FOR FLYING THAT HELPED ME:
Learning the statistics about plane crashes, (it really helped knowing the probability of me being in a plane crash or dying in one).
Having a shot of patron or two :o)
Taking your anxiety medication an hour before leaving to the airport (to help with the process of going to the airport, checking in etc).
Making sure you are packed and ready a day or two BEFORE your trip (reduces day of stress)
Listening to music on the plane (music helped cancelout any noise or distraction.) It calmed me down and sometimes put me to sleep.
Sitting towards the front of the plane (you feel less shaking and I personally felt less claustrophobic).
Flying more frequently. The more I flew, the more comfortable I was.
Last, try your best to relax!!!
Good luck and cheers to conquering your fear!!!!