Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Flying Phobia

Recently Ree a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman wrote a great post and confessed her deepest phobia - a serious fear of flying. Shannon, at Rocks in My Dryer is struggling with the same issue as she is leaving for Africa in a couple of weeks on a trip with Compassion International. Her fear is real and palpable. I know this fear on a very intimate level. It plagues me too. And I hate it.

I have always had this fear, and I have always said that I will not let my fear keep me from doing things in life. I would fly anyway. And for the most part I have. But as time goes on, this fear is only getting worse. And suddenly I find myself NOT doing things, if I have to fly to do them. And in the past my fear has only pertained to me. I mean, I have never worried about anybody else flying - just me. But when my husband and daughter flew to Argentina a couple of weeks ago - I was a nervous wreck and found myself tracking their flights online all day long to make sure they had landed safely. And turning on CNN to make sure there were no news reports of horrific plane crashes.

So I am asking myself, "What in the world is going on?" I have tried to decipher it. Is it a control issue? Maybe. I think I would rather fly the plane than ride in it. And ummm, I should mention, I don't know how to fly! I guess that is control. I have no say at all in how the thing is flying. Maybe I would feel better if I could sit in the cockpit and see what's going on. Seriously.

Is it a fear of dying issue? I don't really think so. I truly believe that God holds me in the palm of His hand. I believe that every day of my life has already been planned by Him and I will not die one day sooner or later than He has ordained. I trust Him with my life. I'm not wanting to die right now - but I'm truly not afraid of it.

Is it a fear of fear issue? Maybe so. I don't like being afraid. I flew once not long ago and as we were coming in for a landing in Salt Lake, the plane suddenly dropped quite a distance with no warning. People began screaming. We landed fine and I never did hear what happened. I can tell you that I was scared out of my mind. And I was relieved that I discovered that I don't make a fool of myself when I am that afraid. I didn't scream or cry. I was praying. And it took everything in me to make the connecting flight home. I was a wreck.

I'm sure it isn't helpful to me that I lost my dad, who was an amazing pilot, in a plane accident. But my fear began before that happened. When we flew to Italy last year, I knew I was going to have problems and I did something I never wanted to do. I asked my doctor to give me a medication to help. I determined not to take it unless I had to. But for heaven's sake - we are talking a 13 hour flight over the water. So I flew from Boise to Seattle without too much problem. But waiting in the Seattle airport I began to have some serious anxiety and I took a Zanex. After about 6 hours, I can't say I noticed anything. We got into some turbulance over the ocean - which is a freaky thing to me. I took another one. The next memory I have is waking up in a hotel room in Venice. I have absolutely no memory of how I got there. I guess it helped me with my flying issue - but I hate, hate, hate taking medicine. I don't even take Tylenol.

The last time I flew - to Florida last summer- I had my daughter download some tv shows on my iPod - I thought that might help. She downloaded a program called LOST! Big mistake - for those who don't know - it's all about a plane crash on an island. And it shows the crash over and over and over again!

This whole thing is making me crazy. I want to work through it. I want to be able to fly places without going through all the anxiety. I read through all 840 comments on Pioneer Woman's post and many of them talk about prayer. I have that one covered! I never feel closer to God than when I fly!

So I was just wondering. Do any of you share this fear? And if so, what do you do about it?


momrn2 said...

If you go into my archives I did a 3 part series plus an introduction on my thoughts on fear.

The intro is Oct. 16, 2006 with Part I being Oct. 24, Part II on Oct. 26 and Part III Oct. 30, 2006.

Just in case you are interested on my thoughts and what I learned...

Becky said...

I once had a friend that was paralyzed by a flying phobia. He got over it by flying with a pilot in the seat next to him. The pilot explained every noise that he heard (that is the wing flaps changing direction so we can bank left, that is the landing gear coming down, stuff like that) and just knowing there was a purpose for it all helped him so much. He still does not LIKE to fly. But he does it with more knowledge and that helps him to feel more in control.

I am with you on the "I'd rather be flying that be flown" thing. I am that way with driving. I would rather drive than be the passenger ever since I had the bad car accident many years ago. I know I am a good driver. I just don't trust anyone out on the road with me. So I'd rather be in control to watch for them.

Besides, I make too many noises and clutching arm rests and pushing my right foot through the floor to make any driver comfortable.

kittyhox said...

If you read every one of her comments you probably read mine!

To summarize:

2-3 glasses of wine in the airport bar. I'm not a drinker at all, normally. This works as well as any prescription I've taken for flight related fears.

Prayer is important, but the kind of prayer is key for me. I used to feel that if I wasn't concentrating and praying during the entire flight something bad would happen. As if my prayers were keeping the plane in flight.

Which isn't healthy. That's a control issue. I am not God!

Another thing that some say is helpful is to create a flying "routine." A few helpful things that you decide upon ahead of time and do before every flight. Maybe you say a certain prayer, asking for the Spirit to control your thoughts so they don't focus on worst case scenarios. Then maybe you review a specific Bible verse which addresses your particular source of fear. Then maybe you hold a certain photo or a small cross, or something like that, for a predetermined amount of time.

Once you have completed your routine, you aren't allowed to worry anymore. You've done all you can, and the rest is up to God. My cousin has found this to be very helpful, and she flies every month for work.

I think the main thing to avoid is obsessing over it. I think to myself, "either the plane is going down or it isn't. If it is, oh well. That would be terrible, but oh well. I've committed to this flight, so I'm where I'm supposed to be. God is in control and I'm not going to dwell on the most unlikely thing happening."

Then I distract myself with a particularly engrossing magazine or book, before the plane ever starts moving. Maybe save something you've been dying to read or a new CD you can't wait to listen to - especially for the flight?

Sorry I've written a book! I just know how horrible it feels!!

I pray that God will equip you to deal with this fear in whatever way would work for you!

Dawn said...

I have no fear of flying - just claustrophobia, so it isn't really enjoyable. But no fear.

But swimming, heights - those are my fears. I blogged about that awhile ago.

I have a hard time with long flights because I start twitching and somebody invariably lays down in my lap with his (yes, usually a guy) chair back. This last trip to and from Hawaii, we had bulkhead seats and I was so happy!

Linda said...

Oh my gosh-- I CANNOT believe you watched LOST on a plane! Wait til I tell my family. Thanks for commenting at 2nd cup about my flying fear. It did help to read about your experiences. But seriously, since you lost your father, I can see how this would be a huge negative thing to overcome, regardless if you began fearing it before his accident. I am going to read the links you provided.

tonya said...

My oldest daughter began expressing interest in taking a flight from our home in Alabama to NYC. We also have family in England and she would love to go visit. But, I get horrified at the thought of she and I both being on a plane.

So, I had not flown in quite some years (even though I used to skydive recreationally - LOL) and was asked to go out of town for work. I thought this trip would ease me back into flying - 1 hr flight. It helped and I thought with each trip it would get better - it did not. It got worse.

Then my husband and I went on our honeymoon to St. Thomas and I was fine on the way there but coming home is when I lost it. I got nervous at the resort and had a DRINK - which I don't do, then had a meltdown in the airport and cried half the way home. I haven't flown since and not sure if I can!!!

Karen said...

Oh me. I'm no help at all I'm afraid. I have flown once. Well there and back. My first flight was fine. 2 hours long. The trip home was horrible. Major turbulance, and the landing? I thought we were going to roll sideways on the runway. I'll fly if I *HAVE* to, but if it can be driven, that's what I'll do. ;o)

Lisa B. said...

Ok, here are some things we have in common. I am scared, scared, scared to fly. I only trusted Dad with flying. My fear grows worse with age. I don't want Daniel to fly, I fear that something could happen to him. I hate medication and don't often take Tylenol either. How do I deal with my fear...? Sometimes I fly....I get so nervous I want to throw up. I prefer to drive and will be driving to Idaho in September. I don't think my fear will go away...but I don't want it to. It may keep me safe. :)

Becky said...

Robin, that commercial on my blog was John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. You'd have to be a big tennis fan from the 70's to recognize Borg, and appreciate the absolute humor of the commercial. They were huge adversaries. My favorite is the end where Borg holds up the aluminum pan he is buying and it looks like he has won the trophy at Wimbeldon. So funny.

gail@more than a song said...

I sorta have a fear of flying, but do fly several times a year. I think mine has gotten worse after 9-11 and I worry about my family flying too. I don't drink so that wouldn't help me! I do pray a lot and that usually calms me some. Mine is mostly inside, most people sitting by me wouldn't know it bothered me. I think I feel more out of control in a plane than a car but have no desire to actually do the flying! Don says a plane is way safer than a car but that doesn't usually make me feel better! It does seem to be better when I fly more frequently though.

Senkyoshi said...

I never have liked flying, but I do it. The long flights are the most difficult. My friend is terrified and she said that she always thinks of "underneath are the everlasting arms." Now when I am nervous or the turbulence starts, I picture the plane with the "everlasting arms" underneath and it helps me to relax.

Diane @ A Watered Garden said...

I know that the fear of flying can be very real and paralyzing. I think you have been given some good input on ways to help deal with the fear and worry. I can relate to the fact that this is so difficult for you, having lost your father through a plane accident...something unwelcome and way beyond your control. I have been recently reading a book that discusses the effects of loosing a parent during childhood. They talked about how most often as that child grows up...and into adulthood they struggle with the fear of dying in the same manner their parents died. For me, my Mom died of cancer when I was 14...and I have at times had great fear of getting cancer. I don't know how old you were when your father died, but it seems very natural that you would deeply struggle with the fear of flying. That makes perfect sense to me Robin. I also remember being overly protective with my husband and daughters...thinking somehow if I could control things in life...then I wouldn't let anything bad happen to them...I didn't want to deal with any more loss. Finally, after one particularlly fearful season when my husband was traveling internationally alot...I finally understood that we all, in fact, are "terminal"...we all will die-just a fact of life and I have no control over that. The Lord already knows when our "time" is and if He wants to call us home now...He doesn't need a plane trip to do it. He already knows our homegoing...in His perfect timing...and all the worry in the world will not change what He has ordained. I hope these verses will minister to you as much as they have to me. Email me if you'd ever like to visit on the topic more. :-)
"But as for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord, I say, 'Thou art my God.' My times are in Thy hand." Psalms 31:14
"Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." Psalms 139:16 (read 13-16!!)
Blessings to you, Diane