I loathe flying these days.
I am not claustrophobic and not particularly neurotic. But all of a sudden everything seems very unsafe above ground. The slight judder of turbulence sets my teeth on edge. Less noise also spells out trouble - did the engines stop and will we drop out of the air? The red light switching on during flight sends signals of something bad about to happen. Once recently I had 'bad turbulence' announced on the tannoy on a trip back from Dubai. I clung to my seat and almost reached for the sick bag, this time because of a panic attack bag. Even on 'mini' European flights I cannot relax until I am back on terra firma.
It all started since my dad died for some reason. His departure opened up lots of past wounds - one of which is this irrational fear.
It is as if I have regressed to being a frightened kid who cannot compute why the plane can actually stay up in the air or what all the strange noises mean.
But it was all so different as a kid. The mere odour of airplanes used to fill me with wonder and excitement. I remember my dad coming home from business travel and his briefcase smelling of a blend of air fuel and the stuffy cabin. He would give me the mini salt and pepper and I began to collect them from all the airlines dreaming of distant exotic countries. They were the equivalent of costume dollies.
We did not do far flung holidays as a family. My mum was a nervous traveller so we stuck to Suffolk and Brittany by boat. I used to travel by plane as a baby but my first pleasurable experience was going to Paris on an exchange. My dad flew with me and I flew back as an unaccompanied minor. It remember standing in front of the old fashioned ticker boards and got literally drunk on the different destinations. I then went further and further afield, USA, Japan and then Australia.
Then I had no problems, jumping on a 24 hour flight in economy with a book and a bag of sweets or doing the fastest ride at funfairs that turned me upside down, high above ground.
So what happened? It only recently became clear to me through some personal development work.
When I was very little we flew back from Greece to deal with family illness. The flight was urgent and traumatic. I vividly remember the panic of my mother. I felt helpless and scared.
After that she never flew again. She even tried a BA 'fear of flying' course but the first flight after she nearly lost it after being in a holding pattern for 20 minutes.
As a three-year-old, I must have absorbed that experience like a sponge. For a while it became an obsession, wanting to get on a plane and go anywhere, but it rose to the surface when my rock, my dad, left me.
Phobias are mysterious and for many difficult to cure. Psychologists say a phobia is not about the actual fear itself - the spider, snake or flight aren't the actual cause. More like the issue they represent or indeed the past trauma.
My innate fear was that someone was going to die and so at a subconscious level, flying became associated with that.
I am also an airy person, a Gemini, and have spent most of my adulthood trying to get a bit more grounded. So perhaps in addition it is like two similar forces that repel each other.
I have friends who developed anxieties later in life. Many say having kids makes you worse, somehow hyper protective. One was in such a state on a recent flight, she accepted a random pill of a fellow flyer. It was more important to take a placebo than to know what was in it. I have others who have tried hypnosis. I am sure this is highly effective but I still think the root of the problem needs to be treated. It can only be fully grasped and healed at a subconscious level.
Needless to say I am writing this as I fly from Nice to Paris. On my own. Without my reassuring hubbie. I keep telling myself that it is better to identify and name fears rather than hold on to them.
What better way of doing this than when experiencing them. I did this kind of exercise during my miscarriage before Xmas and it helped to write out my pain.
I would encourage any airphobics to dig deep for the reason why and then to put pen to paper. Better out than in. I look forward to my next flight to see if anything has shifted.
To be continued...