(Closed) The big cloud on my wedding sky – tips on how to handle flight phobia?

posted 4 years ago in Wellness
Post # 3
2379 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

I’m terrified of planes.  And I get motion sick.  I love roller coasters, boats, crazy waves, all of that.  And I’m a complete adrenaline junkie who does crazy stupid things.  But put me on a plane and I want to curl up and die.  My solution has been Dramamine.  Not the non drowsy crap.  The hardcore knock you on your rear end kind.  Preferably with a glass of wine (and only one!).  Between the two, I have no recollection of any flight I’ve taken in the last 10 years.  The only downside is that you’re pretty much worthless for the rest of the day.

Post # 4
8044 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2013

@eocenia:  I too am terrified to fly (like I get sweaty palms and often start tearing up when talking about it), but I don’t let it stop me from going on vacations.

I take Ativan for a start. Basically it makes you really sleepy but calms your nerves a bit. I just go to my doctor and he prescribes me enough for like a year’s worth of travels (usually 10 pills or so).

I find that takeoff is the absolute WORST part… I often cry during takeoff, but after we’ve leveled off and we’re up in the air I calm down a little bit. I think it’s ok to give into that fear a bit. I think most of us are afraid of something! I try to keep myself entertained on the flight, bring my iPod with calming music… games on my iPhone, magazines, etc. Make sure you’re sitting with your hubby.. my SO is great at making me feel a bit more at ease.. like he warns me when the plane is about to throttle back or turn or whatever.

Of course flying is super safe, but that doesn’t exactly ease my nerves lol.

I do recommend getting some pills though… it definitely takes the edge off for me. It doesn’t make things magically better but it helps a bit. And since they make me sleepy, if it’s a super long flight (like 9 hours) I am even able to doze off briefly on some flights.

Omg, I have no idea how I would handle having a flying experience like yours. Terrifying! Just remember that there’s backup of backup of backup systems and the odds are you won’t die in a plane crash. Yeah, it doesn’t help… but it’s true lol. Get the pills haha.

Post # 5
10368 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

I remember that the chances of dying on a plane are basically zero. It is more dangerous to cross the street or drive in a car – orders and orders of magnitude more dangerous. Try repeating the stats in your head to bring the fear to a rational conclusion? You’ve already been in a sticky situation, so I would say to myself, if I were in your shoes, “This awful unlikely thing already happened – and I STILL CAME OUT OK. So, I can stop worrying.”


Post # 6
606 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: March 2014 - Brazil Room

My FI has a plane phobia and they prescribed him vallium (specifically for flight anxiety). He takes it about a half hour before boarding his flight and it makes him so relaxed and happy and he usually ends up snoozing about 10 minutes in.

Post # 7
411 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I’ll start by saying that in a case like yours, where you have actually experienced a distinct, traumatic event (and a rare one at that), finding some professional help for the anxiety is something I would highly recommend.

I have a fear of flying as well, but unlike you, mine stems from something far more anxiety-related than linked to any specific event. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me regarding flying has been getting bumped off my flight and having to spend a sleepless night in an airport – that and some dismal food and grumpy seat-mates on a few occasions!

What I would HIGHLY recommend is asking to meet the pilots before your next flight. If you head over to http://www.takingflight.us/forums/ there is a sample letter you can print out and use. This has made all the difference for some people. There are also a lot of recovered, recovering, and still-very-afraid people there for you to talk to and get pointers from. 

A word of caution regarding anti-anxiety medications: while they might be helpful with getting you on to the plane, they actually reduce your ability to become “accustomed” to flying, and they may not suppress your physical symptoms such as racing heart, shallow breathing, and such. You’ll just feel more calm while that happens – but those are things best discussed with someone who has the education and experience to handle your type of fear. Look for someone who really has experience dealing with fear of flying, anxities, even PTSD. Remember that medication is a crutch, not a cure. Meet the pilots, watch videos of takeoffs and landings on youtube, and don’t let the fear ruin your vacation/travel/life dreams. This is a tough one to beat, because unlike a fear of snakes or spiders or even clowns, it’s expensive and time-consuming to take flights to help yourself become desensitized to them, and there’s no gradual way of stepping yourself up to the experience of flight (unlike how you could gradually get closer to a snake.)


I know that no amount of facts and figures about how safe the industry is will help. They don’t help me one bit because I’m convinced that I’m going to be that one-in-a-trillion person who just gets on the wrong plane at the wrong time, and then all these horror movies start in my head that I can’t stop. It takes time, it takes a LOT of courage, it takes practice, and it may take more than that for you. But I do believe that you CAN do it. 




Post # 9
7978 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

Xanax, lol. You can just take a small dose, all it does for me is help calm racing thoughts and/or help me sleep (if taken before bed). It won’t make you comatose or anything.

Post # 10
8044 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2013

@eocenia:  The way I see it is that if the plane is going down, we’re all screwed… so I don’t mind taking the pills haha. Honestly though I still have my wits about me. It’s not like being drunk, it’s more like you know your fear, but just don’t give a crap. It makes you tired, yes, but still perfectly capable of making rational decisions. It makes you tired for the rest of the day, but it’s nothing that causes any kind of major issues. I find when I have alcohol I get super emotional (whether on a plane or not) so it doesn’t really help very much.

I carry a good luck charm too – my lucky penny 🙂 hasn’t failed me yet…

Post # 12
411 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

@eocenia:  Thanks for your nice words Smile I always feel like it takes someone who is afraid of flying to understand someone who is. When I tell people, nobody seems to get what the big deal is, or they try to convince me how safe flying is, or they tell me to just have a drink before getting on (which actually makes things worse for me. The altitude makes the alcohol rush into my bloodstream and I get really light-headed, which magnifies every movement of the plane, thus amping up my anxiety. Bad combo for me!). Nobody seems to “get” how the fear takes over your body and mind, especially not the gate attendants or flight attendants to whom this is a normal, every day job! (My FBIL is a flight attendant, loves his job, and tries to help me understand through his stories how routine his job is.) That’s why the letter helps hugely – especially if you feel you can mention the situation you were in when the fear started.


I hear you about your parents being helpful but not the best people to counsel you. It’s a weak analogy, but my dad is a Photographer, and it takes me a loonnnggg time to like any pictures he takes of me! Don’t know why that is. I think he just sees me entirely different than I see myself. Finding some outside help can only be beneficial – someone who can see you objectively and help you without bias. 


Oh jeez, I haven’t seen that thread! I don’t think I’ll read it though – that’s one step on my recovery, and helpful to most I think – absolutely NO exposure to media coverage of aviation incidents. They are ALWAYS sensationalized and absolutely nothing about them helps with recovery. I don’t have TV (only watch movies), and if I see one pop up on a news site, I quickly navigate away. It does help to only surround yourself with positive images and representations of the industry. And I should know, my FI works for a subcontractor for Airbus! 


Do you live close enough to an airport to be able to go visit? Even if they have a place where you can get lunch, watch the planes and people, and just be in that general atmosphere, it will help. The airport near where I live has an observation tower and on nice evenings I like to take a small dinner there and sit and watch the planes take off over and over again. It helps me see that commercial aviation is safe, that these flights are routine, and that of the hundreds of take offs and landings that I’ve watched, not a single thing has been weird. It helps me get used to the sights and sounds, and helps me associate being in the terminal with good feelings. 


My last tip is an odd one, and one I found out about entirely by accident! On my last flight with FI, I was panicking during the takeoff, and he noticed and suggested we arm wrestle. To my surprise, like 80% of my anxiety burned off with that simple exercise. The physical exertion, combined with having to concentrate fully on something OTHER than my panic over my certainty that I was doomed burned off the adrenaline in my system. After that I was able to calm down, take some deep breaths, point the cold air on my face, and not crumble into a weepy mess. Hey, it’s worth trying once!


Keep me posted on how you’re doing, ok? Feel free to send me a PM (or an email) any time. And remember, you are the embodiment of courage: choosing to do something even though you are afraid. There are not too many people who can say they have true courage!


Post # 14
9145 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

You have an extremely reasonable reason for being terrified of flying.  Kudos to you for ever being able to get on another airplane again after that!

I second the recommendation for Valium.  I get nervous flying and a few flights ago I freaked out the passenger next to me so I decided to start taking a mild sedative before every flight to calm me down.  I take half a xanax right before takeoff and it has worked wonders.  I will probably take a whole one and sleep when we fly to the UK next year; I haven’t been on a plane for more than 4 hours at a time and that flight is around 12-14 hours depending on where we fly into.

Post # 15
263 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

+1 for getting with a doctor to be prescribed something for flight anxiety.

Post # 16
5425 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: November 2012

@eocenia:  if you can afford it, buy a first class seat, specifically envoy if the airline offers it (most do fro transatlantic flights).  Its a whole different experience than coach and in your case I think it would definitely help calm you down.

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