@eocenia: Thanks for your nice words 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!