And, no, it wasn’t Jell-o shots!
Hi, my name is Cathie and I had an extreme fear of flying. When I say extreme, I mean extreme. Just thinking about flying used to increase my heart rate and make my stomach flutter. Sitting at a gate at an airport produced sweaty palms, rapid thoughts of doom, shaking, gagging, neck and body tension, stomach lurches, wet underarms no matter how “clinical” the deodorant, and the whole day felt surreal. I could not handle the children prior to a flight because I couldn’t even handle myself. My husband had to take care of all their needs — I was a tense, sweaty lump clinging to my final moments on Earth in a hard, airport chair.
Last year, my daughter asked my husband if she could go on a trip her art teacher was putting together through EF Educational Tours. The trip included visiting Istanbul, Turkey and Athens, Greece. He said yes and asked me if I wanted to go with her. I hesitated a few seconds before I replied yes. My thoughts at the time weren’t about how exciting a trip to Turkey and Greece was going to be — only that there’s no way to drive to these countries.
I knew I would have to find a way to get over my fear of flying. But, hey, I figured I had plenty of time to find a cure, right?
Friends encouraged me to go to the doctor and get some little pill to “take the edge off,” but I was going to be flying with two of my daughters and did not want to send them the message that it’s okay to take drugs when one is overwhelmed. Sure, I was tempted but I knew I had to model the right way to deal with fear.
And you know what happened, right? If you know me at all, you know I waited until the very last minute to try to find help. Even the thought of getting on an airplane caused such anxiety that I ignored the trip until I absolutely had to do something. I even delayed getting passports because that would commit me to going.
As an extremely fearful flyer, I needed a way out of the trip — not having a passport would be my ticket to cancel.
I ignored all the emails from the teacher about what one should be doing in preparation for the trip such as buying adapters, finding suitable clothing for a conservative country, locating the “right” kind of TSA approved plastic baggies. For Pete’s sake, I did nothing. The time flew by.
At some point in April, my sister called me on her way to pick up her daughter. She claimed to have gotten over her extreme fear of flying through some type of program a few years back. I didn’t understand how what she was describing was going to help me but I figured I’d let her send the DVDs and I’d give it a shot. Why not? I had nothing else.
She sent them quickly but I couldn’t even open the package because, again, just the thought of facing my fear was too much.
I literally waited until one week prior to departure to open the package, insert disc one and push play. I had no hope of success.
Captain Tom Bunn is a retired pilot and a licensed clinical social worker. He created a program called SOAR to help people who have an extreme fear of flying. Although the program is somewhat pricey, he gives a lot of information and free tips on his website.
Captain Bunn has a very soothing voice–so soothing that sometimes I could not watch any more of his videos because it was putting me in a trance. I felt somewhat hypnotized and relaxed. In today’s world of “hurry up and fix me,” Captain Bunn’s delivery can be a little slow. I wanted to be cured and NOW!!
After going through the program, I can honestly say I do not have a fear of flying anymore. How do I know for sure? I got on 5 flights round trip going to and coming back from Turkey/Greece. The final flight was 11 hours long and included a full hour of bad turbulence, and I….slept through it. You heard me right. I slept through it.
After all the years of being too frightened to fly, I flew with only mild discomfort on the first flight. By the second flight, I was an old pro even with a 45 minute delay at the gate due to President Obama’s flight temporarily shutting down O’hare Airport. In the past, this change of flight plans would have sent me running to the nearest Budget Rent-a-Car because I would have taken it as a “sign” that something bad was going to happen.
Captain Bunn uses various visualization techniques coupled with facts that helped me. The three things that helped me the most were visualizing a plane in green Jell-o, assuring myself that the bumps of turbulence are like bumps on a road, and knowing the exact process of flying (Captain Bunn goes through each step and what it will sound like in the cabin).
Because of the SOAR program, I am busily planning next year’s trip to Costa Rica. Care to join me?
Please note that the opinions in this piece are purely my own — I did not receive the SOAR program to test it out nor did I receive any compensation. My sister loaned me the DVDs and I’m singing its praises because it works.