Hi everyone. I'm Heidi. It's great to meet you all.
I am desperate for help. I have a three hour flight coming up early July and I am already in tears about it. It may seem ridiculous but my main fear is taking off. More specifically, it's the feeling and sensations associated with taking off. It makes me feel horrible. I have a full-blown panic attack every single time (at least that's how it's been in the last 5 or so years). I feel incredibly strange when the plane takes off and the feeling terrifies me. I feel like my soul is being sucked out of my body. I feel my stomach sinking but it's my entire body as well. I don't just feel lightheaded, I feel lightbodied (which I assume is the possible neg g forces at work?) and really really dizzy. It's like someone has just pulled the floor out from underneath me and I'm falling. I gradually feel more normal when the plane levels out and then I have to work on getting the feeling back into my hands and feet. This experience is so traumatic for me even though it only lasts for under a minute. I've tried researching this problem online but I haven't found anything. I found one help forum post (on another site), but the 'pilot' completely misinterpreted what the poster meant, saying that planes are safe etc and missing the point.
This trip I will be flying alone. My boyfriend is usually there to hold my hand and tell me everything will be fine during that bit. He and I figured out that the exact moment when I start to feel this awful sensation is when the back wheels leave the ground and everything feels like it's falling back.
I can't tell you how bad this sensation is for me. I know most people don't even feel it or feel some sinking in the tummy for a few seconds, but I don't. I feel like my skull is being squashed.
I always request a window seat as I need to try and distract myself from the feeling with the view (love the view by the way) but it's always an epic battle between what I'm seeing and what I'm feeling. I find it so hard to believe that no one else on the flight feels this way during take off.
The rest of the flight, I'm great. Sure, I'm terrified of turbulence, but that's not what is making me lose sleep at night. I hope someone out there understands exactly what I'm going through.
It's embarrassing but I even get nervous watching passenger view take off videos on youtube. I can feel my heart rate going up when the plane speeds up to take off and I can feel myself panicking at that moment when the plane leaves the ground. I must stress again, this has nothing to do with a plane actually flying, safety of the plane. It's the feeling. I would fear cars if I got this neg-g feeling driving.
I completely identify with what you are saying. the feeling of terror and panic I feel during take off is unimaginable and I always find it impossible to explain but I think you may have done a great job in describing it! I also relax a bit after take off although I cant say its easy, especially turbulent bumpy flights and landings. I think the main thing you have to do is remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal and that what you are feeling isnt whats happening - how it feels isnt how it is if that makes sense. I also cant believe nobody else feels the same during take off and even though I know take off is safe and there is no danger and I remind myself of all the statistics but like you its the fear of the panic and my heart rate going and I know if I felt this in a car I wouldnt drive. Same as I wont go on rollercoaster rides as I am sure now that I would feel the same. It just FEELS wrong...I do understand but I think the best and only thing we can do is to keep flying and keep on with the breathing exercises - its the only thing that helps. I am more frightened of take off than anything else as I too cant breathe, I feel like I am dying or something (it sounds so melodramatic and people roll their eyes when I say it but I cant explain it but you have explained it so thank you, I only wish I could make it go away for us, it will get better the more we do it and the more we face our fear I am determined!)
We'll help you, so start relaxing now! I see that your flight is in July so perhaps I can reply to you next week as I'm busy for the rest of this week and weekend. But I will be back to offer you help so that you don't get those awful sensations...or if you do you'll understand them better and find a way of dealing with them. Are you relaxing yet?
Oh Caro, I can't tell you how wonderful it is to find someone who actually understands what I'm going through. Thank you so much for your response. Yes, you're absolutely right, the sensations of take off just feel very wrong. I don't think you're being melodramatic with your description of how you feel whatsoever. I totally understand it. I hate it when you tell people about it and they say, "Oh! You'll be fine! It's nothing." I wonder if they'd be fine being inside our heads during take off. *L*
The stupid thing is that I have flown all around the world when I was 10. I've even flown interstate several times from the mid nineties up until 2005. I remember only feeling bad if I looked up the aisle during take off (seeing it sloping upward at an angle made me feel dizzy and panicky). As long as I was looking out the window I would be something close to fine.
Last year I flew for the first time in a few years and I was expecting I would be fine. As I said, as long as I kept looking out the window and didn't look up the aisle I would be fine. Not the case. Very unexpectedly, I felt this feeling and it freaked me out. It was as if the plane was making a sharper descent - I know it probably wasn't. Anyway, it's been the same ever since.
Starting to feel a bit more anxious. I keep thinking about the morning of my flight, heading to the airport and knowing that once I'm through customs I'll be alone and that awful feeling will be inevitable. I'll have no one there to tell me it's going to be okay.
What you must remember then is that you've seen all the stuff you need on this network. Don't keep looking forward to the day of your flight...that won't change anything...stay in the 'now'. That'll keep up your reserves of strength rather than running them down by worrying.
Why not have a look at the videos and listen to the helpcasts on the main site? Try to make flying normal and stop beating yourself up about feeling worried...and that awful feeling isn't inevitable, but the more you say it the more likely it will become so. Honestly changing your words will eventually change how you feel.
And from everything people say here the flight is always better than the anticipation of it.
Keep in touch and ask me whatever you want to know about. But you must try to be more upbeat from now on please...that's an order from the Captain OK?
Keep watching the videos and measure your anxiety levels, keep watching them until your anxiety levels drop...because they will. Say to yourself I'm going to watch the take off 20 times and see how I feel at the end of it. The more you expose yourself to them the greater the benefit...sounds odd but it's a fact.
I cant even begin to tell you how much I understand how you are feeling...that feeling of utter desolation when you know you have to face the fear. It never really matters to me whether I am on my own or with people, the fear is always bad. Take off is always the same but we have to keep watching the take off video on this site and remember we will be up before you know it...the plane levels out so soon. I think the waiting before the flight and then the moments during take off are the hardest...I cry and shake and nobody could console me if they tried, all I can do are my breathing exercises. Dont feel alone, as soon as you go through customs, go the gate and talk to a stewardess if possible,dont be afraid to say how bad you feel. I will be thinking of you. I might have to fly before you so I shall be telling myself the same things, this site and the course I did helped me so much but I have to also accept that this fear is NOT going to go away overnight, I need to work on it regularly which means flying more and facing the truth. Well done for doing the same and remember its normal to feel anxious, I am so the same but it will be ok, it really will.
Caro, you say you have to fly before me?? When and where to?? You know you will DEFINITELY be in my thoughts too. I just wish I could get in the plane with you and tell you everything you need to hear. That's a very good idea about telling a stewardess how I'm feeling after I go through customs. I think I'll probably be in such a state that I won't need to say a thing to them. :D
In the past week I've been talking to so many people about take offs and how they feel during it. As I've said before, I've felt relatively normal during a take off before, so why am I feeling like this now? I am beyond confused about how and why I'm having such a severe reaction to this part of the flight, and more specifically, this sensation. I wish I could go back to the way it was before.
I will watch the videos repeatedly and monitor my anxiety levels. I'll let you know how it goes. Can I ask, how long does take off last for? The video on this site cuts off before the ascent is over. I know that I start to feel a bit better when the plane levels out. Some people say this lasts for ten minutes but I feel like it's much less than that.
Also, do some pilots ascend more sharply than others? I wish there was a way to ask them not to.
I know what you mean! I so wish I could go back to how fine I felt before but something must have just triggered it for us... do you remember having a bad flight? Or having had bad feelings around the time of a take off? I so wish we could turn the clock back.I am flying to Marrakech maybe on the 31st May, aaaaagh! I know!!! Really near!! I dont know for definite yet only because there might not be a spare place with the other girls who are going (ofcourse I would prob breathe a huge sigh of relief if that was the case but I just feel I owe it to myself to keep trying to fly!) I think I would be calmer if I was on a flight with someone like me and you!! who really understood the terror! I think its feeling so utterly helpless and alone that makes it worse..keep on talking about how you are feeling and I will too - we will get throught this DEFINITELY!! I am determined :)
Funnily enough, I met an ex-flight attendant yesterday from New Zealand. We got talking and I told her all about my issues with taking off. She told me some very interesting things which have comforted me but also scared me at the same time.
Wellington is a black listed airport. The runway is short and only the best pilots are licensed to land and take off from there. In other words, I'm in very very capable hands. The worrying part is that because it is such a short runway (and because of the notorious wind conditions) the take off from Wellington has to be a sharp and fast one. I had a really bad time taking off from there the last time. But it didn't really feel that different from taking off in Australia. When she was telling me this, I felt my face getting really hot and I immediately started wondering what Air NZ's cancellation policy is.
I also asked her about sedatives and she said something like Valium is the way to go. I'll be talking to a doctor about this next week. She also said that there are lower oxygen levels in the cabin during take off which could explain why I feel so bad. She said some people are more sensitive to it than others. I also have very low iron levels (vegetarian - taking supplements) and I know that iron is what helps carry oxygen around in your blood. I'm thinking that I may need to get my levels up by eating meat again which is the very best and efficient way to get iron.
I have an appointment with a therapist this Friday. I hope it goes okay.