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Its been a while since I wrote anything and I did promise to update folks on my experience of my journey to and from NZ during June and July, I've already posted the story of my flight to NZ in June and this is a bit about my experience on the return journey. Sorry for the lateness but I have moved house since my return and have been busy organising things on the domestic front. Thats way more stressful than flying!!!
I left Auckland on the 27th July at 1.30pm and arrived in Dublin, Ireland at about 11.30am on the 29th. The flights were "smooth as" (Kiwi exxpression!! - things down-under are always "cool as" or "sweet as" so I suppose I've added one - maybe?) But ...... the anticipatory anxiety and nervousness during the flights was there all the way. There were three flights in succession - the first from AKL to Kuala Lumpur - about 11.5 hrs, then a two and half hour layover and the next flight to London Heathrow almost 13 hrs. and finally, after a four hour layover in London, a fifty minute "hop" from London to Dublin. The funny thing is that the real panic attack came on strong on the last flight - the short one to Dublin. The panic lasted about 10 minutes or so and subsided quickly after I "bolted" for the toilet room to hide for a while and try to get to frips with the feelings.
I was very tired by that stage both physically and mentally so that didn't help my cause. The other two flights were filled with anxiety but not a real panic attack as such. I think the fact that the planes are so huge (747-400 and 777-200) helps me at a psychological level to feel safer. However, there was much walking around the planes to relieve the boredom .. but I said to heck with it .. I'm doing my best and at least I was on the plane. The meal breaks and drinks services provided some much needed diversion. I know the smaller Airbus A320 and Boeing 737's are equally safe but their smaller size, by comparison, seems to add to my worries. Anyhoo, at one stage on the flight to London - (we were somewhere over the Caspian Sea part of the world) - I spent quite a bit of time lookling out the window at the fairly black and bleak landscape below and only a very few lights visible and little sign of human habitation. I comforted myself with the thought that it was better being in the plane than being on the ground in a fairly desolate looking place.
I couldn't sleep at any time (never been able to do that on a plane!) so the battle really was with the physical and mental tiredness which didn't help the sense of anxiety. Nonetheless, I reminded myself that the flights would touch down at the appropriate airport more or less on time and after a few days I would be back home wondering what all the fuss was about. And thats exactly what happened - the flights had no problems, they landed safely and I'm here now trying to figure how I can do it all again and see my daughter, son and grand-daughter again ....."soon as...".
All in all, I know I haven't "conquered" the fear but I'm actually eager to get going again and travel to NZ because I know I can survive it and I have proved that to myself. Having the forum is an enormous help and | kept thinking about things other folks had said or advised etc. - it helped a lot. Having a strategy for the flights is really important - even though I didn't really adhere to mine very well (books and MP3 player and films etc. etc.) - the problem I found is that if I can't get to sleep then the tiredness makes it almost impossible to pay attention to any book, music or film. So perhaps I'll focus on ways to get to sleep - even if its only for a couple of hours, it would be better than nothing at all. Any suggestions? (apart from forking out for a First Class bed that is!!)
If I can do it anyone can. I'm not saying its going to be a bed of roses all at once - but taking that flight is an achievement - and those of us who are nervous flyers should congratulate ourselves every time we make the effort. Be well, be happy and keep trying. Best wishes to all. - Frank.