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I survived a trip to Bali! I was so terrified before I left, the usual sensations, irritability, feelings of impending doom, loss of control, sleepless nights and panic attacks. As a nurse, I can identify what is happening to me, and I can also identify the pattern of what is happening, but I cannot control it. I even make sure I clean up my affairs so that if I die on the plane its all in order.
So, in order to stay sane, I found Captain Keith and spoke to him in depth about my fears of flying. Many of these fears are associated with my feeling that because I am 'a bad person or have done something wrong' (which I don't normally have issues with) I deserve for my plane to crash (obviously theres some deep seated issues there somewhere which I don't currently feel like exploring :-p). Doing something wrong could entail dropping some rubbish accidentally and not picking it up. It could entail yelling at my children. Not taking care of something well enough. Its funny how flying can bring out the 'crazy' in a person.
So I latched onto Captain Keith who helped me immensely and identified my 'mumbo jumbo' as he blatantly put it. I have a lot of routines that develop before flying. I can't make plans for after the plane trip because those planes would ensure I do not make it safely due to my having been arrogant enough to assume my plane will be safe. My routine is to assume the worst, anticipate the worst and therefore there will be no surprises. I won't say to friends 'Ill catch up after I get back', that will jinx me. I won't make appointments, engagements, or long term plans past the date of my plane trip. I think this is a form of trying to control the situation through the use of rituals which, logically we all know don't work, but try telling that to a terrified fear of flyer!
So, we arrived at the morning when I should have been flying and my ex husband whom I was flying with had to have an emergency op. I bravely said 'I can still go' but there was no way I could get on that plane with three children by myself. There was no way I could get on that darn plane without being forced to get on it to be honest. I wouldn't let my children go without me, I felt I was a terrible mother to send them on that flying, fuel filled, tin can without me there and my ex husband would take them either way, so if he was going, they were going and if they were going, I was going. But what I did realise is that the plane that I was sure was going to plummet into the abyss safely arrived at Denpasar Airport, I was almost amazed! At time I kind of wished I had jumped on the Monday flight. My flight was now to be on Wednesday, so I had two more days to marinate in my own anxiety and imagination.
Wednesday morning I woke up, threw some things in a bag, after all, what point is there to pack when one is going to die anyway? Another ritual. So I packed for myself and three children in about 30 minutes before I left for the airport. It is Bali however, and one does not require a lot of clothes for Bali, its so hot and humid whatever you wear ends up stuck to your body in about 5 minutes. I arrived at my ex husbands house and calmly informed him that I don't think I can get on the plane. So I started to talk to Captain Keith. In the car, on the way, telling him that I think we were going to miss the plane and my ex husbands stress about this compounded my plane fear. Although then Cpt Keith was worried about me missing the plane too. I did wonder how he could be so keen about sending me to a certain death but he felt the traffic was more of a concern at that point. Statistically he was correct. We got to the shuttle bus and I was balancing three children whist constantly talking to Cpt Keith about each step along the way and being reminded by him to focus on my breathing routine which, amazingly did help. It didn't stop the problem but it gave me some sense of control. We also went over scenarios like phones on planes and turbulence. Interestingly, Cpt Keith said, just because last time was turbulent doesn't mean this time will be. It made me feel better to realise that maybe it was not always going to be as rough as it was last time during landing and maybe some of my fear was not just me being crazy, but rather the turbulence that had been frightening although he informed me that it was harmless.
I hate the airport when I have to fly, its big, white and has high ceilings, something I would normally enjoy in other situations but I hate it when it comes to planes. We checked in luggage and I asked the girl if they would be x-rayed. She promptly replied 'yes'. Apparently Cpt Keith knew what he was talking about because he had assured me of the same thing. Just checking facts :)). We then went through the passport bit and I made sure they had a good look at all our faces so I ascertain whether they were doing their job to a high enough standard. They appeared to be. I still felt sick. Still talking to Captain Keith, who by this stage had to be the MOST patient man in the world! Im not sure what time 7 a.m Australian time was for him in England, but either way, he's a patient man.
We sat in the lounge and gave the children a drink each whilst we waited. I took the first of my choice of anti anxiety tablets for flying which is Temazepam, its a Benzodiazepam. I have tried Diazepam in the past and took a pre op dose to no avail (25 mg - did nothing!!), I clung to the seat all the way and felt like I was going to climb the walls. Our flight was then called and ex husband dropped my ticket, these little things to me, when flying are like omens. Talking to Captain Keith some more. I told him I want him flying my plane and he told me to pretend I was. On boarding I told the attendants that I was scared and then they came and let me meet the pilots who were lovely and also looked like they really wanted to stay alive too. There are so MANY buttons up the front of a plane, hundreds. I don't know if pilots know what each and everyone does, Im assuming they do, but good grief!
Cpt Keith spoke to me whist the plan was moving backwards, although at that point he informed me that I would have to turn off my phone, I said good bye and turned it off very reluctantly and continued on the breathing routine. I then took another three temazepam (ex is a Doctor so it was under proper orders) and off we went. Believe it or not, it wasn't that bad, I hate the lack of control during take off, hate, hate, hate it. But this time with drugs on board and talking to Cpt Keith it was almost ok. Cpt Keith said I can't be fear free but I can dampen it down so it is bearable and that is what happened.
Meals were served and I did what Cpt Keith and Phoebe, another fear of flyer on here suggested, I got the water cup out and sat it on the tray. I managed to eat the meal which I can normally not do and by this point the temazepam were really taking affect and I tried to sleep, (my preferred manner of flying). Everytime the turbulence started to scare me I looked at that darn cup and believe it or not, it wasn't sloshing over, in fact, the surface of it was simply vibrating forming little rings on top. No spilling over, no sloshing around, no sliding. So I would close my eyes again. I woke going over Ayers Rock, briefly looked down to try to see it, couldn't, so checked what my cup was doing, calculated the amount of time left on the flight (something people that are scared of flying can do with great accuracy I would think) and lulled back into a sleep. I then woke just crossing the border of Western Australia over the Indian Ocean. Again, calculated my flight, checked my cup and went back to sleep.
The next time I work was for landing. No need to buckle up as I make the children and myself fly with seat belts on, more so because I have read it is a good idea but not to scare them. The landing was the first one i have had where I was able to watch the plane land, I watched the whole thing! I did feel very brave! And, for the first time, I got to have the sensation of how lovely flying was. Yes, this was aided by the medication but it was nice to realise what Cpt Keith was talking about when he says he loves flying. It was peaceful
I wanted to message Cpt Keith when I arrived at Denpasar but I had no wifi available so let him know I had arrived safely when I was at the Villa. There was also a substantially higher risk of dying on the trip to the villa than there was on the plane in hindsight.
Thank you so much Captain Keith, you saved me and my sanity. I am still scared of flying, I still couldn't fly without medications, but I did it. And right now, I could book at ticket to fly somewhere. Normally I could never book at ticket! But I could now. That is not saying that I wouldn't still have moments of terror at the thought but it was really lovely having a positive experience on a plane!
Remember : the cup of water! If the pilot is talking about landing and it is bumpy and he seems unconcerned, chances are its all ok! The plane really doesnt care if I have made plans post my trip or not! Also, i think there is a good argument for people as terrified as I am to take some type of medication for anxiety preflight. I would recommend discussing your choices with your doctor and also road testing the medication prior to the trip if you are unaccustomed to it. I think with more flights, more consistently and medication I would eventually become confident enough to go medication free.
I wish Cpt Keith came to Australia as I think that he would cure my fear completely if I could do one of his courses
THANK YOU CAPTAIN KEITH