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 am always nervous at take-off but having read Keiths book many times i can understand the feelings you get when the plane takes off, i have the same routine when the plane is ready to take-off i sit with the in-flight magazine and when the plane is running down the runway i am sitting browsing through it even when i am getting that sinking feeling i am still browsing the magazine i never look out of the window until the cabin crew start walking about this helps me.
When flying back from Spain last week on the thomas cook flight the stewardess were sitting right behind us for takoff the two off them chatted away happily during the take-off and once we were up they got up and went about their duties might, takeoff might not seem normal to us but to them its as normal as me going to get the 7.10am 63 bus to my work this morning!
Thank you to everyone for your support. It means everything in the world to me.
Yes, I've been practicing my breathing exercises and that part is going well. Last night I took a whole oxazepam tablet just to make sure I could tolerate it. I did, although I don't know how well it will work tomorrow as I wasn't too stressed when I took it last night. It's now about 3:30pm and my flight is tomorrow morning at 9:30am. Very very close now. I wish you could ALL come on the plane with me. Right now I'm just rushing around like crazy, doing loads of washing and packing everything. It'll be freezing where I'm going (well, freezing for an Australian anyway).
I've been watching the take off videos over and over again. I'm nowhere near as upset from watching them as I was before. Now I just want this stupid takeoff to be over and done with. I'm sick of worrying about it. Not that I'm not scared anymore - because I really am. Completely terrified. I'm just taking comfort in knowing that I'm doing all the right things to prepare myself for it. I'm pretty sure that the plane won't leave the ground without me even noticing. I know I'll probably start to panic a little, it's just whether I can stop myself from losing it at that point. I feel very out of control when the back wheels leave the ground and it's a MAJOR (almost impossible) struggle to get control over myself and what I'm feeling.
I hope the staff on the Air New Zealand plane are nice to me.
I know it's hard for you to hear this but stop hoping for things, because that becomes the focus of success. Success will come because you're dealing with your anxiety not because a hope or wish seems to have come true.
Be realistic and accept a level of anxiety and I'm going to be realistic...I'm going to deal with things as and when they happen.
Everyone will be nice to you...why shouldn't they be
I just want to apologies for the delay in my update.
My flight to NZ couldn't have gone better. I was a bawling mess at the airport. I took my medication 1 hour before boarding and I made sure I avoided everything caffeinated that day. Everyone was SO nice to me. I approached one of the Air NZ staff at the gate. I didn't really need to say anything. They could see it written all over my face. The lady at check-in even wrote 'nervous flyer' on my boarding pass so they would know that I needed help. I was so gobsmacked at the lengths they went to, to make me feel more at ease. Two staff members chatted to me for a while, then one of them disappeared and came back with the pilot and the co-pilot! I couldn't believe it. They both sat with me and said they had already flown to Wellington and back that morning and that we should have a tail wind that will make the flight shorter. They even invited me into the cockpit. Then, this lovely flight attendant introduced herself to me and told me she'd be sitting next to me during take off. Couldn't have gone better.
I started to get really anxious during taxiing and trying REALLY REALLY hard on my deep, slow breathing exercises. I don't know what exactly did it, but...... I didn't have a panic attack!!! Amazing! I've gotta say, I felt really proud of myself. It was a combination of everyone's amazing support here, my medication, the amazing support of Air NZ, holding my pillow and the breathing exercises. I can't believe I did it.
Here's the clincher. While I was in NZ I was lucky enough to get Swine flu. Hence my extended absence from here. Also, when I got back, my dog died (and I'm a huge animal lover - she was the love of my life). Another reason for only just getting back to you all now.
So, the flight back was great. I was with my friends which was awesome. I took my medication an hour before boarding, but this time I didn't eat enough beforehand so it hit me really quickly. I avoided another panic attack so... success. :)
I can't talk up Air NZ enough. They were the nicest airline I've ever flown with.
A massive thank you to each and every one of you. I treasure all the advice and support you've given me more than you'll ever know.
Just a little extra note: I have to admit, I was really skeptical about breathing exercises before these flights. I have been proven wrong. They actually work. Also, if your head feels light and a bit funny during take off, I recommend taking your pillow with you and placing it in such a way to that you can snuggle your head against it and hold onto it while looking at something (either the seat in front of you or out the window) and practicing your breathing. That really helped me. Just a bit of extra comfort.
That really is a story to be proud of. It seems that you've had to battle with everything recently so your achievement is all the better. I am so pleased for you and hope that you'll stay with us whenever you can to encourage others with your advice and example.
Very well done and I'm sure that thousands of people who visit this site will be inspired by you.