Facing My Fear

If anyone in Rome is reading this, turn your computer off and start tidying the place up. The wife and I are heading over there on Wednesday to start our honeymoon, so it had better be ship-shape or I’ll be having words.

I am very much looking forward to this holiday. As I’ve informed the majority of the people I’ve spoken to about it, I haven’t so much as seen a beach for over ten years. Yes, I know Rome isn’t famed for its beaches, but we’re heading off to Sardinia (via Sorrento) next week, so shut it.

As I said though, I am looking forward to the holiday. What I’m not looking forward to is the travelling there. I’ll admit that as I’ve got older I’ve developed a bit of general anxiety relating to a great many things – crowded places, buses, trains, heights, to name a few – but if there was anything I could totally remove from my life quite happily without any regrets at all, it would be flying. I never had an issue with it as a child but as I grew older, certainly after my mid-teens, I grew terrified of the prospect. To illustrate the point, we booked our flights some six months ago. That night I couldn’t sleep due to a inner panic, and I’ve suffered intermittent attacks ever since.

The worst time I’ve had on a plane was on a trip to Barcelona last year. I attempted to cover myself for the flight by filling myself with alcohol before getting on the plane. I’ve done this on the last few occasions, and while not ideal, it’s certainly helped. Not this time. As we taxied to the runway I was nervous enough, but on take-off my whole body went into shock – I turned white, my stomach tightened to the size of a ten pence piece, my mouth seized up and tears rained down my cheeks. I had never felt so petrified in my life. Once we were up above the clouds, and I calmed down enough to physically hold a glass (which took some time), I managed to down a few cans of lager which settled the nerves slightly, enabling me to walk down the plane to the toilet – something I’d always previously been unable to do. Upon landing I swore that I would never again get on a plane without first speaking to my GP about obtaining some sort of sedative. Sadly I spoke to soon, as I still had to come home a few days later, which I managed with slightly less drama, but still with extreme discomfort.

I turned to the interwebs for assistance and came across a website at http://www.fearofflyinghelp.com – which is a free course, written by a former commercial flight pilot with the rather unhelpful name of Captain Chance. He wrote his course to consist of various different lessons and advice, most of which helped me immensely. He explains everything from the design of the aircraft, to the technical information as to what exactly is happening during take-off and flight, together with stats and knowledge about exactly why flying is so safe. His final lesson is written as a imaginary flight. It goes through the whole thing, from the morning preparations through to getting to the airport, boarding the plane, taxiing, take-off, cruising and landing. Just reading this lesson makes me shake with anxiety but does get me used to what exactly is happening. While that site is a wonderful source of help to me, I still needed something else to take the edge off.

Yesterday I finally spoke to my GP about the problem. He immediately prescribed me a box of diazepam, which I will admit, I am very much looking forward to taking. As I sit here writing this I am feeling very nervous about the flight tomorrow, which is at 7.00am. So much so that I have been considering taking a pill today, however I am only allowed three in one 24 hour spell, and these are all required first thing in the morning. My GP told me to take one 2mg pill before leaving home in the morning, another prior to boarding the plane, and a final one after sitting down. He advised that once I have taken all three pills I should feel chilled out for the remainder of the flight. I hope so, because I do not want to go through what happened on the Barcelona trip again.

I’ve read up on diazepam and have found a mixture of reviews. Some have said that it’s not really helped them at all. Others have said that it permanently cured their fear of flying from that point onwards. I would be happy with something in the middle. There are places on Earth I currently believe I will never get to visit, due to this crippling anxiety. Japan, West Coast America, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand are all places I dream of going to but only put myself off. If these diazepam have a positive effect on me then I will certainly be looking to see a few more places in my life before it’s too late.

My next blog will more than likely be written on my return to England at the end of June, so look after the place while I’m gone, please.



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