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Dorothy - thinking and flying

Posted by wendyn on 2/26/05 at 23:57 (170005)

Oh Dorothy - I see that you are having some issues with your trip. Many people on this board will recall that I have really struggled with flying. I went through a period of six years when I refused to fly. Then, even once I started again, I would have such major anxiety that I could make myself physically ill weeks before going away.

Long story short (my hands are sore from working on a paper) – I went through counseling last year to deal with the phobia. I don't think you've mentioned a phobia or a real fear, but I recognize the things that you are noticing (the bathroom is small, the plane is cramped).

Through the counseling, I eventually had to come to terms with the fact that the problem was not the plane, the problem was with me. I had to learn that the way I was thinking was what was creating my discomfort.

I know that this will sound very cheesy, but I had to learn to STOP noticing all of the things that I could become distressed about. Instead of thinking about how crazy and crowded O'Hare is, I had to think about how amazing it is that they have the technology and scheduling that allow them to handle a lot of planes safely. Surely they have the best equipment, the most up-to-date technology, highly qualified air traffic controllers…they don't let just anyone work at one of the busiest airports in the world (and no, it doesn't matter if it's entirely true…most of the negative stuff we think is highly speculative too).

Rather than noticing the small windows on the plane, I had to think about how nice it is to have windows on the plane. How boring it would be if I couldn't look out and see the clouds and the sky. Instead of noticing the small plane or the small bathrooms, I had to notice how they were just the right size. It's nice to have such a compact efficient bathroom on a plane isn't? You have everything that a large bathroom has - but on a more plane-sized scale. It's just right.

I ended up taking 3 trips consisting of 10 different flights in the span of a few months. It gave me a lot of time to practice this whole concept of thinking differently. The most obvious evidence I had was flying to New Brunswick from Boston. I was in a weird mental state the day we left. We'd been at the airport for quite a while, and I had considerable time to focus on all the things I didn't like or didn't trust.

The 45 minute flight was AWFUL. I had a full blown panic attack- I couldn't speak or form a complete thought for the whole time. I didn't like the plane, the flight attendant, the seats, or the temperature…I felt every bump and every single movement. After we landed, I decided that I am NEVER doing that to myself again. It's really unpleasant. I also had to take full responsibility for what had happened.

So, for the return trip 4 days later, I made sure that I had a totally different mindset. Every time I caught myself focusing on something negative, I found something else to think. Took a lot of concentration and energy. But, the identical flight 4 days later was a total non-event. We landed back in Boston and I might as well have just driven down a quiet country lane for how I felt. It was almost unbelievable that I was the same person, on the same plan, on the same flight – but the experience was completely opposite.

Honestly, this idea of changing your thought process can make a difference for you. You will have a very powerful effect on how you perceive this trip, especially the travelling portion. I will be here to give you all the emotional support and suggestions possible!!!

Re: Dorothy - thinking and flying

Dorothy on 2/27/05 at 11:35 (170030)

Wendyn - It was thoughtful and kind of you to share this experience and encouragement. It's a thing to be proud of - facing a fear straight on! Congratulations on that accomplishment. There are useful lessons in what you have written and I know they will be factored into my bundle as I 'pack up my troubles in my old kit-bag'.....(No, I wasn't around for WWI when that old song was popular, but as I once mentioned here that my husband says: she knows all the words to all the songs..I can't help it.)

I don't think that I actually have a phobia about flying; I'm not actually AFRAID of FLYING - I just don't like it anymore. What I am AFRAID of is all the many ways that my own body can act up. I think what has happened is that I have made so many adjustments and adaptations in my life because of feet and back (and sinuses) (Man! I sound like a Major Mess, don't I??) that I have some comfort and peace in my own home- ?routine? rut?? It is as comfortable and at ease as I can get and even at that it is very far from 100%. So even in the familiarity and adjusted-to setting of my own home-base - or that of an almost as familiar setting - life is not as easy as one would wish. Consequently, when I think of even greater adjustments and adaptations in an airplane and an unknown hotel, my spirits start to resist and say, no- we don't want to do that; that will be too hard..think of all the bad things that can happen (realizing at the same time that good things can happen, just as well!).
So, I'm in the resisting phase and it will probably get stronger as the trip gets closer. I don't think it qualifies as a phobia; I know full well what things are like when my back won't work and the thought of this happening on an airplace or far from home is unnerving. BUT - I'm going. I feel like I have to go. (That is part of the problem,too - I HATE to feel as if I HAVE to do anything!!) I love my husband and he has made his feelings clear on this whole subject in the nicest way so there is some RESPONSIBILITY involved, too. (oooooh, I hate responsibility!!)
I long for the days when I would throw a toothbrush in a little bag and go. Not a thought for shoes/feet/back/ears/nasals!!! Care-free, not care-full.... Thank you, Wendyn - you make some excellent points, especially about using distraction and focusing on positive features, rather than negative. You are right about the little, compact bathrooms and other fetures being engineering marvels.....it's good advice and I will use it.
I am a believer in the power of the mind and your advice speaks to that very well - Thanks again.

Re: Dorothy - thinking and flying

marie on 2/27/05 at 20:03 (170085)

That is so true Wendy. I appreciated your story too. Sometimes I catch myself thinking way too much about something I'm planning in the future and get all worked up.

Glad your going to take the trip Dorothy. It may be just what your sinuses need right now.

Re: Dorothy - thinking and flying

wendyn on 2/27/05 at 20:47 (170092)

Dorothy, suprisingly enough - my feet often improve on vacation. I hope yours will too!

Re: Dorothy - thinking and flying

Dorothy on 2/28/05 at 01:10 (170107)

Wendy - That's very interesting. Do you have any theories as to why that happens to you?

Re: Dorothy and Wendy

Julie on 2/28/05 at 03:12 (170110)

May I offer a comment? Because when I had PF, this happened to me, too: my feet were better on the three holidays I had during my 5-6 PF months.


I was out of my customary daily routine, and that worked mentally/emotionally as well as physically. Holidays are for me an incentive to making changes: I get new insights and start up new patterns. and sometimes they 'stick'. All three of my holidays-with-PF altered the pain-pattern in different ways, and moved me forward.

On the two trips that made the most difference, I tested myself a little more than I had at home. On a long weekend in Berlin, I wanted to walk, see the city, see exhibitions, so I did. Yes, it hurt, especially at the end of each day - but it usually was better in the morning.

Then, three weeks in India proved - to my great surprise - to be the end of my PF. It was so exciting to be there, and all my senses were so taken up in being there and absorbing everything, that I hardly thought about my feet. I never said no to a walk. That trip culminated in my 5-mile walk along the beach at Mamallapuram. I had no pain. It seemed a miracle, and I wondered if the pain would return when I got home, but after that I had only occasional twinges for the next few months, and then it was gone.

I think that if we're more relaxed, physically and mentally, on holiday, that relaxation affects every tissue in our body. So much pain is caused by tension, both physical and mantal/emotional - and pain is diminished or even wholly released when the tensions are released, even if we don't consciously 'try' to release it, as in practising relaxation techniques. That, of course, is important. But I think that holidays are a great opportunity to relax and let go of all sorts of stuff - including pain.

So, Dorothy, do a 180-degree turn now, and start looking forward to this holiday as a chance to have a great time, and to heal, if not completely, as was my grace and good fortune, then a little. Attitude makes a difference, as you know, so if you go in good heart, expecting to enjoy yourself and maybe even to heal a bit - maybe you will.

Roll on Hawaii. And have a wonderful time.