Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Home for the Holidays

Aviophobia - the fear of being on an aeroplane, or other flying vehicle, while in flight.

I knew it would have a name, phobias always do. Not that it makes a difference if it has a name or not, it is still a defining part of me and my quality of life.

As my close friends, family and long-suffering husband are well aware, I do NOT like flying, just like I do NOT like feeling ill, or having skin rashes (hypochondria - alas, another 'ia' I suffer from...)

If it was left up to me, my life would go something like this: happily live in Staffordshire, England for all my days and then for holidays, travel the length and breadth of our most sceptred isle, by car, or train. I would get to see some breathtakingly beautiful scenery, enjoy delicious food & drink and return home, anxiety free...gosh, I could even travel to mainland Europe some years (ferry, car, Eurostar) and nosh on some croissants and Ricard. Sounds peeeerfect!

But someone had a different plan for me and decided I would live in South Carolina, USA, a mere 4000 miles from Staffordshire, England making sure the only way of EVER going home EVER again is by plane. Mmmmm, not peeerfect.

As I write this, I am 28 days away from boarding a plane for the first time since October 2009 and I am torn. In every way I cannot wait to go back to the UK, to see all my friends & family in real life, to be able to touch them and smell them (not in a weird way), not just SEE them in the 2D skype life I currently live in. But in every other way, I am already dreading the journey home.

By dreading I mean I have already begun to get butterflies when I think of the looming event (not nice, pretty butterflies either, these are big, brown, hairy moths in my belly). My chest tightens for a second and I begin to be drawn into my dark place, a place of unrelenting anxiety that won't end until I land back in the US on 12th January.

It is always this way. Once the confirm button has been hit on the flights, I am filled with an initial feeling of invincibility; yes I can do this I say to myself, I am OVER this stupid fear and I feel fine, but as the days and weeks go by and the reality of the flight draws closer, the initial glee begins to fade and is slowly replaced by worry and anxiety, which will build and build into an almost crippling crescendo by the travel date at which point I can speak to almost no-one as I have retreated so far in to myself to try and focus on getting through the travelling. I can hardly eat for the nausea, my stomach being akin to a sea in full storm mode. All I can throw down my neck is vodka (this does help).

I have spent a lot of my time analysing my phobia and I have decided it is two-fold. I fear both death in a crash and the lack of control in being so far off the ground, hanging in the air in a metal tube. Surely I am not on my own in thinking flying is bizarre and we are all stupid in trusting our lives to this machine!

Mainly, I fear death. I spend the whole flight anticipating the crash I am convinced will happen, that in the very next moment the plane will start to wobble and burst in to flames. Turbulence sends ME into a tailspin, where I will grip on to the seat or whoever is next to me (sorry James) and begin to pray. A lot of the time, I will stare out of the window at the wing so I can check for smoke or the ground as I feel strangely reassured to be able to see terra firma. It is a complete misery and can almost ruins all my holidays.

Now, back to my upcoming trip. Fortunately, we have just one 8-hour flight into Heathrow, no connecting flights on teeny tiny aircraft to cope with, BUT, I will have a 5 month old baby to deal with. Deep down, I am pretty sure she will act as a huge diversion to my fears and I will be able to focus on her needs rather than spend 8 hours locked in my own head, being stupidly self-indulgent. But more importantly, I don't want to pass on any of my pathetic neuroses on to her; I want her to grow up to be a confident, worry-free woman, someone who can board a plane and actually enjoy the experience and travel the world at ease. Perhaps it's time for me to grow up and be the adult and mother I am and put my selfish fears aside.

So, wish me luck and I will hopefully see you all at New Year...that's if the plane doesn't crash...(sorry, can't help myself!)

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