Going on holiday: facing my fears

I don’t suffer from anxiety as such, but there are things that make me nervous. Most of the time, those things don’t arise. And if they do, I can deal with them.

But going on holiday means I have to face my fears:

  • I’m claustrophobic
  • I have a fear of illness, specifically vomiting (emetophobia) in anyone – not just myself
  • I have IBS and struggle with certain foods
  • I get very hungry and become emotional if I can’t get something to eat quickly
  • Insomnia – I wake up very early and need to eat, which is hard if I have to wait for my family to wake for a hotel breakfast

The claustrophobia means I fear flying. Because it’s basically being trapped inside a big metal box in the air, with no possibility of opening a door or a window or getting out. It’s silly, but that’s just how I feel.

My husband wants to go to New York next year. I’d love to experience New York, but the mere mention of it makes my chest tighten. I just couldn’t do it.

But I’m kind of determined. My parents, brother and sister won’t fly at all. And I’m determined to stay that bit stronger and keep doing it and keep facing my fears. I can’t do New York, but I can do Europe.

I really, really wanted to go on holiday this October half-term. We booked to go to Rome months ago. I was looking forward to it – the architecture and the culture, not to mention the warmer weather and getting away from the damp misery of a British October.

I managed flying to Amsterdam last year with no trouble at all, but Rome is a lot further away. It’s a two and a half hour flight. I know that sounds like nothing to most people, but to me that’s almost unbearable. Even a month before we were due to fly, I couldn’t bear to think about it. So I had to hypnotise myself. I use a Paul McKenna download for claustrophobia and it’s remarkably good. It gets my fear down to manageable levels. Once I’d done that a few times, I could at least think about getting on a plane without my chest tightening.

But when I wake up at 10 to 5 (which I do every single flipping day without fail), every irrational fear I’ve ever had about flying comes to me. Terrorism, plane crashes, getting locked in the toilet, my son having an allergic reaction to peanuts, my daughter being sick…

When I’m nervous, drinking water helps calm me down. I hate that I can’t have the crutch of a bottle of water through the whole airport.

I carry snacks with me because I worry the food will be wrong or I’ll get too hungry. I worry that I might feel sick if I eat the wrong sorts of food. My daughter hasn’t felt sick on a plane before, but she does suffer from travel sickness, what if this is the time she is sick? I even struggle with her feeling sick, let alone being sick.

I mask my fears with being upbeat and over-efficient with the kids. If I play at super-mum, maybe I can convince myself and everyone around me that I am super-mum, not a crazed woman riddled with ridiculous fears.

Or I can just read my book and block it all out, leaving my husband to deal with the kids’ questions and their petty arguments.

I worry about germs on the plane, so endlessly sanitise my hands. I need my tissues, my hand sanitiser, my sweets (I suffer badly with my ears), my vaseline for my lips, my book and my bottle of water arranged where I can get at them before I start to relax.  I get my Green & Blacks out too, but worry that it will make me feel sick, especially combined with the sweets. Would savoury snacks be better?

I take a very low dose of Diazepam to take the edge off my fear of flying. It’s amazing stuff. Twenty minutes after taking it I feel happier and more relaxed. It’s so slight, but it definitely helps.

Aeroplanes, Airport, 365, 366, Heathrow

And then there’s only a two and a half hour flight to get through. Plus a whole holiday of worrying about finding the right type of food at the right time, avoiding stomach aches and hunger at all times. And then a two and a half hour flight to get home.

But, actually, the flight went really well. We got on the plane last, so I didn’t have the stress of people standing up putting their stuff in the luggage compartments while I was sitting down, which always makes me feel really claustrophobic. The flight was only two hours rather than the two and a half we’d expected and my daughter’s chatter meant I didn’t have time to feel nervous (or time to read a book). I wondered what all those weeks of worrying had been about.

But please don’t mention New York to me…


Author: Sarah Mummy

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    • Thanks very much! It went remarkably well after all of my worrying. Now if only I could go on holiday without worrying in future! There are so many people who don’t like flying!

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  1. Ok I won’t mention New York but I want to go there for my 50th next year! I understand the germ issue – the thought of the air being recycled over and over again makes me cringe!!

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    • Yuk! I tell the kids not to touch all the seats on the way to the toilet too – imagine how many people have touched them! I really hope you get your trip to New York for your 50th.

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  2. Oh well done, getting over a fear like that is such a huge achievement. I hope you make it to New York sometime. Serious question – could you go on a boat? You can do a transatlantic crossing, it takes about a week. Not sure this would be viable but worth a thought 😉

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    • Thanks! I’m so pleased the trip to Rome went so smoothly after all my silly worrying. A boat scares me too! Claustrophobia is about fear of being able to get away, so even though I could be in the fresh air, I’d feel trapped in the middle of the sea!

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  3. OK, you are absolutely not alone in this fear. I never let it stop me, but I would actually become ill through worry in the weeks in a run up to a flight. What helped? A couple of things, in desperation I had a hypnotherapy session and that really helped! Then, someone I know who is a flight attendant pointed out that they all have family they love, and they wouldn’t do the job if it didn’t feel safe! My sister was worse than me, she did a Virgin Fear of flying course. Three weeks later and she had to do a trip with work that basically took her around the world, and she was fine. Not cured, but at least 75% better! Good luck, and good for you for still going ahead anyway! 🙂

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  4. Oh Sarah I didn’t know you suffered so badly. I must admit I was fine with flying until I had kids. I had a break of 10 years before we first went away with them (to Florida of all places), and I had to really put my brave mum face on, whilst gripping husband’s hands as we were taking off. You did it though and made it to Rome, and you know what, I think you could do New York. If only Concorde was still around to get you there in a few hours x

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  5. I hadn’t realised you feared it that much. Well done though for still getting on that plane. I hope you find a way to be able to manage New York.

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  6. New York sounds absolutely fabulous. Could the doctor give you something a bit stronger that would give you a longer stretch of lovely calmness?

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