When fear becomes phobic, it takes control of its carrier. Unfortunately, I have suffered from extreme fears of heights and water most of my life. I did have two encounters with near-drowning. I never fell out of the sky or anything, but merely standing in a kitchen chair gives me cause to feel a nosebleed coming on.
Granted, that does not account for the manner I go completely nuts whenever I see a cockroach (I’ve been known to climb furniture to escape their deadly attack) or snakes (Anything with venomous fangs cocked, loaded and ready to fire that can leap faster and farther than I can run away can’t be good!). I’ve developed a bucket list of sorts, and realized many of those desires and experiences can’t take place if I am not willing to climb aboard a jet. I hear they have not erected a bridge from Florida’s east coast to Europe – yet. Maybe my bucket of phobias to confront is fuller than I realized.
Certain phobias through the years have had strong negative impact on my emotional wellbeing. Many years ago I developed a terrible fear of driving over bridges. Perhaps it was the whole combination of heights and water. It was not really a big problem until, many years ago, I watched a breaking news report when a barge was driven into our largest local bridge, the Sunshine Skyway, and many in vehicles, including a tour bus, plummeted to their death. I mean, how safe was a bridge if it could be bumped and broken so easily? Well, living in Florida, beaches are everywhere. Only problem is, I live in central Florida, so that means there’s a pretty good chance a bridge or two will be involved.
When my daughter was in high school, I promised her a trip to the Gulf of Mexico with two of her friends for the Fourth of July weekend. We four women packed up and off we drove. As I approached the teeming metropolis of Tampa (It seemed huge at the time), fear began to set in. I knew water was on the other side, and coming up shortly. Just as I approached the Howard Frankland Bridge (I was still not quite ready to take on the rebuilt Skyway), I stopped, raised my voice and said, “Girls, if you want to get to the beach in one piece, SILENCE! Not a peep till we make it across this bridge!” My daughter knew all too well this phobia and how it affected me, so she strongly encouraged the other two girls to cooperate and play along. I began to pray, out loud, very loud, and white-knuckled it all the way across the bridge. The amazing thing was, on one end of the bridge was fear and anxiety, BUT, when I made it to the other end, there was a huge sigh, I exhaled, extensively, and felt a ton of weight simply vaporize from my shoulders – and emotions. I did it! I made it across, and I did the driving! My desire to give my daughter that special holiday trip to the beach was greater than my fear of driving over that bridge, so I took it on. It has been said, “If you are afraid, then do it afraid, but do it!”
I’ve driven to the Gulf several times since then, and if the slightest bit of apprehension begins to sneak in, I simply say, “I did it once, I can do it again,” and keep right on going.
I have been given an opportunity of a lifetime. One of only 5 women in the nation to receive their grants, Verizon has offered me an all expenses paid trip to an international conference where I will meet and work with other advocates and directors from around the world. It is a gathering of former victims, who, like me, use their negative experiences for a positive thing to help other victims of sexual trauma and/or abuse. So, here’s the deal – Is my desire to fulfill my passion as an advocate against child abuse/molestation and domestic violence greater than my fear of flying? That’s the bottom line – once again. Which is greater?
Will the fear of flying or the desire to “just do it” win this one? I have chosen to get this slip out of that bucket and finally, once and for all be able to say, “I did it!” That phobia must go as I progress toward more emotional and mental healing. I may white-knuckle it all the way. Yes, when I board that plane I may be nauseous; I may be fretful and suffering from anxiety. But, I want to believe that when we touch down in Texas the knuckles will be perhaps a light shade of pink, I’ll go from gasping for air to exhaling and maybe, just maybe, smiling and saying, “I did it once. I can do it again!” (After all, I have to come back home the same way I get there!)
NOTHING would please me more than to get some encouraging words and positive input from those of you who, like me, had an intense fear of flying, but overcame it. My son chose to get loaded before/after he boarded. It worked great for him. Not sure how the other travelers enjoyed it, though. My doctor says something to calm my nerves is in my bag of meds – make good use of it. Works for me! My world-traveler husband (ironic enough he has flown around the world, but even more ironic that I still have a fear of water and he is a certified SCUBA instructor) reassures me I will be fine and, quite possibly, even enjoy the whole experience.
So, what are some of your experiences with overcoming your fear of flying? (Please, no “gloom and doom,” “You may fall out of the sky,” or “A terrorist could board and try to ignite his underwear,” kind of stuff, k?)