I hate flying.  There.  I said it.  If I had 1 superpower, it would be teleportation.  To instantly conjure up a location and then twinkle myself there immediately.  Never need to fly anywhere again.  I meet with many couples and when the subject of honeymoon comes up – there are many times when one of them says – I want to go – but I HATE FLYING.  Me too.  I feel you.  BUT THERE IS HOPE!

I am an anxious person – I don’t like being in confined spaces.  A plane that weighs a gajillion tons should not be able to stay in the air.  Not to mention that the horrors of orphaning my children in a plane crash haunt my dreams at night.  Years ago I had a very turbulent cross country plane ride that terrified me.  Since then I avoid air travel whenever possible.  That being said, I love to travel.  I want to see the world.  I love going places – it’s the getting there that’s hard for me.

A few years ago I met an amazing couple who wanted me to photograph their wedding in Aruba.  ARUBA!!!  A tropical dreamland of sand, water and relaxation (for those vacationing there).  I loved this couple just after meeting them and I wanted to do their wedding SO badly.  So I said yes.  And thus began the year of anticipatory flight anxiety.  Would I panic and freak out?  Would I need to be medicated?  What if the plane crashed and we orphaned our children??  Or worst of all – what if I somehow messed up their wedding??

In that same year we had decided to take our kids to Disney World – so that was another plane ride.  A practice one, I told myself.  I had to be brave for my kids. It was their first flight and my oldest son is wired just like me.  He’s a nervous wreck and really takes his cues from me about what is concerning and what is not.  So I really wanted to not show any fear – so he could enjoy his first flight.  It was really really hard.  Every bump.  Every loud noise.  That dropping feeling.  Ugh.  I broke out in a sweat.  At one point I started to panic a little.  I could feel my hands getting clammy, I felt out of it.  I broke out in a sweat.   I had some coping mechanisms I worked on for dealing with anxiety so I used them and they worked a little – but it was all I could do to hold on to my sanity.  When we landed I kissed the ground and the fear of the return flight lingered in the back of my mind for the whole trip.

Once I got home – I was so anxious about the much longer Aruba flight (5 hours!!).  I had no idea what to do. I even considered (briefly) telling my amazing clients that I couldn’t do their wedding.  But if you’re a wedding photographer – you know that as long as it’s in our power, NOTHING can keep us from getting our job done.  I asked around in my photographer forums and learned from a friend who was a destination wedding photographer that she also really struggled with flying – but had to do it all the time.  She had found a program that had helped her immensely.  SOAR with Captain Tom Bunn, MSW, LCSW.  I checked out the website. I was skeptical.  But I was also desperate, so I bought the “Rapid Relief” program and went to work.  I only had a few days before my flight at this point.

I did the exercises.  I downloaded the app (amazingly helpful).  It worked.  IT WORKED!!!  The flight there was just OK.  I’m not saying I enjoyed it.  I did not freak out though.  I managed.  I even relaxed at some points!  The wedding was AMAZING!!  My husband stayed a few days extra because, ARUBA!! and had a wonderful relaxing time.  I was still nervous to fly home – but it was manageable.  Not consuming.  The flight home was even better!  By the end of the flight I actually was feeling comfortable and SO proud of myself that I was flying on a plane and not freaking out!!

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I still do not like to fly – but I know I can now.  Since Aruba I have flown again and using the techniques – it was a great flight.  On our way home, our plane had to abandon take off and we were trapped on the runway with fire trucks (just a precaution) for 4 hours!!.  But at no point did I panic.  At no point did I lose my shit.  Nope.  I did crosswords and listened to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and I was fine.  When we finally took off I was calm.  Unbelievably calm and content.

Dr. Bunn’s book is currently on sale on Amazon.  I cannot recommend his program highly enough.  Do it. And then go somewhere amazing.  Take your honeymoon.  Visit a far away friend.  Take a vacation.  Trust me – you’ll be OK and SO glad you did!!

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Title courtesy of The Indigo Girls – Airplane.