My deepest desire was realized when my husband surprised me with tickets to Israel for our anniversary. I shrieked and hugged him and everyone else in the vicinity. I posted on What’s App and shared my excitement on FB. I repressed the reality of how we were going to get there in a flurry of google searches and bucket list items that I started to plan. As the trip drew nearer the fear began to steadily rise to the surface as I began to face the inevitable: Going to Israel meant getting on a plane. And flying.
In my distress, I contemplated alternatives. I couldn’t do a John Madden and get there by private bus. There’s that pesky Atlantic Ocean to deal with. Hmmm. Do people still take boats to Israel? So apparently, they do. I think I might be able to take a ocean liner to Greece and then a ferry from Cyprus to Haifa. It would probably cost a few thousand dollars and a few weeks of travel. Since we were only scheduled to BE in Israel for 10 days, this turned out not to be a great option.
It would seem that I would have to face my fear of flying. Or not go. In the middle of the night, I contemplated that possibility. I tried to convince myself that I could live happily without ever visiting the Kotel. But in the light of day, I grew angry with myself for allowing an unrealistic fear to so paralyze me. And I knew that logically it doesn't make sense! I mean, after all, flying is safer than driving. And probably even crossing the street. Especially in Brooklyn. And my husband was no help. He’s one of those annoying travellers that falls asleep during takeoff, and doesn’t wake up - even during turbulence - until the flight attendant tells him he needs to return his seat to the upright position.
The next obvious step was Google. I found an article that said I should put a rubberband around my wrist before the flight and snap it when I get nervous. Apparently, the pain of snapping my wrist will distract me from my anxiety. How about I bring a bat and hit myself in the head instead? Well, they probably won’t let me bring a bat on the plane. On to the next idea.
The same article also suggested deep breathing, watching a funny movie on the plane, not watching movies about plane crashes (too late) and also avoiding coffee (not gonna happen). My husband was getting more and more excited for our trip and I was starting to dread the day I said I really wanted to go to Israel.
Then two things happened. The first was that I spoke to a therapist. I didn’t do one of the costly “get rid of your fear of flying” courses that I also found on Google. I just spoke to her for one session but it really helped me. The stand-out thing she told me was that I should realize that my anxiety was real. Meaning, that I should actually recognize and acknowledge that people do in fact die in plane crashes. People don’t have anxiety about alien invasion (as a general rule). They get nervous about things that actually happen, like cancer. The problem with phobias like fear of flying is that the anxiety is not in proportion to the reality of something bad actually happening. I don’t know why, but the fact that she honored what I was feeling and put it in that context really made me feel better.
The second thing that happened was a conversation with a random stranger in a shop about my trip. I confessed to him that I was really excited but afraid of flying. I don’t know why, but sometimes it’s easier to be honest with total strangers (my husband still thought I was as pumped as he was). This man, whose name I don’t know, just said: “When it’s your time, it’s your time.” And that was it. It just hit me so strongly that all I really needed to do was work on the fact that I am not in control and just let go. I managed to get on the plane, and get to Israel and had an awesome time. The Lorazepam helped too.