Overcoming the Fear of Flying in an Unconventional Way

Show Notes

Jill shares how she overcame her paralyzing fear of flying.
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Audio Transcription

Jill:
Do you ever feel like you’re building an ark with only the instructions for a canoe? If so, you’re not alone. Welcome to CEO ish where we’ll discuss traveling the path of the unknown while making it your own. Welcome back to CEO ish the bracelets podcast by Rustic Cuff, and when I say welcome back, that assumes that you’ve been here before. And so if this is your first time, welcome to CEO ish. I’m Jill Donovan and I have with me today my favorite cohost, unless she’s not here and somebody else is sitting with me and I tell them they’re my favorite, kelly Smith. Hi, Kelly.

Kelly:
Hi.

Jill:
Hi, thanks for being here today.

Kelly:
Thank you for having me.

Jill:
It’s a rainy day.

Kelly:
I know.

Jill:
Did you just tell me you sat outside for lunch?

Kelly:
Okay, P.S. I hate cold weather.

Jill:
Okay.

Kelly:
I hate it. Like there’s a space heater next to my desk because I’m cold all the time.

Jill:
The one where the fire started last week, but that’s another bracelets podcast.

Kelly:
It’s fine. So we get to the restaurant and I see that outside it’s raining here, 40 degrees.

Jill:
Because you didn’t have a choice?

Kelly:
I made a reservation and they didn’t, it’s a very, very small restaurant, and they didn’t mention that the reservation was for outside.

Jill:
But you did have 16 people.

Kelly:
Yes, so we were kind of stuck.

Jill:
Did they have heaters outside?

Kelly:
Yes, but it was not enough.

Jill:
Okay, okay, well let’s talk about small places then.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Okay, today I want to talk about one of my least favorite things to think about, but I think this fear is shared by more people than you realize.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
You know what I’m going to say?

Kelly:
No, I can’t wait to see where you’re going.

Jill:
The fear of flying.

Kelly:
Oh, you have a fear of flying?

Jill:
I used to.

Kelly:
Oh, elaborate.

Jill:
If we’re going to title this podcast, it would be “How To Overcome the Fear of Flying by Jill and Kelly.”

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Do you have a fear of flying?

Kelly:
I do not.

Jill:
Okay.

Kelly:
But I have a lot of other fears.

Jill:
Have you ever flown?

Kelly:
I have flown once or twice.

Jill:
Okay, so let me tell you what started the fear.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Because like children, you are fearless until something happens and it triggers a fear. I was flying for an airline that rhymes with smelta and we had just taken off and it was when they had the phones in the back of the seats in front of you.

Kelly:
Yep, wow.

Jill:
And I was chit chatting with my neighbor.

Kelly:
Wait, on the phone?

Jill:
No, no, no, no, not that neighbor. My neighbor, not my number neighbor, my neighbor at home, my seat neighbor. And that will be another podcast, seat neighbor. And I was chit chatting with him and the pilot came on and he said very sternly, “Flight attendants, code red. Flight attendants, code red.” Now I’ve never worked in a hospital and I don’t always know the differences.

Kelly:
But that doesn’t sound good.

Jill:
Any word after the word code on an airplane is never good unless he comes on and says, “Thank you for flying. Thank you for being here.” I don’t like anything that follows code. So what happened? That was a trigger for me. I didn’t realize what it was and you see the flight attendants come running from the back of the plane and then you feel the plane turning around and going down.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
And so I got the phone, shaking, trembling and called my dad.

Kelly:
Swiped your credit card and cost you $900.

Jill:
I forgot about that. Is that what you had to do? Swipe a credit card?

Kelly:
Yes.

Jill:
Called my dad. Basically said, “We may be going down. There’s money under my bed that I’ve saved there.”

Kelly:
I’m sorry, how old were you?

Jill:
I was probably 25.

Kelly:
Married, not even married yet?

Jill:
I was not married yet.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Yeah, which is why I didn’t call my husband.

Kelly:
Well sure, or your children.

Jill:
It’s always interesting to see who would be the bracelets person you would call on an airplane if you thought you were going down.

Kelly:
Well, probably my spouse.

Jill:
Okay, well that’s good to know.

Kelly:
Or if you’re not married, your dad.

Jill:
Right, exactly. So I called my dad, panicked, panicked. They don’t tell you until a little while later that code red meant that there was a gentleman in first-class having a heart attack.

Kelly:
Oh, okay, I was going to say medical emergency.

Jill:
Okay, because you’re smart.

Kelly:
Blood, red.

Jill:
Okay, well when you are 25 and you’re terrified and the bracelets plane is going down and turning around.

Kelly:
Agreed.

Jill:
And flight attendants are running and the word code is used. So what happened from that point on? It triggered a fear inside of me that took almost two decades.

Kelly:
Oh, wow.

Jill:
Two decades to overcome. Now you’ve never had anything triggered?

Kelly:
Yes, but it wasn’t like that. I mean for me it was something completely different. I just had fear of, well one of my kids got very sick and was put in the hospital and it was really, really serious. And then every time, she recovered, she was fine. But after she got out of the hospital, I mean the most minor thing …

Jill:
Hang nail?

Kelly:
Like another child would cough and I would be like instantly …

Jill:
Take cover.

Kelly:
Yes, PTSD, I was right there. Like something’s going, everybody’s going down. It just triggered something.

Jill:
Yeah, and enough time passes by, you actually forget what the trigger moment was because now you’re just filled with fear.

Kelly:
Right.

Jill:
And to make matters worse, I then got a job right after that working for American Airlines.

Kelly:
I was like, “I feel like I remember in your past an American Airlines job.”

Jill:
But you could fly almost anywhere, you could fly anywhere for almost nothing.

Kelly:
Did you do that?

Jill:
I did that. The way I coped was I had hours and hours of terrible anxiety.

Kelly:
Before hand or while?

Jill:
The night before was very, well let’s say you didn’t have any sleep. Getting onto this small plane, sitting next to a stranger, not knowing, it doesn’t matter if he said code red and it was a medical emergency, now any bump meant something’s going to happen. And what happened over the next two decades is probably things that people live with, not just airplanes, but in every area where they have terrible fear like that.

Kelly:
Okay, wait. I want to ask a question first. What do you think that fear is rooted in? I did a little, you and I discussed the fear of flying thing a couple of weeks ago and I did a little mini bracelets poll.

Jill:
Okay.

Kelly:
So I want to know from you, what do you think that that’s rooted in?

Jill:
Rooted in?

Kelly:
Like where’s the fear coming from? It’s why are you afraid?

Jill:
I didn’t want the plane to go down.

Kelly:
Because why? What would happen at the plane went down?

Jill:
Well, I didn’t want to die.

Kelly:
So the fear of death maybe?

Jill:
Yes.

Kelly:
Okay. The little bit of …

Jill:
A tragic death.

Kelly:
Okay. The little poll I did, which I thought was really interesting, the feedback was the fear was from lack of control, like being out of control, like unable to control your circumstance. When you’re in a plane, you are completely at the mercy of that metal machinery and a guy who you’ve never met before who’s getting you where you’re going. Like you are out of control in the biggest sense.

Jill:
Before I tell you how I overcame my fear of flying and have almost zero fear now, almost zero fear.

Kelly:
Okay, I can’t wait to hear this.

Jill:
I used to look up lists on how to overcome your fear of flying. Okay? And I would read these lists and I’m going to tell you a few of the things that were on these lists.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Number one, stop watching airplane movies.

Kelly:
Okay, that’s easy.

Jill:
Okay. I remember some terrifying airplane movies.

Kelly:
Yeah. Have you ever seen the Air Force one?

Jill:
Yes.

Kelly:
The way I get through that is I go, “I’m not the President.”

Jill:
No, no, no, no. Well, how about watching, what was the one, oh, there were snakes on a plane. Is it called Snakes on a Plane?

Kelly:
No, that’s what it’s called.

Jill:
Okay.

Kelly:
How about the one that has snakes on the plane? Yeah, yeah, Snakes on the Plane.

Jill:
Okay, highly unlikely. It’s the turbulence that you, then you see everybody gripping the hand of the neighbor next to them and those movies get stuck in my head.

Kelly:
So you didn’t watch Lost at all?

Jill:
I saw a movie one time of a lady who was in a bathtub and I was 10 years old, a lady in a bathtub, somebody broke in her house and handed her a hairdryer that was going. I never recovered.

Kelly:
I saw that movie.

Jill:
Shut up.

Kelly:
I remember that.

Jill:
I never recovered ever. I was probably 10. He made her take a hairdryer to try to blow her hair dry when she was in the bathtub. No, my girls asked me why I freak out about hairdryers being in the bathroom. I’m like, “Go to your bedroom and dry your hair.” No, he made her and you watched her die.

Kelly:
It was some horror movie, 80’s whatever.

Jill:
I was 10. It was terrible. And my parents had gone out that night, so I was by myself, well my brothers were home, but I’m like, I never took a bath. I never took a bath again. And my kids, Peanuts always like, “Why are you so worried about a hairdryer in the bathroom? It’s where we blow dry our hair.” Okay, the other thing is meet the crew ahead of time.

Kelly:
Really?

Jill:
Yeah. So for years and years and years, when I would get on the plane, I’d try to be the last one on the plane. I would take a left whenever I was taking a right.

Kelly:
No.

Jill:
I am not, this is not a lie.

Kelly:
They arrest people that do that.

Jill:
No, no, this is not a lie. And I would say, “Hello. How are you feeling today? When was the last time you had any alcohol?” I didn’t get that personal, but I would just say, “Hi, how’s it going?” And “My name is Jill, I’m in 17C.”

Kelly:
And it made you feel like if you made a connection, they were going to take care of you.

Jill:
I wanted to see how bloodshot their eyes were. I just felt better. I wanted to see the connection the two of them had together.

Kelly:
Yeah.

Jill:
There was so much that was going through my mind. Okay, so that I used to do. What I do now, I didn’t know this back then is, I buy noise canceling headphones.

Kelly:
What?

Jill:
Really? You don’t know about that.

Kelly:
No, no. I just, if the turbulence is the thing that’s bothering you, it’s funny that just canceling out the noise.

Jill:
Oh, no. You think you’re home in bed with these. These are noise canceling headphones that takes you to another world.

Kelly:
But when your seats rumbling around because of turbulence, you can?

Jill:
Oh no, no, no. It’s noise canceling headphones that even though it’s just canceling the noise, it cancels all your other bracelets feelings.

Kelly:
Interesting.

Jill:
Yeah. Yeah.

Kelly:
That’s a good one.

Jill:
Yeah, ask for them for Christmas.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
Okay, breathing techniques, once you’ve had a baby, that’s much easier. I used to take the throw up bag and put my mouth in it and then breathe into that, but it helped me to concentrate my breathing. Okay, no caffeine. That only makes you hyper and the stimulus is just too much. But I had enough information to make me feel a little bit more comfortable and I’m going to tell you what changed everything.

Kelly:
Okay. I’m going to tell you …

Jill:
I want to hear.

Kelly:
… that my thing was, because I didn’t have like a paralyzing flying, but it’s a little bit, I get a little anxious. I’m not like I won’t fly, but I don’t love to fly.

Jill:
Right.

Kelly:
I always think if there was recently a plane crash, like what are the chances?

Jill:
I think that too. Somebody just got fired out. I’m not going to get fired. And you find out it’s like company-wide layoffs.

Kelly:
Yeah.

Jill:
One of the funnier ways I heard that people deal with their anxiety is they think about their pet. You have a dog, right?

Kelly:
Yes.

Jill:
Okay and they imagine gazing into the eyes of your dog and your dog looking up at you like you’re the only person in the world. None of that meant anything to me. It’s way too technical. I needed something that was going to banish forever the fear. Okay? And I’m going to tell you what did that.

Kelly:
And it’s banished forever?

Jill:
It is banished forever.

Kelly:
Okay let’s get to it.

Jill:
And it is amazing what got me there. It is nothing that you could ever really find technically on the internet. Because I love to travel and because my kids now love to travel and I have a twin brother who thinks, I think he’s actually traveling more than he is home. He’s living his best life.

Kelly:
I was like, “Where the heck is he now?”

Jill:
Well, his daughter just got a job for Delta. He can fly for free. He just sent me a text this morning and said, “I’ll be in France next week.”

Kelly:
Oh my gosh.

Jill:
Right? Like, “Hey, how’s your day? I’ll be in France next week.” And so because …

Kelly:
He gets to fly free, too?

Jill:
You’re allowed to have one special person and your parents. Yes, encourage your child to apply at Delta.

Kelly:
Absolutely I will.

Jill:
To be paralyzed by fear was not something, it is not how I wanted to live the rest of my life. You won’t expect how I got over it.

Kelly:
I can’t wait. Hypnosis.

Jill:
Not hypnosis. At first I thought I could get over it by taking Xanax, so that really relaxed to me. So what happens is …

Kelly:
It almost relaxes you to where you lose the time once you get to where you’re going.

Jill:
I found myself in the copilot seat, so I had to cut back on the Xanax. But what happened in the process of taking one Xanax every time I’d get on a flight was my body started becoming conditioned to being relaxed. Okay? My body and my brain because I was taking Xanax. However, when I landed somewhere, it wasn’t fun for anybody that I was going to see.

Kelly:
Because you just felt sort of overly tired.

Jill:
I would call for a wheelchair every time that we would get off.

Kelly:
Okay. How long would that last?

Jill:
That was probably two years of taking Xanax every time I would get on a plane.

Kelly:
No I mean how long would it last the day you took it?

Jill:
Oh, hours.

Kelly:
Because the same thing, the little poll I did, same thing was whoever I was speaking with was taking something and then it would …

Jill:
You mean Sherry Owens?

Kelly:
Yeah, Sherry Owens. It was ruining her the entire day that she was arriving.

Jill:
I just went, where did I go? Oh, to Austin with Sherry a couple of weeks ago and she was no good from the time we got on the plane until six o’clock at night.

Kelly:
I know it.

Jill:
And our flight left at five o’clock in the morning.

Kelly:
And she wasn’t there that long.

Jill:
No, I said, “Is Sherry still here with us?”

Kelly:
Right? You’re ruining your own trip that you’re wanting to go on.

Jill:
Even if you can fly then, it ruins the whole day.

Kelly:
Yes.

Jill:
Or at least for at least several hours. And so one day I just said, “God, I am really tired of not being able to enjoy my vacations or enjoy the time that I have going to visit other people.” And not in an audible voice, but just in a sort of a …

Kelly:
Knowing.

Jill:
Knowing way, I felt like I was supposed to know that I would never ever die in a plane crash. That’s a strong statement.

Kelly:
That is.

Jill:
That’s a very strong statement to say. And I know that my time will not end unless it is God’s time for my time to end.

Kelly:
That’s right.

Jill:
In knowing that and not believing in luck or fate, in knowing the providence of God, that He knows the exact time my life is supposed to end and in feeling very strongly that the way that my life will end will not be in a plane, I have no fear.

Kelly:
What?

Jill:
It is so crazy because Peanut, my youngest daughter, had a trigger moment as well. She’s terrified to fly now. So you know what I told her? And I believe it’s going to make a difference, I said, “If you are with me, we are always going to land safely. Don’t fly with daddy alone. Only fly if mommy’s there.” And I really meant that and we were serious and she said, “Done.”

Jill:
And so because I believe in the providence of God that my life will not end until it is supposed to end. If you have a fear of flying, ask me to go with you.

Kelly:
Yes, that’s right. That’s right. I will say on a serious note, I do believe that God knows the exact number of days that you have and there is nothing that will stay the hand of God. There is nothing that will change that.

Jill:
Nope.

Kelly:
So if that is your time, that is your time.

Jill:
Absolutely.

Kelly:
It doesn’t matter if you don’t fly or if you do fly. If that’s your time, that’s your time.

Jill:
I fully believe that and that is why when I get on a plane and it starts crazy up and down like you’re on a roller coaster I say, “If this really is my time, it’s my time.” And if it’s not, which I know that I am not going to die in an airplane. And so it relaxes you in such a way as if you were on a rollercoaster that you fully believe that is just a ride and you’re securely attached. I did hold hands with a plane seat neighbor three weeks ago. I held hands with her because it was really was one of the worst, worst flights I’d been on a long time. And I looked at her and I said, “Ma’am, do you mind if I hold your hand?” And she, I think I was going to Florida. I was going to Florida. And she said, “Not at all.” And she reached over and held my hand and then she looked at me. She goes, “Jill, it’s Shannon Smith. I live in Tulsa.” I said, “Shannon, I knew that.”

Kelly:
Shannon I was just about to say, “How are you, Shannon?”

Jill:
And so we held hands for, I can’t tell you how long, and we’ve texted back and forth or we’ve messaged back and forth a couple of times since then, and a fresh bracelets friendship blossomed out of this handholding from the flight.

Kelly:
Divine appointment.

Jill:
Divine connection. But I really, really believe that there is no such thing as just luck or randomness. It is in the Providence of God that my life is held in His hand and if you are on my flight, if you ever see me on a flight, then you can rest assured.

Kelly:
You’re good.

Jill:
You are totally good.

Kelly:
I think I’m going to fly with you everywhere.

Jill:
You should. It is not a typical way maybe that people would overcome the fear of flying. However, there are apps. I have downloaded an app called Vulc. There’s one called Vulc and one called Soar. And you listen to really calming things as you’re flying.

Kelly:
Really? They’re intended to help people who have fear of flying?

Jill:
Yeah. Okay, so before we end, if you were an app and I was terrified, what would you say into my noise canceling headphones to calm me down?

Kelly:
Oh, no pressure.

Jill:
No.

Kelly:
Okay.

Jill:
I flip it on, everybody’s screaming, freaking out. I’m like, “Soar, soar.”

Kelly:
God knows every number of days that you have and not one of them will be shortened. You will not lengthen or shorten your days by any actions of your own, by any actions of man, only God knows.

Jill:
That was really good. You know, I hope that people really get ahold of this because it doesn’t work just for flying. It’s for anything that you have terrible fear. I do know that God already knows your beginning from your end and in that whether you’re in a bumpy plane or any other terrifying circumstance, if you can relax knowing God already for a long time has known the beginning from the end, it’s really a peace that you can’t find in any other list on the internet or in any other bracelets advice that anybody gives you. Thank you so much for joining us on CEO ish. Fly safe and we’ll see you next time.