A story about Michelle and how she won over her fear of flying in her worst nightmare

My name is Michelle and I really used to hate flying. I think it started with a bad experience during a flight where we encountered turbulence. Ever since that flight my fear of flying became worse and worse. I kept imagining things going wrong and the anxiety got worse. In this story I completely lost control to my fear and I ended up in my worst nightmare.

Holiday in Turkey turned into a nightmare

It had been a lovely family holiday in Turkey but as we were about to go home and we approached the gate I got completely paralyzed by my fear of flying. I knew it was possible to rent a Hertz rental car from Denmark to Turkey so on the spot I decided that I would rather drive home to Denmark in a rental car. There wasn’t much time to decide but I stayed firm in my decision. I could not get onboard the plane due to my fear of flying. My family ended up flying to Copenhagen without me and there I am alone in Bodrum Airport.

Because I decided not to fly, the airport staff escorted me out of the departure hall to the police station at the airport. My mobile phone is out of battery and I don’t have any charger. Because of I needed to leave the departure hall immediately I couldn’t buy a charger in Duty-free. At the police station my passport is scanned and I feel that the police are looking at me very threatening and I am intimidated by their visible firearms. Nobody is willing to lend me a charger or a phone. Nobody understands English very well but I explained that I wished to rent a car from Hertz and drive back to Denmark. When I discover that it is not allowed to drive a car from Turkey to an EU country and it is only allowed the other way around I start to cry like never before. The police are not willing to help and I am left to take care of my situation alone. 

Alone at the airport without anything

My family have left with my checked in luggage and I have no spare set of clothes or even basic toiletries. 

In the terminal I approach people saying, “Hi, my name is Michelle and I am from Denmark, where are you from?” My hope is that people will answer me and perhaps let me use their charger so I can use my phone to find a hotel and a store where I can buy a charger for my phone. 

Nobody will talk to me and I feel like I am some kind of homeless person. I do not know what to do so I sit down and start to cry. This is my worst nightmare. 

Then all of a sudden a British family approach me. They give me a little bit of water and listen to my story. They are so kind and understanding and they donate their charger to me. As soon as I get power on my phone I try to book a plane home but everything is fully booked for the day. I realize that I have to find a place to stay for the night. I get hold of a cab and after a long time searching I finally find a hotel I can afford. 

At the hotel I share my story and the staff are so kind and helpful. One of the hotel staff offers to drive me around so I can get some clothes and toiletries. 

The day after I get in contact with the insurance company and figure out that my only option is to fly home alone. I start to cry again as I just cannot imagine how this will be possible.

“HELP” – email

”Help” was the title on my email to Ask A Pilot that I sent late at night. 30 minutes later there is a reply from “Søren” and we agree to speak the next day. I discover that Søren is an airline captain who has 20 years of experience helping people with fear of flying. He patiently listens to my story and how I feel about flying before he puts together a plan that will enable me to fly back to Denmark. We talk a lot about various aspects about flying, the route I am going to fly, the airline I am flying with and the weather for my flight. Søren introduces me to his colleague “Freddy” who is a fantastic mental guru expert who knows a lot about how our brains work. Freddy goes through breathing techniques and relaxation techniques which I also received as audio files so I could train on my own and develop routines with “Freddy in my ears”. Freddy also teaches me “thought stopping techniques” and I get a couple of personal sentences which I routinely have to say to myself to keep control of the situation.

Impossible made possible

After two days of intensive training with Søren and Freddy I am ready to approach my worst fear. It has not been possible to get any direct flights home and the best option I could get is Turkish Airlines from Bodrum to Istanbul and then from Istanbul to Copenhagen. On the approach to Istanbul we experience a lot of turbulence and I start to hyperventilate so much that I get help from the cabin crew. They check my blood pressure and give me oxygen. I am hyperventilating so much that I cannot lift my arms or legs and I felt like my arms and legs were just tinkling.

Once I get out of the plane in Istanbul I call Søren who stays with me on the phone all the way until I am onboard my next flight and they close the doors. Regardless of my question “What if this happens?” he remains calm and provides me with a thorough explanation and he keeps me focused on using the techniques Freddy has thought me.

The flight from Istanbul to Copenhagen luckily goes very smooth and I was just SO happy that I made it safely home. 

There are a lot of people I would like to thank, the British Family at the airport, the hotel staff, cabin crew onboard both Turkish Airlines flights and of course Freddy and Søren.

What I learned about fear of flying and my message to others

I have learnt that fear of flying for me is not a rational fear. It is not something I was able to think myself out of with simple statistics or knowing it is safe. My experience is that with professional help it is possible to confront your fear and do something about it. When I started working with Freddy and Søren it went better and faster than I had expected. Now I feel I am at a stage where I have got control over my fear. Looking back I wish I had been aware of the techniques and program that I went through existed. I also wish that I had done something about my fear of flying before it took control over me. Maybe I could have avoided my worst nightmare.

I hope by sharing my story I can help others gain the hope and desire to do something about their fear of flying. I had made up a very negative picture of flying. My travel back from Turkey has however proved that even when you are really affected by fear of flying it is possible to do something about it. It also opened my eyes up to the fact that there are many kind people in the world. In fact there are many more than I had ever dreamed about and sometimes you meet kind people in connection with a flight. 

Lots of hugs, Michelle

Ask A pilot

Our fear of flying package: 3 Books and audiofiles that Michelle used Our video: Fear of flying – Why I have it?