What it's like to have a crippling fear of flying

People who know me closely know I have a crippling fear of flying. I've avoided boarding planes since 2009, and haven't flown since 2016.

In a nutshell, it really sucks. As somebody who is in awe at the engineering marvels of the modern age, the fact I cannot use the safest, fastest form of travel ever devised runs counter to my entire ethos. It feels inconsistent.

I've avoided going to see my family. I make excuses for why I can't come see my friends in other cities. I say I don't see the point in world travel. I do; I'm just terrified of it.

In the weeks preceding a scheduled flight, I'll become agitated and irritable day-to-day for seemingly no reason. I'll spend hours Googling flight fatality statistics. I'll envision the worst possible scenarios: Total engine failure, bird strikes, the wings falling off, whatever. It doesn't matter how far-fetched. It's going to happen to me. I know it.

I've had a full-blown panic attack right after getting on a plane and forcibly left the plane right on the runway. I've schemed how I'm going to secure a rental car to make my return flight.

When you have a phobia, no statistics about the safety of air travel can help. 1 in 7 million? I'm that 1. I could talk to the pilot and they could seem friendly, but that's probably because they're drunk. They're gonna kill us all.

I've tried hypnosis, meditation, therapy, books about air travel, exposure therapy, and positive visualization. I've read books and listened to seminars. Nothing has worked so far.

I'm planning a trip to see my family all the way in Florida. Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time I'll learn to trust the process. I'll realize death is inevitable, and to live a safe life devoid of meaning is worse than death itself. The humble act of boarding the plane might reverse a decade of irrational behavior.

Just maybe.