My Airplane Nightmare: Read at Your Own Risk

Disclaimer – if you read this and start having this dream, I’m not paying for your therapy.

As promised in my post about how Air New Zealand helped me with my fear of flying, here is a brief description of my recurring anxiety dream involving an airplane. I am going to get this out quickly and won’t go into too much detail, as it’s not fun for me to write this.

I’m in a plane packed with passengers, seated about halfway back near the wing. Everything seems normal, but I have an overwhelming feeling of dread and lack of control. The plane begins to move, we taxi around and start to trundle down the runway. Everybody is reading their papers and relaxing, except for me – I can feel that something is wrong. We start zooming along and the overhead bins rattle. As we reach maximum ground speed I can feel the plane’s nose tilt up as we begin angling up into the air. We lift off, and at first everything seems ok as we gain altitude but then instead of leveling off the plane steadily keeps angling upward, and upward, and upward, and nobody seems to notice but me that the trajectory of the plane is starting to feel too steep to be sustainable. I can hear the engines start to whine with the strain of aiming the plane higher and higher, until the other passengers suddenly start to scream and wail and I sit perfectly still with my hands gripping my knees and I stare out the window at the clouds as I try to mentally block out their noise and choose exactly what I want to think about as I die, as that’s the only thing I can do besides panic like everybody else. As the screams grow louder, the plane reaches its tipping point and I feel it slow and begin to fall backwards, backwards, and we start to spin as we plummet faster and faster. I can see the ground below growing closer, turning. It’s always a different scene and I can make out every detail, sometimes a city with countless buildings and streets and people looking up at us in horror, sometimes a field with calm and beautiful rows of corn, sometimes a mountain patterned with cliffs and trees. Sometimes I feel the impact and the flames as we burn, sometimes it’s a sudden, jolting blackout. Either way, it’s death.

I’m always surprised to be alive when I eventually wake up, which usually feels like a long time after the sequence ends.

SO MUCH FUN, RIGHT! I hope you don’t ever have that dream, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. It’s the worst.

Thankfully I’ve made great progress. Here’s to healing and retraining the mind! It can be done.