Monday, 20 June 2016

Life changing - Thank you email


Dear Richard & Paul

I am a subscriber to the message board but, I hope you don't mind, I felt I would rather write to you directly. (If, for any reason you would like to use all/any of the below for any of your blogs or emails, please do so with my blessing. I would only ask that you use my first name only and rough location).

I thought you might be interested in hearing my story so, here goes (I have a feeling this might be a long one but I hope you'll bear with me). In addition to the story below, please see my question afterward. Thank you.

I was born in England in 1962 and, when my father obtained a job in Lagos, Nigeria in 1966, we (mother, father, sister and I) flew out - and returned - with B.O.A.C. on a VC10. Nothing remarkable happened and I remember the flights very well although I wasn't even 4 years old. My mother said there was nothing unusual about the flights. All good. Then, as I got older I developed claustrophobia with very severe related panic attacks. I wouldn't use lifts, travel by tube (I got stuck for over an hour between stations in the early '80s and didn't get on one again until the late '90s and that was only a few stops). I didn't like buses, being a car passenger, lifts... and, well, you get the picture.

My biggest fear, though, was flying. For me it was mainly the claustrophobia and being 'out of control'; 'I can't get off' and so on and also the 'usual' anxiety about being in an aircraft high in the air. I was known among friends and work colleagues as being a complete non-flyer. I have said to many people over the years "I will NEVER fly!". When I saw films, documentaries, football matches, even, where I knew that the participants had needed to fly to be involved, I felt ill - it was that bad.

However, over the years I realised (and was frequently told) that I was missing out on seeing the world "I don't WANT to see the world!" I would reply but, deep down I knew I wanted to see some of it - the USA particularly as I have an interest in American culture and history.

Fast forward to 2014…

I was 51 and, although my fears and anxieties were still there I decided to have at least one attempt at overcoming - or seeing if I could overcome - this fear which had been with me as long as I could remember. I did some online research on the various courses available and, after reading and viewing some of the testimonials and looking at some YouTube clips I logged on to your website to register. After some moments of personal doubt I registered for the next course nearest me: Gatwick Premium Course, 6th July 2014. I'd considered a ground course only but felt that, if I were to have any chance of overcoming this life-long fear that the chance to take a flight would be essential.

Come the day of the course I was, to be honest, not in good shape and as I left the house I said to my partner "what was I thinking?" and I drove to Gatwick feeling like a condemned man on his way to the gallows.

I didn't really know what to expect on the day, personally, (I had an idea, of course, from reading/viewing as mentioned above) but as soon as I walked in to the hotel where the course was being held, went through registration and met some of the other attendees and team members my outlook began to change. I was expecting to feel 'odd' but I quickly realised I was among like-minded people who, incidentally, had a variety of concerns about flying; some were like me, some were regular flyers who had developed anxieties/fears directly related to flying and some had never flown. I won't go in to too much detail about the course itself - I think it's important that anyone considering attending this does so with an open mind and 'goes with the flow'. I would say, though, although when we had a break about halfway through the day I didn't feel it was working for me and I couldn't put my finger on it. I approached Paul at this point and said "I'm not sure about this" and Paul was very reassuring with no pressure and suggested I just see how the rest of the course goes leading up to the flight. (There is NO pressure to fly at the end of the Premium Course).

After the break something, well, 'clicked' and I remember we were asked to write something positive down and I wrote, and underlined, "I CAN DO THIS". And, I did do it.

We took buses to Gatwick and went through the normal check-in, security and waiting at the Gate to board. Through these procedures (which, in the past if I'd seen on TV/in a film would had made me feel unwell) I kept waiting to feel anxious - it never came. I joined the queue to board - I was fine. Took my seat - fine. Waited for everyone to do the same - fine. Push-back - fine (incidentally, the running commentary from the cockpit - by a qualified pilot NOT flying the aircraft really helped). Taxi to runway and wait for clearance for take-off - fine. I had a window seat and as we went down the runway and took off I filmed it. Still, to my astonishment - fine! we climbed, we cruised, we flew over the Needles on the Isle of Wight (beautiful), we flew along the coast and turned back in over Brighton Pier (lit up by now) and, before I knew it we were landing back at Gatwick and, we were all fine. Loud applause, smiles and cheers on landing. Incredible. I had gone, in a matter of hours from "I will NEVER fly!" to having flown and it was the most wonderful experience.

Last year, 2015, my partner and I (who had, a few years ago attended a wedding in Portugal without me because I wouldn't fly) flew to Paris - and back, of course. I felt a bit anxious on the morning but the flight was a breeze. We had a very delayed flight coming back and, once again, I was not in the least bit anxious.

We thought of doing a slightly longer flight than Paris this year - maybe further in to Europe but I said "why don't we do New York City?". We got back last week. Flights were great (I felt anxious, I won't lie, on the outward trip after we took off but it passed after a few moments) but the flight was great and even a cancelled and delayed return flight didn't affect me in the slightest.

People who know me and know me well are astounded that I have gone from not flying to a trip to New York but I can honestly say I would never had done it - nor the Paris trip - if I hadn't attended the course. I would urge anyone, whatever their concern is: whether it is claustrophobia, fear of flying itself, or if you've had the concerns a short or a long time, do give this course a try. If I can get over 47 years of not flying then it is well worth trying a course for yourself.

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So, Paul & Richard, there's my story and apologies for going on a bit.

Kind regards and with many thanks

John H
Surrey

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PREMIUM: Heathrow July 10th; Birmingham July 24th; Gatwick November 6th; Manchester November 13th; Leeds February 5th.
GROUND: Gatwick July 3rd.
CHILDREN: Heathrow July 10th; Gatwick November 6th

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