How to cope with emetophobia on a plane

I am emetophobic. Go and look it up, I really don’t want to say the words that I need to in order to tell you what it is. I’ve even provided a link. Done? Ok, let’s move on.

I think you can see why this particular phobia is a problem for someone who travels. I’m not afraid of me doing it – I don’t do it, I just don’t – but other people do and I have no control over that. The worst places for me are coaches and planes. Trains are ok because you can get up and move around, and also the rails make it a relatively smooth ride. You can run away. Buses are ok because buses are for short trips. But coaches – coaches are generally longer-distance and you can’t really get away. And as for planes, well, airsickness exists and people getting ridiculously drunk before they get on exist. You can’t really escape and if you’re unlucky enough to be caught in a bad situation during takeoff or landing – when the fasten seatbelt signs are on, and this has happened to me and it was awful – you’re really stuck. I fly fairly regularly.

First thing to do is be prepared. Prepare for the worst, they say. I sit at the departure gate and I have a good look around for anyone who looks a bit peaky. I tend to assume anyone eating is fine, anyone reading is fine, anyone chatting is fine. I have another look around when I get on the plane and this is the point where panic judgement gets me. Again, eating, reading, talking. But the person sitting next to me who sits down and closes their eyes – that’s a concern. That’s a big concern. I tell myself I’m overreacting, it hardly ever actually happens on planes, it’s going to be fine.

I put in my earphones or I turn on the inflight entertainment – God bless Icelandair for being the only airline I’ve ever flown on this offers this blessed distraction – and I try to tune things out. But I can’t. I’m jumpy and nervous and ready to go into panic-mode at any second. Please don’t rustle in your seat pocket looking for the magazine – I hear rustling and it’s not the magazine I imagine being pulled out. On the other hand, please do read the menu and please do order something. You eating is hugely calming and reassuring.

Basically, that’s how I cope on planes. I spend the whole flight looking for little details to analyse as to how my neighbours are feeling and trying to keep calm and not freak out until we land – at which point it’s usually another half an hour until I can get off the plane.

Don’t think I don’t enjoy flying. I do. I think takeoff in particular is magic – I know it’s got something to do with air pressure under the wing being different to air pressure above the wing but I don’t understand how that gets an airliner into the air or keeps it up. I don’t want to know. It’s magic. The feeling of taking off is brilliant, I especially enjoy the feeling of acceleration before we lift off. It’s just that other passengers make the experience stressful and anxiety-inducing.

If anyone has any answers to this, short of sleeping pills, let me know. Do you have anti-phobia tips and tricks?