How I Healed the Phobia

These are the last two paragraphs of my blog post from 2011 about the airplane phobia:

“Looking back at it, I can see better how it became so horrendous.  Hypersensitivity to sound is a symptom of PTSD, but I still had no idea that I had been traumatized.  One thing about an obnoxious and very loud sound, you can’t look away as you can from an ugly sight.  Your only recourse is to go far enough away.  Finding it impossible to live in your own house, in your own town, is depressing in itself.  I felt hopeless and helpless. The planes were triggering flashbacks to a helpless, terrified infant.

“Healing from the phobia happened literally overnight.  I had started taking Imipramine (Anti-depressant medication) in February and after a few months was beginning to feel  better.  I had started therapy with Dr. Cynthia Rankin in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  She was a specialist in mood disorders.  I had been seeing her for several months.  It was May and the planes were starting up.  On Friday I had a session with Dr. Rankin.  I asked her if it was OK to “white-knuckle it” through the noise.  She said “Of course.”  Then she said she had observed a pattern in my behavior.  I would start a project that had several steps.  I would do the first two steps just fine, but if I ran into trouble on the third I would conclude that I “couldn’t do it.” I would fail to see that I had already managed to do part of it successfully, in fact I would even define those first steps as failures.  This was enormously interesting to me.  I knew something about training dogs and that the principles worked for human beings also.  I figured I could retrain myself about the planes.  I would write down each one survived with white knuckles as a success, and see how many I could survive before I had to leave the house.  Saturday was rainy, and I went to the first level Reiki training.  I had the oddest feeling afterward that my immune system had “switched on.” I could almost feel a protective field around me.  Sunday was sunny and I sat down with paper and pen, waiting for the planes to start.  Each time one went over I would say “that’s one survived” and make a little airplane symbol on the page.  By the end of the day, I had survived 13 planes, and I knew the phobia was over.  Dr. Rankin had given me my power back for which I am eternally grateful.  I still hated the sound, but I no longer freaked out, and gradually the sound began to fade into the background.  Every now and then I notice a plane towing a glider and think “God! I suffered from that for 13 years, and now I don’t even notice them.”

More recently, in 2018, I realized that the process Dr. Rankin had identified was actually rooted in something my father said to me.  “If you didn’t know how to do it, why did you even try?”

This entry was posted in Depression, Healing, Trauma. Bookmark the permalink.