Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dear Acrophobia


Dear Acrophobia,

I have a long list of fears and anxiety causes.  Commonly known as 'fear of heights', you are right at the top of my list.

I don't remember when this fear began for me.  But I do know that I have had dreams all my life where I'd fall from a very high place, and at the moment of impact, where I'm probably dead it'd probably hurt a lot, I'd jerk awake in a cold sweat. 

For me, it is the fear of the sensation and danger of falling.  Not that I've ever fallen a long distance by any means, but I feel that the sensations I've felt by falling in my dreams is sufficient for me to not want to fall any distance at all in real life.  The dangerous effects, obviously, are broken bones, dismemberment, and death.  (Gloomy, I know, but that's why the phobia.)

More recently in life, after having children, I've had worse dreams of my child(ren) falling, which scares the bejeezuz out of me.  One such dream went something like this...  We were in a fire station on the second floor.  In the distance, there was that pole--the infamous firefighter sliding pole--that makes emergency calls answered quickly.  I think we were touring the fire station, and my toddler-aged Dear Daughter let go of my hand and ran toward the HOLE that housed the pole.  In a dream-like trance, she fell right through the hole, but almost with a slow-motion bounciness of an astronaut walking on the moon.  I gasped, my heart stopped beating, and couldn't figure out why everything seemed so surreal, yet it was happening.  I rushed toward the hole, and then woke up.  No little girl found in a splat of blood; no screaming child writhing in pain; no lifeless princess lying in a discombobulated position.  It was just a dream.  My heart started beating again and soon blood rushed back to my brain and my limbs.

But that's just the thing.  My mind goes into imagination overdrive.

In real life, when put into a fearful situation, my mind goes places I wish it didn't.  I wish my imagination was as nearsighted as I so that I can't see the possibilities and end up with a panic attack.  Most of the time, I am still able to ward off going into a full-fledged attack.  Last weekend, however, I came close; I was somewhere high up and I really wasn't sure how I was going to fare.

One of our other outings when we went to Dubuque, Iowa for Dear Daughter's violin performance last weekend was an alpine slide at Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena.  It was a very interesting concept.  There are two tracks that looks like the track of the Olympic sport, luge, except the tracks are made of plastic (instead of ice), and the thing on which you sit upright (instead of supine) is a board with wheels on the bottom (instead of a sled).  There is a lever in the middle right between your knees.  To go faster, push it away from you, and to slow down, pull it toward you to brake.  The tracks are long, and takes about a minute to complete if no brake is applied.  If you applied your brake (like any first timer would), then it could take two to three minutes long.

That part was all nice and dandy.  Dear Son would sit with me on my board, and Dear Daughter and Dear Husband would each have their own boards.  I had even watched a video of what it looked like before we went, just to make sure that we'd all be able to handle it.  Here is a video of someone who did not apply any brakes at all, who finished the slide in about one minute:


But--and here is the caveat--to get back uphill after the slide, one must ride a ski lift back.  At age 39, I'm still a ski lift virgin, partly because we've never been into winter sports, and partly because, well, it's high up in the air.  And there are no belts or harnesses to buckle one down.  These lifts just dangle, up there.  One little slip and oh let's not go there.

So I agreed to go and check it out.  I saw the dangling ski lifts and I thought OMG am I really going to do this?  Then I find out that only three people are allowed on a ski lift at a time, which meant that I would have to go with DS all alone.  What if I freak out up there?  How would I be able to mind my poor DS?  I kept telling myself that people did this everyday and all the time and you don't hear of anyone falling out of a ski lift (and if you have, don't ever tell me).  Reluctantly, I agreed to do this thing.

The alpine slide part was fun!  There were curves and dips, and I was in total control.  DS had a great time with me.  We leaned with each turn and bounced with each dip.  And then it came to an end all too soon... and there was the ski lift.

What was probably a ten minute ride up the hill felt like an eternity to me.  That was me, up in that picture, clutching onto DS for dear life.  I'm not sure if it was for his sake or mine.  No belts, no harnesses, oh, but there was this bar they tilted down in front of us to hold onto.  Let's just say: white knuckles the entire ride.  DD and DH were on the lift right behind us.  They kept talking to me.  I couldn't even turn my head--I was that scared.

At first, the height was not bad.  Totally doable.  Five minutes into the ride, I realized that we were coming up to a very steep drop underneath us.  What the hell did I get myself into?  That is at least a five story drop.  My knuckles turned whiter than white, if that's possible.  I felt my heart race.  I felt my knees quiver.  I felt Panic knocking at my door.

DS, on the other hand, was having the time of his life.  La-di-da.  He was chatty and smiley, and kept saying he wanted to do the slide again.  On the down ski lift, an older couple approached us and the gentleman smiled at DS and said, "Someone's having fun!"  To which I managed to lift my white knuckle hand, point to myself, and shake my head, and then grab that bar again as fast as I could, clutching it like Walkers snatching at human flesh.  The couple chuckled and passed by.  Then I heard my smart alec DH lament to them, "She's so mad she won't talk to me!"  To which they laughed out loud, heartily.  Thanks.

I forced my mind not to go places.  I told myself to look up and not down.  I tried to imagine I was flying.  I chatted with DS about pretending to be birds.  I kept my flip flops in place.  I held my breath longer than was humanly possible.  And then I saw the landing deck.  And I exhaled. 

My feet landed on solid ground, hallelujah, and I didn't even pee in my pants.  Major accomplishment of the day.  Everyone wanted another turn.  Sans moi, of course, and it was fine by me.  The thrill of the alpine slide was not enough for me to hold myself together for another ski lift ride.  

So, Acrophobia, you are definitely not something I want to overcome by sky diving or bungee jumping.  (DH bungee jumped once just before we started dating eons ago, and that will be something that I will never understand about him.)  I don't need to overcome you.  I just need to stay the hell away from high, open, and unprotected places.  I don't need to win a trophy because I know my limits.  But I do need to gloat a little and do a tiny celebratory dance, because I endured that ski lift ride despite my fear and anxiety and lived to tell about it, and for the simple fact that I am no longer a ski lift virgin.  (High-five me!)

Sincerely,
Me

18 comments:

  1. "Commonly known as 'fear of heights', you are right at the top of my list."

    I am sorry for this, but I could help but notice that pun, whether intentional or not XD

    ~LW

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    1. Oh, good eye! The pun at the end of the letter was intentional, but not that one at the beginning! Ha! Thanks so much for stopping by, LW!

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  2. Sandra, I recently went on a chair lift for kids with no bar. I went on with my daughter and she was leaning forward to check where her brother was on the slope. I am not sure how I survived it. Not sure why we have these fears, they are all irrational but they feel so real, and paralyzing.

    I grew up sailing but now I can't swim in deep water unless I have a mask so I can see in the water. Last year I didn't swim near this amazing cliff , and it was so stupid since there are no sharks in the Mediterranean sea, but the fear of the deep water prevented me from going in the water, apparently I missed pretty amazing fish.

    To conquering our fears! Or at least dealing with them.

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    1. Laura, you are right about it getting worse with age. Before kids, in Cancun, there was this cave with a large round well that's about the diameter of, say, an Olympic-sized swimming pool. But the depth of the well is, well, unknown. I swam in there like a fish, not really worried at all. There were no lifeguards, just tourists. If I were there now, there would be NO WAY I'd go in there.

      There's gotta be a reason why this is, and why we miss out on things later in life. I think it's the need to keep ourselves safe for our kids, maybe? These thoughts are only irrational to younger people. To know that I'm not alone amongst my age group is a comforting feeling. =)

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  3. It sounds like YOU. DID. AWESOME. Good for you. (Though it sounds like it was pretty tough for you).

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    1. It WAS pretty tough for me! I'm glad it's over; at least I can say I did it. Thanks for stopping by, Missy!

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  4. I went on that slide when we vacationed there once and what I remember is how scared I was on that lift! Good for you and like you, I have no desire to overcome my fears. I only desire to stay away from them. :) Really enjoyed your blog!

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    1. How great to know that you went to the exact place I'm talking about! And that you felt the same way =) As long as I'm enclosed and there's no possibility of falling out, I'm good. Thank you for reading, AnnMarie!

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  5. I went on a similar slide in Colorado many years ago - so much fun (just don't let your skin brush the slide - it left my uncle with a nasty burn/scrape!)

    I'm with you in that I don't fear the high places so much as falling from them. Ski lifts are scary to me because my legs just dangle there. And then I start obsessing over whether the cable will hold, etc. Yeah, my imagination needs to take a hike, too.

    Glad you faced your fear and lived to write about it :)

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    1. Yes, dangling. THAT! And about the cable holding? I didn't even go into the part about when DH, DD, and DS came back from the second trip that they were all sitting on one side of the lift with two boards hanging on the same side, and the entire lift was slanted, a lot! I was happy when everyone was safe on solid ground. Thanks for making me feel understood, Janna!

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  6. Sandra, sounds like you're inside my head. Thanks for verbalizing my fear so well! My kids love to go on the ferris wheel ... there's no saying "no" to the ride so I find myself closing my eyes on the way up, on the way down ... pretty much the entire ride.

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    1. Tran, that big one we have downtown? That one is SO HIGH! I've been on a few times, and even many years ago, I was not thrilled. The other fear that comes with ferris wheels is getting stuck up there. What if there's a malfunction or something and the thing stops? OMG, let's not go there, either. DS is somewhat fearful of heights, too, so I was really surprised he did so well. He won't go on a ferris wheel, though. =) I'm so glad you can relate to my fear, although I'm not sure if that's a good thing...

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  7. Go, you! I've seen that slide at Chestnut Mountain, but sadly it wasn't open when we were there. I SO wanted to try it though. It looked like a blast. I forgot that the ski lift up is at the end because it goes int oa valley - I was trying to figure that out :) Oddly, as much as I detest heights because I want to jump, ski lifts have never bothered me. I hope they don't now after reading this!

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    1. You MUST go again when they are open! The slide was so much fun. If you never had a thing with ski lifts, I'm sure you won't think anything of it. But now that you've planted the 'jump' part of your heights issue in my head, um, I'm never going up high without enclosures again! Yikes!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Carolyn!

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  9. Well, i read this again because Alex and I were just talking about our fear of heights. I'm proud of you!

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    1. Helen, it was so scary, because anyone could have just fallen down by accident! No straps, no nets, no safety harness! You would have done it, too, although I'd be too scared to take your littlest one on it. He might be too wiggly for me. =)

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