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
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!)