Thursday, March 08, 2012

my heights issue

This picture makes me want to throw up and die.

I've always been scared of heights.

Lots of people say they are scared of heights. They are blatantly lying. They talk about heights in that nonchalant sort of "oh yes, I hate heights," sort of way like it's normal, as normal as eating a banana or taking a dump.

But only 2-5% of the population actually are 'acrophobic.' And I'm one of those.

Dude. When I say I am scared of heights I really fucking mean it. I have issues climbing a three-rung step ladder. And it wasn't always so. Shit has got a lot worse. It's become a 'thing.'

And yet, no one takes it seriously. "Don't worry it's fine, you're nowhere near the edge," or "Come on, it can't be that bad," or even "Oh please, just relax," doesn't help. FOR GOD'S SAKE, I'M SHITTING MYSELF, CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT?? NOTHING YOU SAY IS MAKING IT BETTER; THIS WILD LOOK IN MY EYES IS BECAUSE I ACTUALLY BELIEVE I AM ABOUT TO DIE.

And it all started to seriously unravel while we were out in South Africa. Where I suddenly found myself standing on lots of high points. Table Mountain, Sir Lowry's Pass, on the curve of the N2 overlooking Wilderness....there are fuckloads of high places in Saffaland, and it started to become debilitating. I may have to actually take one of those courses.

I'll try to explain. It's completely irrational. The last logical thought in the back of your mind that knows you won't die doesn't compute to the rest of your body that believes you will die by being up so high. Your brain is losing a fight against your intuitive impulses. It's irrational, and that's why it's a true phobia.

Standing on a footpath, with a rocky outcrop, fence and boardwalk in between me and a 1000 metre drop makes me feel like I'm going to be sick.
My hands become clammy, I start getting dizzy and feel disorientated, and I don't trust my body. I feel like one false move, and I will fall. Resulting in a splat at the bottom.

This is how I feel when I hang up a picture on a step ladder, you understand. But now it's become worse. I now have the added fun of panic attacks. Even when I'm in a car.

Circling up through about 5 passes in our hire car in SA, I had full panic attacks. Once I almost burst into tears (on the Outeniqua pass coming into George.) The Brit was at the wheel and we had to stop. The motion and speed made me feel like I was certainly going to die. It's better if I drive the pass, as I feel like I'm more in control.
Let's not even talk about the cable car up the mountain. I had to sit down. On the rotating floor.

Standing on the N2, overlooking the Kaaiman's river mouth in Wilderness was also awful. I was nowhere near the edge. Yet my whole body starts to feel like it's spinning, I break into a sweat and I start to panic. I feel physically uncomfortable.

I've stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower before crying, wondering how I would get down and sitting on each step on the way to the bottom. I can't go over bridges where I can see between the slats. I rode across Golden Gate Bridge and had a full-blown panic attack. This cannot be normal.

The issue is that I love to explore. And travel. And most of the world's top places most often involve going somewhere high. Towers, mountain tops, they are all on the list of things to do and see. And I find myself trying to talk myself out of doing these things now, because I'm too fucking scared.
I inevitably end up forcing myself to ascend something and immediately start having a very, very shit time.

The other thing I'm finding difficult is aeroplane turbulence. Given I take around 20-30 flights a year, this is a problem. I panic, scream (yes, I'm a screamer), sweat and pray for my life when a plane hits turbulence. But I fly less than I find myself standing on high things. So I figure the heights ordeal is what I should try and deal with first.

Just writing this made me stressed.


Kat said...

I used to love flying hell I even dated a fighter pilot I loved the whole idea so much. Now if the plane hits any turbulence I have to start taking dreep breaths and try to convince myself that this is not the end. I love travel as an addiction but I find myself trying to wangle out of trips to avoid the flight. Not a good thing. I may have to go to the Antarctic for work early next year and I am terrified. Wind means lots of turbulence and have you seen how shoddy those planes are. Good luck with the height thing. That must really suck as its unavoidable.

The Chantal said...

wtf you scream, lol, damn...don't worry i scream inside sometimes, like Kat I used to love flying, would get sooooooo excited, not I get so nervous taking off and going through turbulence :/ I think it's come with age, like rollercoasters etc were always too slow and too boring for me, then after about 21 I became petrified, still go on some of the rides but feel like I'm going to have a heart attack.

Thankfully I can do heights, and you're right most sightt to see involve going up something etc :/

Gee Kat - the Antarctic! lucky, lucky, what an amazing opportunity, take a strong tranquilizer and fly, you can't miss out on that.

Kiki said...

Just reading that made me panic. I had to drive from the Waterfront to Hout Bay and I freaked out because I was too close the edge of the road. I totally understand the step ladder fear and I did the same thing when I went up in the cable car. I tried sky diving though to try and overcome my fear. It did not help!!!!