Who’s Afraid of Heights? (Fearless February Day 18)

Acrophobia. The fear of heights.

If you have this common phobia, you don’t want to live here:

Damac Heights, Dubai, scheduled for 2016 completion.
Damac Heights, Dubai, scheduled for 2016 completion.

You don’t want to walk on this street:

Street painting by the awesome artist, Edgar Muller.
Street painting by the awesome artist, Edgar Muller.

And just looking at these old construction photos makes you queasy:

Charles C Ebbets took this iconic photo of NYC construction workers lunching on a crossbeam in 1932.
Charles C Ebbets took this iconic photo of NYC construction workers lunching on a crossbeam in 1932.

Acrophobia can hit you at any time in your life. You could be loving the Ferris wheel every summer till you’re forty and then, whoosh, your heart is in your throat and you can’t think straight and you’d rather jump to your death than go around again.

Some acrophobics are afraid on balconies; some are afraid on mountains; some can’t handle step-ladders; and no acrophobic would want the scariest job in the world.

Though this is called a “fear of heights,” it’s not the height that bothers me. I like heights. I always take a window seat in an airplane. I’m fine on top of the CN Tower. I enjoy riding the Banff gondola. I could live in a penthouse. Please. I even enjoyed the Tower of Terror at Disneyworld and many flight simulator rides. I have absolutely no anxiety looking down from a height so long as I am strapped in tight or in an enclosed space.  But stick me in an open-air ski lift or ask me to climb three branches up a tree, and, man, I am not okay. Not okay. Not okay. 

I figure my fear is partly a distrust of rickety equipment, but mostly a distrust of myself and my ability to NOT throw myself to my doom wherever the opportunity arises. (I don’t like walking next to traffic, either. And I have difficulty with moments of silence.)

If you're acrophobic you should read this book.
If you’re acrophobic you should read this book.

There is relief for acrophobia, and the sooner you face your fear – slowly and with lots of reassurance — the easier it will be to overcome.

I have been on several ski lifts these past few years. (Whistler was a mistake — I over-reached on that one; it set me back years.)  I have also spent several afternoons climbing one of the trees in my yard and hanging out in the branches with my cat. I’m not ready to skydive, but I can go up a ladder when necessary and my heart doesn’t flip flop when I hike near a cliff.

You can beat this thing, too, with gentle exposure therapy. As Dave Davidson, the hero of my new middle-grade comedy, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6, says, the only way to face your fear is to face your fear. So up you go.

 

2 Comments on “Who’s Afraid of Heights? (Fearless February Day 18)

  1. If I had better balance, heights would bother me less. As it is, I’d really rather not be the only thing standing between me and a very long fall. Give me railings or something. Sturdy ones.

    • I think most fears are about not trusting oneself or the world (because, alas, oneself and the world are not always reliable). Railings help, real and metaphorical. 🙂

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