Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is My Fear Now An Actual Phobia?

As I’ve mentioned before, heights make me very uneasy. They always have, for as long as I can remember. But I think it might now be entering the range of an actual phobia.

Acrophobia (an irrational fear of heights) has traditionally been thought to be caused by a traumatic experience involving heights. So, did I have a traumatic experience involving heights? Well, actually...

When my youngest son was about 5, we went hiking on Chimney Rock in the North Carolina mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful there (that’s where The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis was filmed, by the way). Youngest son refused to hold my hand, because he thought he was too big for that. It had been raining earlier, and I had just said, "Son, be careful, the ground is wet and you’ll slip." No sooner had the words left my mouth than he slipped and fell...right down the side of the mountain. I managed to grab him--barely--by one arm. I’m very proud to say that as he dangled off the side of the mountain with me hanging on to him by one arm, I did not panic. Well, not too much anyway. I pulled him up, I chastised him (strongly!) for not listening/not being more careful, and then I cried.

We’ve been back to the mountains since then, but we stayed far away from any cliffs. This month was the first time back on a cliff. The only reason we were there is because my mom and niece were visiting from out-of-state, they’d never been to the mountains, and they wanted to go.

We went to the top of Grandfather Mountain (our first time there). When I got a glimpse over the side (and no, I didn’t intentionally look over the side, it just happened) my heart started racing, I got dizzy, I got sick to my stomach, and I felt like I was going to pass out. I could feel myself starting to panic and I was desperately fighting it (hey, Mom has to try to maintain some semblance of control!). I’ve never had a reaction that intense. I could not wait to get down off that mountain. And I can assure you that I will not be going back!

So, maybe I have my son to thank for my now intense fear of heights. I’ll just add it to the list of other things I have to thank him for like those gray hairs that started appearing when he hit his teenage years.

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