I suffer from Acrophobia.
No, it doesn’t mean I am scared of the wind or bugs or some similar creepy crawly thingies. It means that I have an extreme or irrational fear of heights – courtesy Wikipedia. And no, a fear of heights is NOT vertigo. Vertigo is feeling dizzy when you are stationary and generally associated with a problem in the inner ear which controls our sense of balance and equilibrium.
I realized this when I was a small girl. Someone coaxed me into getting on to a ferris wheel – not the giant wheel but a much smaller version and before it could reach a height of 8 feet I was screaming and ready to fly off the damned contraption. My grandmother used to joke that she could hear my screams all the way home. Not funny for me though. Ever since I steered clear of anything to do with heights. My boldest adventure was possibly to balance myself and walk on the compound of our house without panicking or falling down. I still remember, the corners would stump me and I would sit and shuffle that bit before continuing on my expedition.
I thought this would get better with age but was proven wrong. I was in high school when I visited a fair with my aunts and cousins and again there was this mini giant wheel which the kiddos wanted to ride. It looked very ordinary to me and I got on to it with bravado. Which very quickly vanished and was replaced by a feeling of such intense fear that I thought I would slip off the seat and crash into mother earth. The panic was so much that I almost wanted to jump off it rather than remain airborne. Luckily for me, one of my young cousins chickened out and started howling so badly that the operator stopped the machine. Yeah, you guessed right, I was off the giant wheel even before my cousin could move a muscle!
Hey, don’t think I have given in entirely to this phobia. During my early college days, I found a way of beating this to some extent. My nemesis was again at a fair and there was this ride called Pirate. It’s a giant boat which swings in the air – the swinging gets progressively higher but you don’t spin the way you do in a giant wheel. I got onto it on a dare and as the boat started swinging higher and higher, I could feel the old fear setting in. I realized that most of my other “passengers” were screaming when the boat dipped and as I was on the verge of having a panic attack, I joined in shouting loudly at the worst part of the rides – the dips. And I discovered that even though I was scared, the screaming was actually helping me in not panicking! I actually enjoyed the rest of the ride and my voice was hoarse in the end but it was worth every bit of the lung power.
My fight to conquer this fear continues even today. I recently took the escalator up two levels at Mantri mall and felt like giving a whoop of joy for having accomplished that. But that is my limit now, I cannot go higher and would rather take the stairs or the elevator instead. My fear follows me everywhere. Even in my sleep. I often dream of being perched on the tip of an abyss and its anybody’s guess whether I clamber up for safety or fall down. Of late I seem to be winning atleast in my dreams. I am going to take this as a positive sign that one day, I will use the escalators to go all the way up to the 3rd floor of Mantri mall. 🙂
Amen to that!