{10/01/2012}   Fear and puffins

It’s 11.25pm, I am struggling to stay awake to write this.  A valuable lesson is that I should write this at the first opportunity, which is often in the mornings when I feel more inclined to write.

My friend Fiona and I went for a walk on top of the North Downs looking over Folkestone. Our walk wasn’t remotely dangerous or scary but my fear of heights seems to be getting worse.  It was a bit muddy going down one slope. There was no sheer drop and with the amount of gorse bushes, it would’ve been quite a challenge to hurt yourself beyond being scratched by gorse and covered in horse poo, of which there was a lot.  But I felt mild vertigo.

I kind of don’t mind having a phobia if it doesn’t affect my daily life, but going for a walk I don’t want to be scared because of an irrational fear of heights or falling.

My vertigo started on a school trip to Cologne when I was about 15 years old.  My friends and I were walking slowly up to the spire.  No problem.  I remember taking a few steps up the narrow spiral staircase and looking down.  The steps had gone from being solid to being maybe iron with holes through which you could, as I remember it, see to the bottom, which by then was quite a long way down.  I freaked out, got verbal diarrhea and I remember shaking furiously as a friend and I descended.

At that time I was regularly doing cross country jumping and I started getting scared and hoping my horse would refuse to do any downhill jumps.  I gave up cross country jumping soon after.  I somehow managed to get to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower on another school trip a few years later . I remember nothing of it, other than that we got the lift and I hated it.

I could and would never go up the Eiffel Tower now.  The fear annoys me no end.  There are things I’d love to do if I weren’t so scared of heights.  While staying on a remote island in the Faroes, I wanted to do a cliff side walk (my fear was a little more reasonable as the path was carved into a cliff, narrow enough for one foot and with a metal ‘rail’ stuck into the cliff at an angle, seriously narrow and not enough room to really be able to stand up straight, ie you’d have to walk down it at a slight angle out to sea). The walk up to the beginning of the cliff walk (I wanted to see puffins. I love puffins) was up a windswept hill with perilous slopes on either side, going down to the sea.  These were slopes off which you didn’t stand a chance of survival.  I was on my own but talked to myself and the many sheep somehow grazing down the side of the cliffy hill. It was also extremely windy.  I managed to get to the relatively flat peninsula from where the cliff path started.  I ended up throwing myself onto the ground, in mild hysterics, shaking violently and feeling extremely sick.  That was my worst height experience. Needless to say, I didn’t get to the edge to assess the cliff side walk, I had enough trouble getting back to what I perceived as safety.

As it happens, I did get to see the puffins as they’d all moved to an area I could manage to walk to.  However, that was the first time it really struck me that my largely irrational fear actually stops me doing things I want to do.

My friend Carolyn managed to fly to Canada after a course of NLP.  She had a dreadful fear of flying and wouldn’t have even bought a plane ticket before that treatment let alone flown to Canada.  I think this could be the year I deal with my fear of heights.  I would then like to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower and enjoy it!


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