Acrophobia -- isn't that a little country near Romania?
Yeah, it’s great. Except for one thing: The apartment is on the damn fifth floor!
You see, I am acrophobic. I don’t like being acrophobic, but that is what I am. I’ve mentioned before that heights disconcert me, and I also mentioned in the past that going up in an airplane doesn’t distress me at all (other than the fact that God did not intend us to fly), but being a few feet about ground creeps me out.
Phobias are such weird things because we usually have no idea where they originate. They just are. I’ve never fallen from a great height; I’ve never been threatened with destruction and mayhem by being thrown from a great height. Yet, great heights (or even relatively piddly heights) rattle me. The rattle me sometimes to the point of immobility. Wikipedia looks at acrophobia in this way:
Some neurologists question the prevailing wisdom and argue that acrophobia is caused by dysfunction in maintaining balance and that the anxiety is both well founded and secondary. According to the dysfunction model, a normal person uses both vestibular and visual cues appropriately in maintaining balance. An acrophobic overrelies on visual signals whether because of inadequate vestibular function or incorrect strategy. Locomotion at a high elevation requires more than normal visual processing. The visual cortex becomes overloaded and the person becomes confused. Some proponents of the alternate view of acrophobia warn that it may be ill-advised to encourage acrophobics to expose themselves to height without first resolving the vestibular issues. Research is underway at several clinics.
Phew, that was a relief. I’m not totally weird in this, just moderately weird. Part of my problem unfolds this way. I’m fine when I am in the apartment. I am comfortable looking out the window and like the view. It’s when I go out on the balcony that it all starts to fall down. The balcony is five unforgiving floors up. What if I stumble? What if I get some bizarre impulse to hurl myself over? I am not even mildly suicidal; never have been. So, where does that come from? Well, it’s another one that cannot be clearly explained, and it is a common manifestation of acrophobia.
Acrophobia isn’t uncommon. Neither are other phobias, like irrational fears of spiders, snakes, closed-in places, crowds, the marketplace (agoraphobia) and virtually every thing and circumstance you couilod imagine. Few are those who don’t have some phobia or other. This doesn’t mean that all fears are phobias, howver. If you happen to live in cobra country, then a fear of snakes would be common sense rather than a phobia.
My acrophobia first became apparent to me a number of years ago. My ex-wife (one of them) and I were in Seattle on vacation. "Let's go up to the top of the Space Needle," she said, all perkily. We went out to the Space Needle. I looked up at it from street level. "No freaking way am I going up there," I told her, and I didn't say "freaking." Just an overwhelming fear gripped me and I knew I had no desire to be up there. Last year my wife and I were in Waikiki staying at the Hawaiian Village. One afternoon I looked out the window of our 22nd floor (shudder) suite and pondered the tower across the way. There was a guy out on the balcony on probably the 25th floor. How can he do that, I thought. I found it uncomforable even watching him, yet he seemed blase as hell about where he was, and even leaned over and looked down. My stomach almost flipped and I had to look away.
Anyway, in my acrophobia, I felt much relief last evening when we went out to dinner at the home of good friends who live nearby. The host asked how I liked living part-time in the 5th floor apartment. Fine, I replied, it's a nice place, except I’m not crazy about being out on the balcony. He told me that was why he’d asked, because he – ta-da! – is also acrophobic. I didn’t know that before. It came as some comfort since he is an otherwise successful and rational man. In fact, his acrophobia is even more severe than mine. He has problems going up a stepladder, whereas I only balk if I’m more than halfway up a full-length extension ladder. If I’m still low enough that if I fell I would only break a leg rather than splatter myself over the pavement, I’m still OK. So, if a 2nd floor apartment becomes available, I think I'd be pleased. On the other hand, I am grateful we're not on the 12th.
Even so, should you walk by my place some day, don’t expect me to be out on the balcony waving at you. I might lose my balance and fall. I don't think I'll take the chance.
Do you have a phobia? Want to tell us about it?