Ups and Downs

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Maybe once a month?…

I am afraid of heights…seriously afraid of heights. So much so that I would go as far as to call it a phobia.

This is relatively new in my life and I am finding it very annoying. As a kid I used to climb scaffolding with ease and run up and down the roof of our house while dad was working on it. The first time I remember having any kind of response to height was in 2009, in the Swiss Alps. I looked down the edge of a cliff we were walking along and felt a slight sense of nausea. Over the years this feeling has worsened and other emotions have been added (and openly displayed) until it accumulated into a full-blown panic attack. I had a panic attack walking down and then another when walking up…a flight of stairs.

It is Denmark’s longest flight of stairs, so there is that. Though what that really means is that I had ample time to experience a really long and drawn-out panic attack. For the people reading this who have never experienced a panic attack, let me start by saying that it is scary AF. In everyday life (without stairs and cliffs), I am a rational female (yes, I specify female for a reason, that’s how rational I am), but this is so far from being rational. Your body seems to have full control. It’s like trying to jump off a very high diving board and you walk up to the edge, fully convinced you are going to jump and your body just goes: “Nope, not today.”

Back to Møns Klint. That morning, I started walking down the flight of stairs and immediately started worrying. The stairs are wooden, with little landings in between to rest or enjoy the view. I initially thought these platforms would help, but it was not enough. My breathing started to quicken, my grip on the bannister tightened and by the time we were on the fourth flight of stairs I handed Chaos to Jasper, because the additional stress of a dog on leash was too much.

On I went. I would frequently stop and think that turning back would be the better option, the wiser option. No, that is the same as failing, and failing is certainly not an option. Step by step, grasping the bannister as tight as possible, the brain started working overtime. What am I even scared of? I don’t know. I can look down over the railing, I can look up, albeit a bit intimidated. Safety comes to mind; the stairs are wooden, wood can break, no don’t be silly, hundreds of people walk on these stairs daily, why would they snap now?  And if they would break what would ultimately happen? We would slide/fall down the side of a cliff, is that the worst way to go? So why am I worrying, there is no reason. My legs are buckling, both hands on one side of the bannister, my heart is pounding, and I am making weird panicky sounds. Are there other people around? Please, no. Oh, there are.

They are 200 meters behind us and I can wait for them and let them pass. All the muscles in my body tense and I put my sunglasses on to hide the welling tears. Yes, that’s another fun thing. I start weeping. By this time, I am completely shattered and I need to calm my breathing before I start hyperventilating. The people pass and I manage a weird lopsided grin at them and a vague “Hej”. I wait a few minutes and step on. Taking each stair with both feet I very slowly make my way to the bottom.

The elation I hoped to experience after stepping onto solid ground doesn’t arrive, and the muscles in my legs start trembling uncontrollably. My body is releasing the stress and I feel like I am going to be sick. Great. At some point, I will have to go back up. There is no other way and up is usually worse. How on earth am I going to manage?

We walked along the beach, admired the cliffs—which are beautiful even while experiencing a complete meltdown—and came to a different flight of stairs. Different might mean better, so we decided to give them a go. I will spare you the details of this event, but take my word for it, going up was worse. Way worse. By the time we got to the top of the stairs I was knackered, and the only thing I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep. Not an option, we had at least a half hour walk back along the top of the cliffs ahead of us. This gave me time to process everything that had happened and, as always after achieving something difficult, I did high-five Jasper—after a good two-hour nap.

We recently visited Møns Klint, a 6 km stretch of chalk cliffs along the eastern coast of the Danish island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. Some of the cliffs drop a sheer 120 metres to the sea below. A pretty impressive sight…

I am afraid of heights…seriously afraid of heights. So much so that I would go as far as to call it a phobia.

This is relatively new in my life and I am finding it very annoying. As a kid I used to climb scaffolding with ease and run up and down the roof of our house while dad was working on it. The first time I remember having any kind of response to height was in 2009, in the Swiss Alps. I looked down the edge of a cliff we were walking along and felt a slight sense of nausea. Over the years this feeling has worsened and other emotions have been added (and openly displayed) until it accumulated into a full-blown panic attack. I had a panic attack walking down and then another when walking up…a flight of stairs.

It is Denmark’s longest flight of stairs, so there is that. Though what that really means is that I had ample time to experience a really long and drawn-out panic attack. For the people reading this who have never experienced a panic attack, let me start by saying that it is scary AF. In everyday life (without stairs and cliffs), I am a rational female (yes, I specify female for a reason, that’s how rational I am), but this is so far from being rational. Your body seems to have full control. It’s like trying to jump off a very high diving board and you walk up to the edge, fully convinced you are going to jump and your body just goes: “Nope, not today.”

Back to Møns Klint. That morning, I started walking down the flight of stairs and immediately started worrying. The stairs are wooden, with little landings in between to rest or enjoy the view. I initially thought these platforms would help, but it was not enough. My breathing started to quicken, my grip on the bannister tightened and by the time we were on the fourth flight of stairs I handed Chaos to Jasper, because the additional stress of a dog on leash was too much.

On I went. I would frequently stop and think that turning back would be the better option, the wiser option. No, that is the same as failing, and failing is certainly not an option. Step by step, grasping the bannister as tight as possible, the brain started working overtime. What am I even scared of? I don’t know. I can look down over the railing, I can look up, albeit a bit intimidated. Safety comes to mind; the stairs are wooden, wood can break, no don’t be silly, hundreds of people walk on these stairs daily, why would they snap now?  And if they would break what would ultimately happen? We would slide/fall down the side of a cliff, is that the worst way to go? So why am I worrying, there is no reason. My legs are buckling, both hands on one side of the bannister, my heart is pounding, and I am making weird panicky sounds. Are there other people around? Please, no. Oh, there are.

They are 200 meters behind us and I can wait for them and let them pass. All the muscles in my body tense and I put my sunglasses on to hide the welling tears. Yes, that’s another fun thing. I start weeping. By this time, I am completely shattered and I need to calm my breathing before I start hyperventilating. The people pass and I manage a weird lopsided grin at them and a vague “Hej”. I wait a few minutes and step on. Taking each stair with both feet I very slowly make my way to the bottom.

The elation I hoped to experience after stepping onto solid ground doesn’t arrive, and the muscles in my legs start trembling uncontrollably. My body is releasing the stress and I feel like I am going to be sick. Great. At some point, I will have to go back up. There is no other way and up is usually worse. How on earth am I going to manage?

We walked along the beach, admired the cliffs—which are beautiful even while experiencing a complete meltdown—and came to a different flight of stairs. Different might mean better, so we decided to give them a go. I will spare you the details of this event, but take my word for it, going up was worse. Way worse. By the time we got to the top of the stairs I was knackered, and the only thing I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep. Not an option, we had at least a half hour walk back along the top of the cliffs ahead of us. This gave me time to process everything that had happened and, as always after achieving something difficult, I did high-five Jasper—after a good two-hour nap.

5 Comments

  1. Dorothé

    Hallo ,

    Och Meis wat heb ik met je te doen. Heb je nog wel een beetje kunnen genieten
    voor je in paniek raakte? Of heeft het zich langzaam opgebouwd met het naar boven gaan .
    Veel sterkte voor de rest van de reis, hoop dat je toch nog van jullie reis kunt genieten.

    Xx Dorothé

    Reply
    • Anne

      Hi Dorothé,

      Ja hoor! Het is enkel in het moment zelf vervelend en zelfs dan kan ik om mezelf lachen.
      En het zal zeker vaker gebeuren deze reis want ik ga niks laten omdat ik hoogtevrees heb, dus hopelijk wordt het vanzelf minder. 😀

      xx

      Reply
  2. Anita

    Autch, reading this scares me… stupid brains! That’s a complete mindf**k! Hopefully it does get better along the way.

    Reply
    • Anne

      I’m pretty sure that if I use ‘flooding’ on myself it will turn out just fine. 😛

      Reply
  3. Marianne Stenger

    Haha, omg. Poor thing. At least it made for a good story 😀

    Reply

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