For as long as I can remember, my life was constrained by my fear of heights. I was paralyzed by escalators, and in a shopping center would regularly have to ask strangers if I could hold on to them as we went down. Open staircases were impossible. Boat ramps, even though I love to sail, were a horror.
Then I was invited to the wedding of a friend’s child. Picture a large yacht floating in a pristine bay. That’s where I was. The yacht had been hired by the bride’s family for the afternoon. It was dream-like. People were swimming and generally having a wonderful time getting to know the other guests. I had the wonderful good fortune of finding a seat next to the groom’s grandmother, Mary. Within minutes, it was clear that, although she had suffered her share of sorrow, she managed to see every glass 3/4 full. I was having such fun talking with her about her adventures that I didn’t even notice that a small power boat had come along side. It was offering parasailing to the guests. For those who have never seen a parasail, a person is put in a harness that is attached to a long rope. The other end of the rope is on the speed boat. As soon as the person is secure in the harness the boat takes off, the parachute fills with air, and the person is flying high over the water.
People started to line up, and one after another, they flew. I sat with Mary, averting my eyes from the entire scene. Near the end of the afternoon, someone asked if I wanted a ride. I was about to say no when Mary said, “Why don’t you, Dear. You’ll love it. I did it for my 80th birthday.”
I was stunned. I was sure she’d help me say no. Instead, she egged me on. And because I was more afraid of losing her respect than I was of parasailing, I did it.
I got into the harness, shaking like a leaf. I told the driver that I’d never done it before and that I was seriously afraid of heights. That’s when he gunned the motor, and up I went.
In fairness, I must admit that the view was beautiful. But I was terrified. The boat driver had dunked the prior parasailers. They all came up laughing, but even the thought make me want to throw up. So I asked him not to. The good news is that he didn’t. I also had a shorter ride than anyone else, because when the rope extended to its fullest, I said quite loudly, “Can I go home now?” Thank goodness, he heard me. I have no idea how, given the vroom of the motor and the whoosh of the wind. I only know I was extremely grateful to land safely back on the yacht..
Upon my return, Mary congratulated me. It was small comfort. However, it convinced me that I had to find a way to manage my fear.
Several months later I was talking with a friend who is a psychiatrist. She said she had a patient with an issue so easy to resolve that my friend almost didn’t want to charge her. The patient was afraid of driving over a bridge. Why is it so simple to fix, I asked. She said it only required simple phobia therapy, which, if done correctly, can remove the phobia in three sessions.
I almost stopped breathing. Three sessions and I no longer would be paralyzed by escalators, by ramps, by open staircases, by ladders?
I have no idea why I’d never heard of it before, but it worked. After my first session, my homework was to practice going up and down an empty escalator. After the second session, i had to find a boat ramp and negotiate that myself. After the third, I climbed a high ladder.
I’m not going to say I never give heights a thought. I do. Then I realize how relieved I am, and I thank Mary once again for pushing me to learn how to control my fear.
JoAnn Abraham Bio
JoAnn Abraham has been writing since she was quite young. As an adult, she’s edited a biweekly community newspaper, and wrote many of the articles in it. She has also written for business, bridal, and lifestyle magazines. For more than 15 years she was a marketing manager for one of the country’s largest non-profits. She also is a motivational speaker. You can contact JoAnn on Facebook.
Sonia Marsh Says
I truly admire JoAnn, and hope that her story will help others who suffer from a fear of heights, escalators, boat ramps and more. I asked JoAnn to send me a photo of her, and love what she decided to do for us:
“You know how I wrote that I used to have to ” borrow” people to help me get on an escalator? Well, this time I “borrowed” a very nice man who was sitting near the escalator and asked him to take a photo of me going down all by myself.”
So, here’s your photo!
Thanks JoAnn, that’s very special.
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