"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get Out of My Way So I Can Jump or Poopy Shoes!

My husband laughs at me and others are mystified.  Yes I'm afraid of heights.  And don't get Acrophobia mixed up with Agoraphobia, fear of the outdoors or open spaces.  Those are people who don't want to leave their homes.  When I had five kids constantly wrapped around my legs getting out was what I looked forward to.  In fact that's why I think for years I went running...escape! 

Anyway Agoraphobia fear of the outdoors is very different from Acrophobia, fear of high places, in fact I'm fine travelling all over the place and even on planes, don't ask me why because I can't explain why planes don't bother me but bridges and mountains do.

Whenever I'm near the edge of a drop off, building, bridge or mountain cliff, I freeze and then feel an unexplainable pull in the center of my chest yanking me to the edge of the abyss and potentially over.  The thought makes me panic so I don't go near high places.  Once I wanted to see the view so much I sent the entire family to the car then about 50 feet from the viewing point dropped to my knees and crawled to the edge...This fear can be a challenge when hiking, which I love and it's a good thing we live nearly at sea level and not many mountain cliffs are close by.  I love the beach, the waves the sun and of course the nice flat sand.  

I have an explanation of sorts for my malady, because I figured out I am more prone to the panic when my children or grandchildren are present.  And I know I changed about heights after our first child was born and the INCIDENT occurred.   We had been to visit my husband's grandmother in Utah and decided to take an extra day and go to Bryce Canyon as neither of us had been there before.

Patrick, new proud dad, was ready to try out the new baby backpack and little Pat was happily along for the ride.  We walked along the edge trail looking at the unusual formations as the setting sun transformed the red rock into a fairyland.  And then "IT" happened.  Now understand it was the 60's and no safety straps were on the pack.  As Pat leaned over the long drop down into the canyon the pack slid up to the top of his shoulders and new baby Patrick launched out into the air.  I don't know if it was an automatic reaction or wonderful reflexes from his fast pitch softball days, but the 6 month old little guy was saved from certain death when Pat, the dad, put his arms out and caught baby Pat midair.

I think I shook for the next three hours after that and know it was the beginning of my phobia.  My kids to this day complain about my little problem and what I have put them through because of my phobia...They all talk about the hike down into the Grand Canyon a few years later.  By then we had four children, and this time Megan rode in the backpack on my shoulders.  I was so scared one of them would run off the edge, I tied them all together with the end of the rope knotted around my waist.  I figured if they went over then I would be pulled over too and it wouldn't matter.  The problem was that as I walked close to the mountain side clinging closely to the trail cut in the canyon they all wanted to be near the cliff edge to look over at the winding walkway below us. 

Now, if you've ever been to the Grand Canyon you know they have mules who carry people to the bottom who don't have the energy or inclination to walk.  The mules walk in the well worn ruts in the center of the trail and of course leave fresh road apples all along the way.  Since I was afraid to have the kids near the edge of the trail, I only gave them enough rope to walk in the mule rut, and thus the results of the hike was that all three of those walking ended up with poopy shoes. 

At Yellowstone, Patrick wanted to take all five children to the lookout, Angel's Flight, where they drop fire into the valley far below.   We were on our way home from camping and up to that point I had been able to avoid the drop-offs and cliffs.  I walked along trying to overcome my fear until the trail began to get steep and I could not go any further. I had to stop as my heart was pounding and wanted all the kids to stay with me but I lost the vote as often happens.  Pat and all the kids continued along to get to the fabulous view.  Away they went while I sat on a rock petrified with fear several of the children would plunge to the valley floor below so made Pat take my red scarf and told him when he came into view again to wave the scarf if all the children were with him.

I had read  about a woman who did this during the pioneer handcart trek when her husband was to wave a shawl after all had safely made it across a wide river.  Thank goodness, my husband who is a great practical joker, this time did as I requested, and after holding my breath for 45 minutes saw the red scarf waving so knew all five had made it up the trail and back safely.

Now that all the children are grown, I only get that awful feeling when in high places with grandchildren.  As far as my fear, it is all but gone and I have no problem...or at least not much when we hike or go to high places and thankfully that sick feeling no longer takes hold.

So if you have a phobia think about when it began, and very possibly there is a reason for your fear

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