Embracing the Fall

I keep having the same sort of nightmarish dream over and over. The details aren’t the same, but the message is. I am fearful and I am clinging to something, but it’s something bad. Not monstrous, just bad. Like the feeling that I know I need to make the leap to cling to another area, but I am petrified to let go of what I have. What is familiar. One night it was a giant bowl, with a slick lip on the top. I needed to get to the other side of the bowl, but I refused to let go of where I was.

I’ve had that feeling before in real life. It’s paralyzing. It always correlates back to my adulthood found fear of heights. I was never afraid of heights as a kid, and I can’t honestly say where the phobia came from as an adult. I have no issues flying, it’s being near the edge of anything that is high and open. It’s also what *I* deem frightening, because more than once the drop has been ridiculously minor to most, but my fear tells me otherwise.

The first time it hit was on a trip to Yosemite, in my mid to late 20’s. We were on a hike up to Vernal Falls. If you’ve ever done this hike, you know it’s about the easiest one in Yosemite. The path is pretty easy. Slight incline and it’s roomy enough for entire families to walk it. Except this one area. We were nearing the top, close enough that the roar and mist of the falls enveloped up. The trail became a little more narrowed with rocky steps. While you could feasibly walk two by two most went single file by this point. The path soaked up a bit of the mist and became a tad slippery, but by no means dangerous. For goodness sake, there were children running past me. But something in my mind just snapped. Like a dry twig, all rationale broke in half. Somewhere between the misty soaked steps  and the narrowing of the path, and maybe all the commotion of people I had my first honest-to-goodness panic attack.


I simply could not move. I was frozen to the spot, with my heart beating in my throat, and my mind stating “DO NOT MOVE”. I clung to the rock wall, like a crazed jumper on the 83rd floor of an office building. My boyfriend at the time was coaxing me along, not certain when and where his girlfriend turned into a catatonic loon.

Move forward or move back, but understand you have to move.” He said to me, calmly at first, and then repeating himself with slight exasperation building. But I couldn’t. I was frozen. It felt like I was there for 15 minutes, but in reality it was probably closer to 2. Something in my mind finally realized I couldn’t camp here, I had to move, I had to trust his outstretched hand. If a child could do it, so could I (this wouldn’t be the last time a child goaded me into confronting my fears. Let me tell you sometime about the kids who can kick my ass in off-road riding and what that did to me) Tentatively I reached out towards him, holding my breath while  hugging my rocky ledge at the same time with one arm. About five steps further up, I was on a wider dryer path. The roar of the falls didn’t seem to be as strong, even though we were technically closer to the top. I could breathe again. We reached the top of the falls a few moments later, but I knew at that time, there was no fucking way I was going to be able to now go down that same path. So down the John Muir Trail we headed, adding an extra mile or two to our hike. Even the threat of a bear confrontation was more comforting than confronting that 5 foot patch of soggy down sloping trail.

I cannot explain what set it off, but it’s triggered a fear of heights since then.

These dreams lately, remind me of holding onto that slippery wet rocky wall along the waterfalls edge. I know logically, even in the dream, that I can’t hold this stance forever. That I am sort of stagnating, but it doesn’t speak to the fear strong enough to tell it let it go.

I am trying to work thru this, figure out what my psyche is trying to tell me. The panic attacks in real life, the anxiety – they are slowing creeping back after about a year of absence, and I can’t find the trigger point.

The mind is a funny thing. We can shut all kinds of doors to unpleasantries, but eventually the boogie monster of the mind will find a way in. Sometimes when I lay down in bed right before I am about to drift off, my mind takes me to an edge. Literally. With super clarity I am at the edge of a super high cliff. Beautiful blue skies are all I see ahead of me, but every time, I look down. I know I shouldn’t. I know where it’s leading, but I do. It’s this unspoken dance of the mind, and I know where it leads, but I follow anyway. Like a dream that I am wide awake for. I get closer to the edge, looking down and my heart rate accelerates, and soon I am falling. I am so high in the air, and it terrifies me into a vertigo spin, where only opening my eyes can I destroy the feeling and image.

Lately, in a battle of wills between what sometimes feels like insanity (it’s really just anxiety, but seriously why would my head do this to me?) I force myself to go thru it. I refuse to open my eyes, because I AM awake and have enough sense to know my mind isn’t going to kill me. (Let’s hope) This is just a manifestation of my panic attacks. It’s not fun, and it’s pretty damn petrifying, but I live thru it. My mind doesn’t snap in fear, or worse yet, I don’t actually fall off the cliff. In doing that? I’ve noticed the imagery doesn’t happen as often.

I guess I am just waiting for the time where I can actually embrace the fall, and maybe learn to fly.



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