Friday, 7 October 2011

There's Nowt so Queer as Folk

Since my spider phobia is now (to the point of screaming boredom) well documented, I feel it is time to admit - after all it is Friday - to another curious phobia/foible.

I have a fear of heights.  I know, so what?  Not just that simple though.
This fear, quite common in its can't climb anything and look down form, is accompanied by an equally overwhelming fear of high buildings.

This is really very weird and has been a part of my life since childhood.  Since which time I've tried many times to rationalise and overcome what I  assume is part of the same phobia.

The last serious attempt to break the mould was when I persuaded John to take me up the Dome of St Paul's Cathedral to the 'whispering gallery'.  Drastic, but I thought probably as good a way as any to kill it off once and for all.

John, who was not all that keen on enclosed spaces, agreed reluctantly to tackle the spiral stairs with its several billion steps, I following closely behind him and hanging on to his jacket.  This apart from being pretty exhausting - we were then in our early sixties - was ok up to the point where the steps  narrowed and we were able to look down as well as up.

My heart started to hammer, I was cold and clammy and felt as though I might die.

John seeing the state I was in  said, "we're almost at the top, only a few more steps".

I couldn't answer and as we reached the last step, gasped "you go out there, I'll wait here for you to come and get me", and clung to the wall, back pressed against it and eyes tight shut.

A minute or two later, it seemed like hours, back he came, grabbed me firmly and we began the descent.

It was infinitely worse going down than the ascent and when we reached the bottom my legs gave way and I sat on the floor and cried.

John nearly died of embarrassment and declared there and then that this was the last time I was ever to attempt to beat this fear.

That however, is only one facet of this malady, the other, being the fear, absolute horror of tall buildings.

We spent a lot of our time in the Netherlands on short holidays over a period of years, and the last one we ever did was to Utrecht, which has the tallest Cathedral tower in the country.

There was a song recital we wanted to attend on one of the days and we duly arrived about 10 minutes before it began.

I cannot even begin to describe the affect the sight of this immense dark tower had on me, and in the end the only way we could get into the building in time was for me to hold on to John shut my eyes and let him lead me in.

When we left after the concert he wanted to photograph the building so I just turned my back and waited until he could once again collect me.  I didn't look back until we were about a quarter of a mile away when it had retreated to a more 'normal' size.

Yes, I do know I'm weird.  What's your excuse?


  1. I'm not quite that bad, but I don't like heights either. It's not really irrational because if you fall that's usually it! I don't like climbing more than one or two rungs on a ladder. This aversion (not sure it is quite a phobia) wasn't evident when I was a child - I liked climbing trees and didn't have a problem on the climbing frame. One of my big problems with heights is that I get that compulsion to throw myself off (seriously -I've been told it is fairly common!) The strong impulse to chuck myself off when I peer down dizzily from the top of a tall building is accompanied by a stomach lurching sick feeling. All it all, it is not nice and my solution is to avoid the situation! I am fine on top of a mountain or something - it is just sheer drops that totally conquer me.

  2. Yes Sue, I'm with you where the sheer drop thing is concerned, though more than two feet off the ground is bad too.
    A neighbour has just this minute left my house after changing my fire alarm batteries!
    The menace of huge dark buildings is something quite different and the fear is very real.
    There is one building in Amsterdam that fills me with terror so that I not only avoid the street it is in, but don't even glance in that direction deliberately.
    As I said. Terminally weird.

  3. Hate lifts with glass floors. Scary.

  4. As a child I used to love all things tall or high, as I have got older this is sadly not the case. I am still drawn to these things but once up high a sort of panic attack that I seem unable to control comes over me.
    About 15 years ago we all climbed the 60+ foot water tower at the RAF base where I worked so we could abseil off the side for children in need. So terrified was I once at the top that I crawled across the roof. So vexed was I with myself that I made myself go up & do it again in an effort to 'cure' myself.
    You say terminal weird, I find you refreshingly normal :-)

  5. Hi Shona
    Glad I'm not the only one!

  6. Hi :) Heights I am ok with (although not a fan of falling from them!) - my fear - ladybirds and butterflys!! Hideous things!! Ew!!


  7. Hi Jo,
    Thanks for sharing, I'm beginning to feel quite normal.

  8. I don't like heights either, Ray and have been known to feel dizzy when looking up at a very tall building. However the fear has tended to diminish with age and to my amazement, I was able to go to the very top of the Empire State Building when our son took me to New York 4 years ago. If you'd asked me to do that when I was 21, rather than 61, I'd have run away screaming!

    Spiders however are quite another thing. Urggh....

  9. Alas my fear of heights and that of tall buildings are as they always were, but at least I can now (out of sheer necessity) at least evict most spiders.
    If I had to 'touch' one I'd die of fright, but my trusty long-handled dust buster is a true friend.