April 10th, 2011
Day 25: Kakum National Park, Ghana
When I was younger, I was kinda fearless.
I’m older now, and I have phobia baggage.
I’m afraid of falling. It’s kind of like being afraid of heights, but not exactly the same. I am fine with being in planes. I love roller coasters. I’m fine up in REALLY tall buildings. As long as I am enclosed in some way I’m okay. No, it’s not really heights that bring me to near panic…I’m afraid of falling. There’s a couple of types of fear of falling. There’s basophobia, which is the fear of falling, but it leads people to not want to stand up at all. That’s not what I have. There’s climacophobia, which is the fear of falling down stairs. That’s incorporated into my phobia, but mine is bigger than that. There’s bathophobia, which sounds like the fear of taking a bath (that’s called ablutophobia), but it’s actually the fear of falling from a high place. THAT’S what I have.
I came by this fear rightly. There were two specific events that took place in my life that set me up for my fear. The first was when I was 16. I was on a mission trip to Haiti.
(Me, laying block in Haiti)
While standing on a rickety scaffolding and concentrating deeply to lay concrete blocks, one of the missionaries’ kids grabbed my ankles and shook me. The fear got a hold of me then and grew over the years. I eventually began to struggle with getting up on my stepladder to retrieve items from upper shelves in my kitchen. Ridiculous. I got tired of being that afraid, so I worked on desensitizing myself. I got over (mostly) the worst of it…I could climb my stepladder! :-) And then some years later, the second event took place. On a trip to Chicago with my big bro, his wife/my best friend, and one of my other good friends, we went to the top of Sears tower.
(Taken from the top of the Hancock Building, not the Sears Tower, but close enough!)
I was deep in thought and standing by a window looking down down down at the ground so very far away, and my brother came up behind me and shook my shoulders and made a “aHAHAHahahah” yell. The fear returned with a vengeance. Since then I have been challenging myself to get better, again. I am better with being high up, but still very fearful in certain circumstances, especially if there are people anywhere behind me. I just don’t trust them.
My high up place doesn’t even have to be very high. I don’t like looking over cliffs. I don’t like walking across bridges. I don’t like open ferris wheels (closed ones are just fine). I want to sky dive. I want to bungee jump. I want to walk over insanely high bridges. I want to not feel like I can’t breathe and that I’m going to die if I need to jump over an open ditch.
Abner also has a fear of heights/fear of falling thing. Which begs the question…”why on earth did the two of us decide to go on a canopy walk in the rain forest?”. Excellent question! Because we NEEEEEEEEDED to. And because I trust Abner with my life, I decided if I could walk across swinging rope and wood bridges high up in the trees with anyone, it would be with Abner. You’d have to ask him what his impetus was!
While we were in Cape Coast, Ghana, we were very close to the Kakum National Park…and they had a canopy walk there that we heard about. The walk was comprised of seven of these “bridges” hundreds of feet up in the air over wild jungle. We hiked up to where the walk started. It was rather hot and humid. I’m very sweaty, BUT I’m an official green card carrying NGA! A Non Ghanaian Adult. :-)
Since a major component of my fear is having someone behind me, we waited until the rest of the people in our group had set off across the first bridge. Abner went before me, and I went last. I was confident and walking without my legs shaking beneath me until I felt the bridge shaking behind me. Oh great. My biggest fear, and it was making ground behind me. There’s no place to pass on these 10″ wide bridges. And this guy ended up so close behind me that he was clipping my heels as I walked and he was stressing me to move faster. I called to Abner to make the guy back off before I freaked out. He did, and I collected myself. I let the guy pass me at the first opportunity, and once he did, I was able to actually enjoy myself.
We walked all those seven bridges. We didn’t see any wildlife, but we heard the birds in the trees. It was really a cool thing we got to do.
Five years ago I tried to walk across the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge here in Colorado. I got out about 15 feet and I started to panic. I want to conquer that bridge! Abner and I will get around to trying sometime in the near future. Cuz we’re rock stars! And we can do it!