I discovered a new phobia yesterday that I don’t think has ever been known before. Naturally it’s my exclusive, weird phobia, as anything of mine usually is the only one in the universe (seems that way at times).
Gephyrophobia is a general fear of bridges. But no, that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. I have no problem with walking or driving over bridges, as long as they’re well built. Although with the potential for earthquakes in Southern California I do get extremely anxious when stuck in a car on a freeway overpass or cloverleaf, way the heck up there, where a good strong quake could send you and the bridge crumbling down. But I’ll still do that (without actually feeling faint or having a panic attack) on the rare occasions when it’s unavoidable in order to get somewhere.
Yesterday I was on a walk with my precious little dog Tyler in Buena Park, CA, after visiting my bank out there, and came to the end of a street which ended at the intersecting 91 freeway. Saw a strange construct there and went to check it out. Turned out to be the entrance to the walkup to a pedestrian bridge that would take us to the neighborhood on the other side of the freeway. Bridge is pictured here, courtesy of Google Maps:
“That looks interesting.”
I said to myself and Tyler, let’s do this! I’d never walked a freeway pedestrian bridge before. Had heard stories of deranged people tossing bricks or other heavy items (sometimes themselves as in suicide) off of them, causing car wrecks and injuring or killing people in the days before these bridges were enclosed by chain link fencing, but never thought about walking across one myself. The thought of being up there and watching the cars streak past down below from both directions seemed intriguing, since a favorite walk has always been to the end of beach piers, totally enjoying the crashing waves below (if only the piers were minus the fishermen). Well well, was I wrong about this new experience.
I understand others’ “irrational” phobias now, when I didn’t before.
I have one known phobia that seems pretty rational…I tried to be like a mechanic once and laid down on my back to slide underneath a car to look at something or other down there. After just a few seconds I started panicking, couldn’t sit up, felt trapped, had to get out immediately and realized I’d never do that again. It’s a form of claustrophobia I guess, and I’d never had occasion to experience it before then. Strange, because I don’t fear elevators or other enclosed spaces, when standing anyways.
My mom had claustrophobia due to being locked in closets as punishment as a child, and I’d never understood her intense fear of being shut in somewhere. Thought all she needed was to do it, safely, repeatedly, and realize it wasn’t going to kill her, and just “get over it.” Well, I began to change my mind when I experienced my own phobia(s). Unless you have the chance to do the things that will make you dizzy and weak-kneed with anxiety and panic, you don’t realize you have any phobias.
So I and Tyler happily trekked up the bridge on-ramp…
Little Tyler the boss-man chihuahua usually leads the way (but safely), so I watched to see if he’d be fearful when he reached the actual bridge, as he doesn’t care for high foot bridges or anything unusual like that. He was a little cautious, checking out the noisy traffic down below, a bit nervous, but nothing he was going to refuse to get across. He felt safe with me. So I said, “great,” and started across myself with brave little Tyler as my guide.
Traffic was pretty heavy and the whooshing noise was intense, the cars hurtling by underneath from both directions. I started gasping a bit and thought, “just relax.” But no, there was no relaxing to be done. I kept going, thinking it was just excitement due to a new experience. But no, aside from the hyperventilating and heart pounding that kicked in, I started trembling, feeling dizzy, like I’d pass out if I didn’t turn around quickly and get the hell off that crazy death trap. We were about a third of the way across. Visions like the one below may have flitted through my head, a ped bridge knocked down by a garbage truck bucket that hadn’t been lowered…
I did quickly turn back and got the hell off that horrific thing.
As soon as we headed down the on-ramp I calmed down almost completely; was totally cool when back on the sidewalk, but vowing never again! Poor little brave Tyler had been looking forward to getting across that strange passageway and seeing (sniffing) more stuff on some new turf on the other side. But if I’d actually managed to get over there (by running like a terrified jackrabbit), getting back over again would have been nearly impossible if not totally so. Would probably have had to call for help, which would have been pretty embarrassing.
So, I now have two phobias that I know of: the under the car (or anything similar) thing, and the pedestrian overpass thing. Bottom line: No more scoffing at other people’s phobias for me. I have seen the light (or rather, the near blacking out).