Conquering Fear of Heights

ChristopherKill | 6:52

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"Suddenly I was gripped with this terrifying feeling, and I backed away from the edge."

Acrophobia Fear of heights Willpower Mindfullness Patience

Story Transcript

My name is Christopher, and I'm 63 years old. [About] 35 years ago, I was working at a job that was located on probably the tenth or eleventh floor of an office building. And the place where I was working had an outdoor area, kind of like a balcony. And at one point, I walked out onto the balcony and walked over to the railing and looked down, and suddenly, I just was paralyzed with fear.

Now, to give you just a bit of back story on the type of person I am. I have been a daredevil, practically from day one, from the time I was born. I did tricks on my bicycle, racing a motorcycle at an amateur motocross track, just taking a lot of chances and then of course prior, at times in my life, I have been up on very tall buildings, always loved it, went up on the top floor, the Empire State building, the Sears Tower in Chicago. I love getting up, heights and getting the views.

I don't know why this happened, but suddenly I was gripped with this terrifying feeling, and I backed away from the edge. And, it did not go away and I wasn't sure what to do about it. I didn't talk to a lot of people about it. And I didn't go to a doctor or anything. I really thought it was maybe a one-off. However, I got into another situation, where I was standing upon this hill and I looked down and and felt the same sensation. So at that point, I decided I needed to do something about it and I decided to take a very gradual approach, getting up on higher and higher levels. I started out going to the top of the ladder and just spending some time doing that. Taking this incremental approach to overcoming Acrophobia was really, I felt like, a logical approach. It was the same thing with learning to ride a bike. You know, I started with training wheels and initially, I took one of the training wheels off and then I took both the training wheels off. And, when it comes to doing anything physical, whether you're learning a new sport or engaging in any type of activity that may require any physicality, there is a step by step progression. And I've always known that because I've always played a lot of sports and been very physically active, and I know that you just can't rush into things, otherwise you're going to get hurt. I got on top of a friend's house and I began to feel it there. But I just made myself stay there for a certain amount of time, and then I came down. I kept doing this over a period of time, getting, maybe as high as 25 or 30 feet, and not really feeling the Acrophobia.

And then, I was working at this job on a sound stage and one of the electricians' was asking if anybody wanted to go up into the rafters and redirect this light. They were shooting a television special, and I just instinctively said, "I'll do it." And then, he looked at me straight in the eyes and very, very firmly asked, "Do you have a fear of heights?" I said, "No," but I felt like it was a lie. Yet, I also felt like I needed to do this. I needed to really test myself. So, I went up the staircase that takes you up to the rafters, where they hang these lights. And then once I got up there, I had to crawl out on this beam. That was probably a wooden beam, like 12x12 inches. And so I straddled it and then eased myself out there to where the light was and I was really starting to feel the Acrophobia at that point. But I just kind of pushed myself and I determined to look straight down onto the stage and to not look away. And I did that. And I did that for about 15 minutes. And slowly, I felt the Acrophobia begin to subside and I was out there for probably about 35 to 40 minutes. It didn't come back. I scooted back on the rafter and went back down the stairs. And since that time, I've not suffered from Acrophobia. So, I thought about it and I felt like it was the proactive approach I took, by overcoming what I felt like was clearly a psychological dysfunction that I had at that moment, I don't know. But that's how I cured myself of Acrophobia.