Irrational Fears

This morning, I had to face an irrational fear of mine. It was unintentional and I was totally unprepared.


Firstly, a few things about me:


I love roller coasters. Being flipped upside down, being tossed headfirst to the ground, dropping backwards into a black pit, none of that bothers me. Rides where they just tease you a little bit, by tipping you just past a comfort level – I hate that.


But I also used to hate going up rides – that little bit at the start where your roller coaster train locks onto a chain and starts tugging you upwards, where it feels like you could drop backwards at any moment.


So basically, I’m fine if I know I’m going backwards, it’s just not knowing that I hate.


I learned to drive fairly late – I got my license when I was 23 and have basically only ever driven locally. I’ve always had a fear of going up steep hills, even as a child in the backseat of a car. A few months ago some friends & I went on a day trip throughout Queensland and northern NSW, including a drive to Springbrook National Park. The drive up there made me so tense that my leg muscles were tight and I could barely walk when we pulled into the park. I hate hills.


All of this combined today when my husband decided he wanted to go see a dam, because we were in the area. (My husband is learning to drive, but was held up by being declared medically unfit for most of the past year.) Not knowing the roads, we just followed the sign to the dam. I drive a small car, and from the first turn off it was struggling a little to get up the hill.


Then when we were at the top of the first hill, it was so steep that you could barely see the road below to drive on it. I think this is when my fear kicked in. The road flattened a little, at which point I stopped. My body and mind were separate, I couldn’t focus. Luckily the road was a very quiet one. I told my husband that I couldn’t drive – I couldn’t take him to the dam. I pulled into someone’s driveway and put the parking brake on. I had to take a few minutes to stop shaking and crying.


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I can’t explain this irrational fear of steep hills. I don’t have the most powerful car in the world, but I know it can get up a hill! I don’t even know at which point I became terrified and started shaking. I just knew I couldn’t do it and I had to stop the car. It makes no sense.


I calmed down once I had made the decision that I wouldn’t drive any further. I was still a little scared when reversing the car, even though the road was fairly flat. It was no more than a usual hill that wouldn’t bother me to reverse a little on, if it was any other day.


We went back the way we came and stopped off at a little park for a few minutes. I was still marginally shaky, kind of a “left over” feeling, but logic was prevailing and I knew there was nothing left to be scared of.


I’m not sure how to approach an irrational fear. I wish I knew why I had it, or what triggers it. It’s left me feeling pretty exhausted and headachey today. It’s draining. I don’t know much about the body’s reaction to stress triggers, but I guess it’s time to learn. I think I recovered pretty fast, and I’m glad I recognised what was happening and stopped driving.

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