on sunday i watched inception, and two nights ago, forrest gump. both movies have scenes that involve a character standing on a ledge, preparing to jump to certain death below. and if you haven’t seen one movie or the other, i won’t spoil the surprise of what happens. (but note that if you haven’t seen forrest gump, you must put that on your holiday weekend to-do list.)
the point is: i get terrible, terrible vertigo at moments like these. i am, and have always been, terrified of heights. as a kid, it was just because they made me woozy – i couldn’t even climb a tree properly because of it. but as an adolescent and adult, it became something else.
i think, deep down, there is a tiny little piece of myself that doesn’t trust that i won’t jump.
i will of course follow that up with: i am in no way suicidal, and have not been in about a decade. but there’s a difference between acute suicidality and a little voice in the back of your brain that isn’t quite 100% sure that you won’t do something impulsive and life-ending.
i have heart-stopping nightmares about walking too close to the edge of a building and just…falling off. or leaning over a chest-high railing on a bridge and somehow going over the side. most of these thoughts defy gravity and are illogical…but all it takes is a little push, a tiny hop.
but the thing that causes me the most panic, the thing that will wrest me from my nightmare in a cold sweat, isn’t the actual fall (or jump, as it were). it’s the fact that, every time this thought seizes me, in those moments when i’m plummeting to the ground all i can think is, “oh my god, what have i done? i didn’t want to do that.”
maybe my fear isn’t really heights, or falling, or even dying. maybe what grabs me by the throat is the fear that one of these days i will make a snap decision that will be both devastating and irreversible. and in a world of laser tattoo removal and plastic surgery to get rid of scars, second chances and fresh beginnings…there are still some bells you cannot un-ring.