It may be a fear of the water, and they hope to learn to swim, but settle to be happy with dipping in a pinky toe, or maybe it is a touch of agoraphobia, and fear public places and choose to stay in the periphery. I call these fears "Mount Everest's".
For some people they are things that come easy, but for others, it is a paralyzing fear they wish to break, and it can become quite embarrassing, especially when it is something that is considered to many, so routine. I have a couple of fears I have to conquer, but one of my biggest ones is (please don't laugh) : drum roll please...driving on the freeway.
It is my Mount Everest.
I can tell you the exact date it started. It started on November 18th, 2002. Before that date, I had no problems driving on the freeway, and could go anywhere I pleased, and really miss that feeling of knowing I could go anywhere I wanted, only relying on myself to take me there. Me, a set of wheels, and the open road.
I knew in my heart of hearts that day, that it was the last day I would spend on earth with my baby girl. My sixth sense had kicked in and let me know that weeks before hand, and I so badly wanted it to be wrong. I wanted to spend that day at home with Vanessa, in a comfortable place, being with her, and doing whatever I could do to make that day count. Instead, I was headed to the hospital, my mom and Vanessa in the back seat, taking her in to get a mandatory blood draw for her second open heart surgery the following day. It was the very last place I wanted to be, and the very last thing I wanted to do. I would have had a thousand needle sticks if it meant they didn't have to draw her blood that day.
My breath started to catch as we boarded the ferry to Seattle, and I tried to self talk myself down. By then, I was having panic attacks (the really aggressive kind) on a regular basis. That day though, I had to do my best to keep it under control because I had to do this for my baby. We were in the fight for her life, and I wasn't going to let her down.
It wasn't until we hit the West Seattle bridge that I knew I was in trouble. I couldn't talk. I couldn't breathe. We were stuck in traffic. Hospital. Just get to the hospital and scream for help. Somebody will help. Help my baby. Get her well. Help me. Please. Save Her Life.
I faintly remember my mom playing with her in the back seat as I merged onto I-5 and tried to push the pedal down and my foot went numb. I couldn't feel anything. Traffic thinned, and cars zoomed forward, and I must of been moving, because I don't remember anyone honking. My heart was not pounding, but fluttering, and I saw black spots in the midst of the pavement and cars. Oh god, I'm going to pass out. On the freeway, with my baby and my mother in the back seat.
To my right I spy an exit, not our exit, but an exit.
I can't see much because the tears are building a thick dam in my eyes, I can't breathe, and my leg trembles and bounces as I try and push the pedal and barely do, and make it off the exit and off the freeway and land hard in a grassy knoll just off the exit ramp. My poor stunned mother is speechless in the backseat as I wail and let go. I cannot do this. It dawns on me to just floor it and drive as far and as fast away from the hospital and I seriously entertain the thought, but know it is the wrong thing to do. It was an extremely desperate moment, one that haunts me, and I'm afraid will never let me go.
My mom slides into the drivers seat and I move back with Vanessa and sob. I really don't want to take her to the hospital. I just want to be home, holding her on this very last day, not taking her to get a painful blood draw for the nightmare we were going to be pushed into the very next day. Just please God, give us this last day.
I stumble through the procedure, and am totally defeated. It took two tries since her fragile veins were so weak, it wasn't so easy. Traumatic for us both, I wish I could take it all away for her a million times over, and I apologize to her profusely.
We exit the hospital and I can't get behind the wheel, so my mom drives us home, and we stop and get Tully's ice cream. On the ferry we spoon it to her and she smiles and kicks her feet when the spoon gets close to her mouth, and her eyes never leave the ice cream cone.
It was her first and only taste of ice cream.
Since that panic attack, I haven't been able to drive on the freeway. If someone drives me, I'm OK, but I can't be behind the wheel without my Dark Passenger who makes it impossible for me to think straight. It brings me right back to that day, and showers me with that ultimate desperation of wanting my daughter not to leave, of wanting to do anything, and everything to save her life, of not being able to, of that last day I spent with her, and how much I still ache for her.
The freeway doesn't scare me, it's the feelings it conjures, and I pace at the base of my Mount Everest, and look up and wonder if I will ever summit, and proudly drive that flag into the ground. I think I will feel the wind through my hair again, and grip the wheel with a confident smile, but who knows.
So, be kind to people's fears. There is usually some reason behind it. Some may share the reason, some might be too embarrassed. It has kept me back from so many things, and so many visits to people and I feel too lame to say " I don't drive on the freeway," so I usually make up some lame excuse. I do plan to summit one of these days, but it may be far off. Vanessa's death is still so close, and feels so fresh, and I have lots and lots of conditioning to do, but I will do it someday.