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Holisticonline.com

Fear of Skiing - A Phobic Tale
by Lana Waite

“What do you mean you don’t want to go up the lift? You’re good enough to ski that run. Do it!” Mightyman whizzed away, strong, brave, and fearless - words that could never apply to me. Skiing activated all my phobias.

With misgivings, I settled into a lift. I clutched my poles so they couldn’t fall and leave me rudderless. I tried not to wonder what the off ramp would be like; off ramps made me nervous. Maybe if I practiced deep breathing my stomach would stop quivering. I sucked in a breath. Another. One more… “Hey, lady, wake up!” My chair partner jabbed me with an elbow.

“Oops! Sorry!” I readied my poles. One basket caught on a ski binding. Frantic, I unhooked it just in time to stand up and wobble down the ramp. The chair bumped me and ruined my balance, my skis caught in a rut, and I flailed to a stop. I waited for panic to die. At least I hadn’t fallen. At least they hadn’t had to stop the lift while I struggled to get back on my skis, in front of all those staring eyes, thus triggering my Scophobia (fear of being stared at).

I was facing a narrow run filled with dips and hollows. Each hollow was deep, and shorter than my skis. I could see myself straddling each one, snow under the tips of my skis, snow under the tails, and air under my boots. Perhaps one jumped over them. Skied sideways? I watched people go by. It looked easy while they were doing it, hard when they were gone. I doubted that I could get past those hollows without falling, thereby activating my latent Algophobia (fear of pain) and Traumatophobia (fear of injury). But, you know, when you get in one of those places no one’s going to rescue you, and if you stand still your nose freezes. So, finally, I moved — sidestepping, slipping, and making one awkward step turn, poles planted in shaky desperation at the tips of my skis. A kick turn would have helped but I was afraid I’d get stuck with one ski pointing straight up. Anyway, I made it. I did it by ignoring my Ergasiophobia (fear of self-destructive action).

So there I was, at the top of the mountain looking down. Now I had all that steep space in which to contemplate my other phobias: fear of heights, precipices, and rapid movement. And at the bottom I’d have to wrestle with fear of fatigue.

It had always been that way but, because my family skied, I skied — sort of. I never went down a hill without trauma. I’d do anything to avoid a steep place. On flat runouts I snowplowed so I wouldn’t go too fast. Then we scheduled a trip to Jackson Hole. To prepare I took lessons. Dreadful experience. I went places I’d never been, to hills steeper than I’d ever skied, going faster than I’d ever gone.

In Jackson I signed up for lessons too, in an easy class. But the motto of Jackson Hole is “Ski the Big One.” To characterize the area in one word, say “steep.” And they’re proud of their powder snow, apologizing for the few groomed hills. Most lessons took place in powder to our boot tops. I fell down a lot. Given two words to describe Jackson, I’d say “steep” and “deep.”

Each day we were taken higher and steeper. Or, to put it another way, harder and scarier. And during the long, sheer runs, I kept remembering that at home I could cop out if it got too tough, go back to the lodge for a little comfort. No chance at Jackson Hole. You’re a mile up with no idea of the safest way down. And it would take as long to go down by yourself as it would with the class. So, you ski where the class skis — higher and higher — until finally you ski off Thunder Chair, a mile up and, of course, two miles down.

Finally the instructor said, “Tomorrow we’ll take the tram.” Just like that! I’d studied the map. ALL the runs up there were BLACK. I knew what black meant. Black runs were hard. Black runs excited phobias. Black runs were not for me. That morning I had a full-blown cold. Stress. I opted out. Oddly, my instructor was ill that day too. Because of me? Had I given him Kakorraphiaphobia (fear of failure)? I never saw him again to ask. Back home again, I looked up at the mountain. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered. Took a run on Kangaroo. Sashayed down Weasel. Say! What was this? I eyed Summit Chair. How bad could it be up there after I’d survived the run off the top of Thunder? Rode up to Alpine Bowl. What a place! Under my feet was groomed powder I could ski in. I took the detour to Yellow Trail. On this area map it was black. At Jackson I thought it would be blue, so I skied down.

Voilà! A miracle! No trauma! And I know what happened. It’s called “flooding,” during which psychologists confront patients over and over with what scares them silly. In lessons at Jackson, I was forced into situations that terrorized me. I showed up at the start of a lesson but would have quit in the middle — if only the mountain hadn’t been so big. It was hard. It was scary. And it just might have cured me.

I could go back to Jackson Hole. And I could take lessons again. Two more trips and I might actually learn to like the sport. Then I’d have only one worry left. What if I began to enjoy skiing a lot and developed another phobia: Hedonophobia (fear of pleasure)? I’d just have to “flood” my life with fun and get over it.

See Also:

Anxiety Disorders Infocenter in Holisticonline.com

Panic Disorders Infocenter in Holisticonline.com

Lana Waite is a writer who grew up in Seattle but now lives in Northern California. Her first mystery, BURIED IN BURRYWOOD, is set in a Pacific Northwest town where someone is “cleaning up” by murdering unlovable people. In April 2004 THE MADD MOUNTAIN MURDERS will be published. http://www.waiteweb.com

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