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Thread: Terrifying Experience - Vertigo?

  1. #1
    Widdler
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    Terrifying Experience - Vertigo?

    Hi

    I've been walking for many years and never worried about heights - admittedly I don't get too close to the edge but nothing has ever stopped me walking until recently. My wife and I had returned for our hols in Soller, Majorca and had decided to walk the Archdukes: the guide described it as vertiginous and toe-tingling at times and it was pretty breathtaking. For those who have done this walk you will know the part that leads up to the summit then a fairly sharp left turn to descend; for those who don't know it to the right of this sharp left turn the path is approx 6ft wide with a sheer, unfenced drop. Standing 20ft back and looking at the summit all you can see is the sea to your right and the sky straight ahead, to me it truly looked as if I was going to step off the edge of the Earth. I absolutely froze solid unable to move forwards or backwards convinced that around the summit we would fall off: my wife went and checked just to calm me down and in the minute she was gone I convinced myself she was dead so by the time she returned I was hysterically crying. I eventually managed to let go of the thorny bushes and crawl on my hands and knees, cutting myself to ribbons in the process, until I was able to stand up. The only way I could descend was by keeping my eyes on the ground about 6 ft in front of me. I have never felt terror in my life before.

    So, I'm 55, had quite a few scrapes in my life, not generally an anxious or worrying type, and ended up on all fours like a helpless baby.

    I know that clinically I don't have vertigo but something happened that I don't understand. I have to admit that I felt uneasy the whole way up and whilst not the highest I've been it was definitely the most exposed I've ever felt. It's made me concerned about doing unfamiliar walks now and I don't know how to move beyond the fear of finding myself in a similar situation other than meticulously research to ensure these types of areas are excluded - takes away the joy a bit though.

    Anyone who has had similar experiences and can offer me techniques or strategies for dealing with this would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Neil

  2. #2
    ‹bermensch
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    I am no expert, some positive thinking advice/tuition might help; which may revolve around visualisation of successful negotiation of hazards.

  3. #3
    Mini Goon
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    Panic attack - maybe due to low blood sugar or something else nutritional/medical combined with the visual affect of the scene. Get a 'well man' check-up to check bloods, BP etc.

    Give you Mrs a signed note giving permission to give you a slap & a few Haribo's.

    Joking aside not nice & thumbs up for posting.

  4. #4
    Ultra King MoS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilmaxx View Post
    .................

    I know that clinically I don't have vertigo but something happened that I don't understand. I have to admit that I felt uneasy the whole way up and whilst not the highest I've been it was definitely the most exposed I've ever felt. It's made me concerned about doing unfamiliar walks now and I don't know how to move beyond the fear of finding myself in a similar situation other than meticulously research to ensure these types of areas are excluded - takes away the joy a bit though.

    Anyone who has had similar experiences and can offer me techniques or strategies for dealing with this would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Neil
    It does take a bit of the joy away, I know what you mean, Neil, but if you persevere you'll regain your confidence and find that you can cope.....with more and more......bit by bit...exposure will be less of an issue and you'll find you're less worried about what lies ahead.

    There are courses, I think there was one that used abseiling in the Peak District? and I'm sure there are talking cures and therapies if you look for them.

    But walking is free and (because the thought of abseiling freaks me out), I tell myself that bit by bit, I can get over my fear.
    Just take it at a pace you can handle.

    For me that pace is pretty slow but I have made a lot of progress over the years and now I can do stuff I'd never have thought I'd manage.
    I'll never do Crib Goch but I can get up Snowdon by other routes. Remember the glass half full/empty approach and concentrate on what you can do, not what you can't.
    There's loads of great walking out there for people who have trouble with heights, but it does take a bit of planning sometimes and it's worth it, to make sure you don't end up freaked out or having to turn back.......although turning back isn't the end of the world.

    Some tips -

    I don't try anything dodgy if it's windy.
    Make sure you've got footwear that you're confident in and 'spikes' for when they're needed - that feeling of security and contact with the ground is really important.
    Photography and wildlife have become a bigger part of our walks, so dealing with exposure isn't such a big deal.
    Don't be afraid to turn back if you've bitten off more than you can chew. It can be disappointing, but it happens.
    Poles can help with stability and balance - four points of contact with the ground is better than two.
    Matt's voice saying "I won't let you die" - maybe that's unique to me
    A supportive walking partner who has a feel for when you need some encouragement or physically need a hand......who knows when to walk in front, slow down, walk to the side.....what ever...it just makes coping with exposure a natural part of the walk, like putting on your waterproofs when it rains.
    Weirdly - vegetation can help. Even a bit of bracken between me and an edge makes me feel safer, so be aware of time of year.
    Don't always rely on other's (who don't suffer from fear of heights) telling you a walk will be no problem. If they don't have the awareness, they won't necessarily know.
    Do your own research - you tube videos can be useful.
    Repeat routes that were scary the first time - you can get a real buzz the next time.
    I find I can handle a scary section if I know it's not going to last too long. If you don't know what you're getting into it just raises anxiety - planning is key.

    Good Luck

  5. #5
    ‹bermensch Trevor DC Gamble's Avatar
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    Smile

    Agree totally with SD there, and too with Ross, since I have suffered with some quite bad panic attacks over the years with my depression illness. Again, Ross is so right there, brave thumbs up from me also for posting this too. Aha, see that MoS has posted here too now as well, great stuff. Some very good advice indeed from MoS there, Neil.
    Last edited by Trevor DC Gamble; 03-09-2016 at 03:04 PM.

  6. #6
    Initiate padstowe's Avatar
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    Acrophobia? extreme or irrational fear of heights, can happen on varying degrees for different people, this inexplicable thought that the wind is going to take you off the edge or for some mad reason you may just step off. The mind has a mind of its own as they say. The truth, if you can walk along a pavement curb & not fall off then unless the wind is blown you off your feet there ain't a reason why you can't walk that curb at any height, the trick is to get your mind to acknowledge that fact. I hope it passes, it is the old fallen off the horse craic, the longer you stay away from it the more firmer the mind set is.

  7. #7
    Ultra King Diddi's Avatar
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    1606440_823738134326750_743425331075628160_o.jpg
    10580812_823737900993440_3353084335804771290_o.jpg
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    After doing many exciting things whilst on holidays and walking holidays like Touching the Void (glass floor at 1300ft on Aiguille du Midi/Mont Blanc to Parascending from Mt Bagadag in Turkey from 6500ft I must admit nothing phases me or my wife or son,
    Saying that I always feel scared? fear? when I'm scrambling with the wife incase she falls off or gets crag fast , weird but it happens and I have scrambled the whole Cuillins ridge and felt no fear.

  8. #8
    Widdler
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    Thank you for the replies and shared experiences. Weirdly enough if there is a bit of vegetation between me and the edge I'm not bothered! It is irrational and the more I told myself that the more I felt it was real - the positive self-chat seemed to endorse my feeling of loss of control. I must point out that this was not a panic attack, I used to get those years ago and for me this was a totally different feeling, it was one of complete and utter powerlessness. It's re-assuring to read that it's OK to turn back and I'm lucky that my wife is not only a great walking partner but she understands as well.

    We're off to Menorca on Monday for a week and it's 190 steps down the cliff face to the beach below - should be interesting!

    Thanks again to everybody.

  9. #9
    Ultra King Martin Carpenter's Avatar
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    If you look at the MR reports you'll see plenty of people getting crag fast (too scared to move in either direction.). Sheep too come to it and they really do look fearless whenever I see them!

  10. #10
    ‹bermensch
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    Positive thinking

    In common with others where I worked I had the opportunity to take part in a positive thinking course over several days. One bit of advice was to create a mantra that you relate to yourself several times a day; to go on - you say them, preferably out loud, you write them down, visualise success of your mantra, you really work at them.

    The technique can improve goals for anything; private life, work, sport. It is successful in business and sport.

    It doesn't seem to work for England's penalty takers probably because they do not commit fully to the technique or they get distracted with all that is going on. I know from experience of the latter having taken and scored 28 out of 30 penalties. I did play a long time and played long before I took the positive thinking course, with it I might just have scored those other two. I was coached at professional level to pick a square in the net and hit it.
    Last edited by SD; 04-09-2016 at 09:23 AM.

  11. #11
    ‹bermensch Taz's Avatar
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    Childrens' vertigal dropslides do this to me, yet Im happy to stand on the edge of a cliff or abseil down one.

  12. #12
    Mini Goon
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    I'd put myself in a situation where it's likely to happen again, ideally with someone present like your wife before signing up for any course or treatment. Your experience was pretty extreme but it could be a one off.

    You didn't know it was ok to turn back before you read this thread? It's always ok. It's a hobby.

  13. #13
    Ultra King MoS's Avatar
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    It can be really tough - knowing when to turn back.
    And it's always disappointing.
    But sometimes you just have to accept that things don't feel right and what should be a pleasant experience is turning into something really stressful.
    Why make yourself miserable. If it's not your day for a challenging walk, save it for another time.
    I've usually been able to go back and manage it second time around, usually on the back of a few smaller successes that give me confidence to try something harder.

    It can be particularly hard to 'give in' if you're away on holiday because you've invested time and money into having a good time. You don't want things to go wrong.
    But the very fact that you're in unfamiliar surroundings and wanting to get the most out of your experience means that it can be more likely to happen.
    Sometimes you have a go at things that you know are going to be a real challenge because you might not get the opportunity again. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don't....... It's not really failure, but it can feel that way.

    I can remember turning back whilst on holiday on the Amalfi Coast. It was one of those paths cut into a limestone cliff and it varied in width. I was extremely unhappy about the drop, it would be wide enough for two most of the time and now and again it would narrow right down so you were hugging the rock. As the sparse vegetation disappeared and the exposure became even more apparent I decided I couldn't handle it. I'd got myself in a situation where I'd already negotiated a few places where the path was much narrower and I wasn't keen on going back and dealing with them on the return leg, but neither did I want to carry on in case it got even worse.
    We did turn back.
    We did lots of other walks on that holiday that were brilliant considering we were in a 'vertical world' that really didn't suit me. Five out of six days I did fine, but I still regret having to turn back on that limestone ledge.
    Nobody likes to give up.
    And it's not just a hobby, Ross, c'mon
    But my sensible self says, over the years I've got better and the odd day that didn't go so well, shouldn't matter.....
    ......doesn't matter!!

  14. #14
    Widdler
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    Thanks again for all the replies.

    Ross what I mean is it's good to hear that I can give myself permission before getting into trouble that I CAN turn back. I went too far on the Archdukes thinking I was OK but wasn't, still I felt I had to go on instead of swallowing my pride and having the humility to turn back. I know what you mean by "hobby" - there is still real life and in real life I run a successful business with my wife have great kids and grand-kids and worry about very little. But I hate the thought that a fear has taken root in me hence posting on here and finding out from those with similar outdoor interests how I deal with it.

    Thanks for your experiences MoS with the Amalfi Coast - I feel as if I got off lightly!

    All the best to you all

    Neil

  15. #15
    Mini Goon HillBelly's Avatar
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    I've done stuff in the past 10 years that I probably won't do again. My tinnitus makes me a bit iffy balance wise, so I'm not sure how up to doing ridge stuff I'd be now. One tip I have used in my head before is the telephone number one. Start by reciting your own number. First digit, then first and second, then first second and third, and so on. It focuses your mind and gets in back in sync from panic mode. It will start to help you breathe easier if you do it in a slow methodical fashion. Maybe even out loud if you want.

    I remember doing some pointy stuff in the Lakes after a holiday in the Dolomites doing via ferrata (and stuff without the wires!) and nothing bothered me. However, it soon wears off, so a dose of extreme might even help, although as I get older I'm less inclined to do daft things, but still enjoy what I do just as much.

  16. #16
    Widdler
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    I know this is an old post, but I love mountain walks but am not comfortable with drops or places where I feel exposed. A few years back I began to develop problems walking in the lakes? I'd had a couple of irrational experiences on modest paths where I'd had to sit down and get mentally strong. But random paths with no rhyme or reason? (I think it was related to a past private life confidence knock, believe it or not). Generally, steep - but "safe" - paths? I noticed it was getting worse, so I decided to stop it getting worse. I did more walks that I felt comfortable with, and built up my experience again with slightly more challenging routes and learned to actually look at the perceived danger as I'd begun to imagine the gradients of mountain sides as being much steeper than they actually were? I recall one mad fast scramble up the face of Ullock Pike and in my mind it had become a razor blade edge at 18000 ft! Not the case at all. Looking at other walkers films posted on Youtube to get a feel for them first, also helped and I would recommend as a helpful tool.

  17. #17
    Goon
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    Hi Neil

    I found this article and you might find the understanding to your question of Why! https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog...od-bad-or-both

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