I stood on the precipice of a 15m fall, daring myself to move closer to its edge. My legs tingled. I inched closer and the tingling spread to my chest, arms, then finally in my eyes and I felt that strange sensation of falling while standing perfectly still. I stepped back quickly, banishing several different versions of my imaginary fatal fall. I looked back to the last point I had stood before my nerves failed me. One and a half metres from the edge. Not even close.
Does it sound like I'm trying to commit suicide? Well, the part of my brain that thinks is trying to convince the part of my brain that reacts that this is NOT suicide. Its totally safe. To demonstrate this point to myself, I go to a plank of wood laying on the floor slab. I walk on it, back and forth, finally skipping on one leg before I jump off. See? I have great balance. Now go balance myself on that plank of wood 5 times wider. Only thing different is, its balanced 15m high in the air.
It's so high, says Reacting Brain.
It's got railings, I won't fall, says Thinking Brain.
Immediately, Reacting Brain comes up with 23 different scenarios to overrule this safety feature. My slim frame can slip between the rungs. The bolts holding the railing can come loose. The wood plank will break under my weight, slight as it is. Others are even more unlikely, but it managed to scare the shit out of me all the same.
Sighing, I change tact. I went to the larger platform, built over the drop I had attempted to approach. I'm not as frightened at this area as the platform is wide. There is a small area where there is a gap in the supporting wood, present to make way for taller prop supports. I try walking down this small walkway, holding on the the concrete column and steel props on either side of me. The journey should have been over in two medium-sized steps. Instead, I shuffled along on shaky legs, knuckles white from gripping for dear life. I am annoyed at my pathetic attempts to overcome this silly fear. I've seen the workers and other engineers traipse around this part without a single thought to spare for the act. I know I can do this, too. If only I believed myself.
I turn around and look at the walkway and the ground so far below it, forcefully asserting to myself that it is fine, good, okay. I stood there, visualizing myself walking across -- striding across, like the cool confident engineers gracefully loping from scaffold to scaffold. A working-class spiderman.
The tingling started again. My heart was pounding wildly and I caved again, wanting only to get away yet horrifyingly, I discover that I cannot move a muscle.