My big phobia, however, turns out to be bridges over water. Gephyrophobia is the fear of bridges, but for it to affect me, it's got to be over water and narrow. I can handle 4-lane bridges and larger as I can drive on the inside lane, but 2-lane bridges over long stretches, such as US 301 where it crosses the Potomac, are completely intolerable.
Coming into Virginia from Maryland, it looks like this. It sounds like some nut screaming.
I have no idea what it is, either. It's primal, like my internal cave man is having a total breakdown. This bridge is about a mile long. When I went over it this week, there was light traffic, we were doing 50 MPH, there was minimal wind, it was sunny and there were almost no waves. It was idyllic and I was having to yell at myself to calm down. All in all, it took about 75 seconds to cross the thing and by the end, I was wondering if I was going to black out from the stress. My whole body wanted to shut down and slip into unconsciousness to make the horror go away.
Internally, I was able to watch the psycho-spasm unfold and wonder just what was wrong. I tried reason, but the fear was way beyond that. When I got to the other side, it went away completely.
I've always had compassion for the mentally ill, but as I was going through this, I felt tremendous sorrow and pity for them. I knew that if I made it just another 20 seconds, I'd be completely normal again. What must it be like to have these terrors for hours on end or to have voices in your head that don't go away when you reach some waypoint?
The experience was mentally disjointed and it allowed me a small amount of reflection at the time. Had I been working on a quadratic equation when I got onto the bridge, I might have been able to solve it while 90% of my brain turned into liquid wax and ran out my ears.
I don't know if I can fully describe the raw power of that fear. I think that if I'd been a passenger, I'd have been fine. Maybe that means it was the stress of controlling a car while driving over water.
I know one thing for sure. I'm not going to vacation in the Florida Keys any time soon.