“Gephyrophobia is the anxiety disorder or specific phobia characterized by the fear of bridges. As a result, sufferers of gephyrophobia may avoid routes that will take them over bridges” (unless that’s the only way they can drive to see their kids at college).
Many of us have fears. For example: Don’t ask me to voluntarily drive over a big suspension bridge because I’ll raise one eyebrow in disbelief and scowl. I don’t voluntarily drive over those types of bridges because I white knuckle the steering wheel while navigating a major panic attack when I have no other choice but to drive over a big bridge. Can I drive over those types of bridges? Yes. And I have. But the whole time I’m thinking that the car is going to somehow swerve and dive off the bridge at any moment, with me in it. You know, like something out of an action movie?
Don’t ask me why I have that fear because I don’t know. For decades I’ve had dreams of me behind the wheel driving alone on a bridge when the car suddenly swerves and we fly off the side of the bridge. In other dreams, I am in the middle of one of those bridges that opens up with the the steel grates to let tall ships pass through and I’m stuck as the bridge is opening and separating. In my nightmare, I’m usually dangling from the steel grating and I wake up before I hit the water in those ones. Can you say nightmares?
Why do I have them? I have no idea, but they do mess with my life. I have often wondered if maybe I died by falling from a bridge in a past life. Or something crazy like that? Because I can drive anywhere with no problem. It’s only bridges that put that death fear in me.
Unfortunately, I’ve had flashes of those dreams while wide awake and driving over a bridge in reality. And so I’m still fearful of doing it, even though I know that there’s only a far-flung chance that my fear and dreams could actually become reality. But guess what? Now I have to drive over one of my fearful bridges if I want to see my kids at school, so I am being forced to learn how to control the fear and get over the bridge.
Depending on the day, I’m still a little shaky once I’m off the bridge, but it’s getting better with practice. However, the amount of shakiness mostly depends on the level of the panic attack. All in all, it’s always the same when I get to the other side of the bridge. It’s like all the tension while driving over the bridge flushes right out of my body when I get to the other side. The hot flashes of menopause can’t even compete. And then, for the briefest moment I panic and remember that to go home I have to do it again! But the cheery thought that I get to see my kids takes over and I smile. I did it. And because my kids come first, I drive over that freaking bridge. I am woman…I am single Mom…Hear me roar!
What’s helped me is facing my fear and continuing to tell myself that I CAN DO IT. Some days it’s easier than others. Some crossings are panicked so much that the only thing that keeps my foot on the gas and driving over the bridge and not stopping in the middle is my even greater fear of falling through the open steel grating in the middle of the freaking bridge.
And yet, the joke of the whole thing with bridges is that if someone else is driving, I’m fine. Cool as a cucumber without fear. Watching out the window as the other cars whizz by and checking out the water and boats below the bridge. So what does that say about me? And yes, I am a good driver so that’s not the issue. It’s just the buildup of fear. But every time I drive over a bridge, I call it a triumph!
Do you have any fears that you want to share? Are you afraid of bridges too?