Gephyrophobia is the anxiety disorder or specific phobia characterized by the fear of driving over bridges. As a result, sufferers of gephyrophobia may avoid routes that will take them over bridges. (Thank you, Wikipedia)
In similar fashion to searching your symptoms on WebMD, my family and I sometimes like to look up the actual name to our fears. Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes, Thalassophobia is the fear of deep ocean water, and Xenophobia is the fear of the unknown, to name a few. Giving something a name we find humorous can take away a little bit of the power it has over you. A little bit.
My morning route has me driving over a few bridges, and under them, but all but one are without
stop lights and I can breeze right over as I imagine an action movie scene where the bridge crumbles behind me and my ever impressive heroic mini van makes the jump to the other side effortlessly. Break to a close up of me, the action hero mom with her work badge on and lunch bag beside her. But, there is a bridge that always gets my heart racing. It has a stop light about 10 car lengths in front of it and I just hold my breath for that light to be green. It usually is, but when it's not, I turn my music or podcast up and try to distract myself until it is. Today, it was red. Like really red. Like a super long light red where I was wondering if I was being punked. Someone knew that I had this irrational fear
and timed the light to turn red right before I would get to it and then broke the light. Am I going to have to assess the situation and maneuver through oncoming traffic to get off this bridge? So, here I am, stuck forever on this bridge during morning rush hour. Cars are racing on the interstate below me, shaking the bridge just to emphasize the situation. I keep telling myself that I am fearless. I am such a daring person. I will walk on the mile high bridge without batting an eye. I will stand on the cliff overlooking a huge waterfall. But, driving on one is a different story.
I'm not sure when the fear started, or more importantly, when I noticed it. Anxiety is new to me. I'm not sure when that started either. I've always been a fairly laid back and level headed person. I don't feel stressed about simple things. I'm optimistic, and while I can feel stress, I feel a peace from Him that has always been able to push the fears away and quiet my mind. But, when I went to the doctor last year for fear of having heart problems because of the pains and tightness I was feeling, and having trouble breathing, I was shocked to find out that those were in fact panic attacks and I have anxiety. Apparently, internalizing things and not getting them out is not a healthy way of processing. Who knew? As for this specific fear, I sometimes think back to watching the San Fransisco earthquake of `89. I lived about 15 minutes outside of town then. My mom had just quit her job in the city, thankfully. Being only 8 years old, I only remember bits and pieces but I do remember watching the news and seeing the bridges collapsing on each other. All of those cars and people trapped and crushed. Just thinking about that now gets my heart racing.
So, regardless of when the fear started, it was absolutely there this morning. I'm breathing and
denying. Stuffing it down. But, then I look to the right at all of the cars and I can't look away. Scratch that, I look away every few seconds to make sure that the stupid light is still red before looking right back. But, then I feel as though I should look left. I thought how it's strange that I am on the left side of this vehicle and yet when I am stuck on this bridge, I always look right. So, I tell myself, look left. And I do. And it's beautiful. The sun is coming up on behind the city skyline. The road to the left of me has barely any cars traveling it, and looking this way I cannot see how high up the bridge I am on is.
Anxiety is real, whether a passing feeling for you, or a medical condition. People will need varying degrees of help with this. But, it doesn't need to overtake us without hope. I sat there and I prayed for peace, and it came. While I may have to do that on that same bridge every day, the Helper is there for me. I'll make sure I keep looking left from now on too.
"Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7