Heights

Sarah K Stricker
3 min readMar 11, 2021
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I have a recurring dream where I’m at the top of an extremely tall building, peering over the edge, every part of my body screaming at me to return to safety. On a few rare occasions, I’ve fallen. Usually, I’m just stuck up there, above the clouds, wondering how I came to be in this perilous situation.

These dreams led me to research what it’s like to live in a super skyscraper. Who are these people who feel stable 90 floors above the ground? How do they sleep while around them, their perilous “home” sways in the wind? I found an article that described all sorts of problems tenants of these mega high-up buildings have experienced. Intense wind noise, water issues, excessive movement during high wind. All of these sound like absolute nightmares to me. Like being so desperately far away from solid earth wasn’t enough, now my living space, my home, the place I turn to for safety, is unstable during storms and keeping me up at night to groan and whistle about it. No thanks.

I think there’s another part of me that fears that I’d be consistently tempted to jump if I lived that high up.

Everyone shares that slight moment of fear when you look over a ledge, that split second of thinking, “I could technically just, like, jump off.” For most people, that thought passes, and they move on to drinking a cocktail or taking Instagram photos or whatever else it is people do at great heights. But in my mind, with my OCD, that thought is infectious. It lingers and catches hold, eventually convincing me that surely, without a doubt, you will jump if you keep standing there you fool what are you doing move away from the ledge now it’s dangerous and you’re dangerous.

In my dreams, I don’t have OCD. There’s no intrusive thought assuring me that I’ll jump off the impossibly high buildings I find myself standing on top of in my dreams. But I still feel the fear. The fear is intrinsic; even without the explicit thoughts telling me I’m a danger to myself, my dream body still senses the risk and changes the narrative from “you’ll assuredly leap off this building” to “you’re certainly going to fall off this building.” It sounds like only a slight difference, but that change in framing, that shift in the locus of control, feels incredible.

I’ve found myself hoping that one time, rather than being afraid of the edge, rather than falling panicked to the ground after one misstep, I’ll lose my grip on the building, but instead of falling, I’ll fly. Most days, it doesn’t seem like my brain can implement that shift away from terror and toward freedom. But I think the night that I finally take that step off the ledge and shake off the yoke of my anxieties it will be glorious.

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Sarah K Stricker

Writing about disability, chronic illness, & mental health. MS in health communication from @NUHealthComm. Find my work in Invisible Illness & No End in Sight.