32 comments on Splat
1 minute
Due North
Apple iPhone 6s, 2017

Let me be clear before I share this that I am not suicidal and I don’t want to die.

It’s just that when I come to the edge of a height, my mind is flooded with thoughts of jumping. I can’t think about anything else.

I can be having the best day ever. Then I walk up to a railing, as I did this day in the Boone County, Indiana, courthouse, and all I can think of is leaping over the edge. I have to walk away, quickly.

Similarly, when I drive over a high bridge, my mind fills with thoughts of driving my car right off the edge. I turn up my music and sing loud to distract myself.

I’m not in danger of harming myself, but the thoughts are a little disturbing.

Is there a psychiatrist in the house? A psychologist? An LCSW or an LMHC? I’m sure that a professional can explain it. The best I can come up with is that I’m intensely curious about what falling feels like. After all, for decades now I’ve said that my bucket list contains one item: to parachute solo out of an airplane.

I’m telling you this because coming upon this photo recently made me think of it. But also, I think things like this are common to humanity, but few people know it because nobody talks about it.

I took this photo to find out if it would help me push past these thoughts. It didn’t.

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32 responses to “Splat”

  1. Katie Yang Avatar

    I am the same – I’ve lived in high-rise apartments all my life and I always think the same thoughts you describe in your post. Also, train tracks make me curious in the same way. (Not sure if a disclaimer is required but I am, like you, not suicidal at all.)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I always want off the train tracks as fast as possible! But I would really struggle with living in a high-rise apartment, I think.

  2. brandib1977 Avatar

    I have long wondered if I didn’t die from a fall in a past life. In those situations I am both terrified and fascinated by the concept of just letting go and ending it all here. It’s so strange because these are not thoughts I have any other time. It’s oddly comforting to know someone else does the same.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Based on these comments, what we face is more common than we think!

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        It sounds like it! Who knew?

      2. brandib1977 Avatar

        Jim, it really is a thing. Read this and be sure to watch the Christopher Walker clip.

  3. DougD Avatar

    At an edge I can’t stop thinking that someone will drop their purse or phone. They’ll lunge after it, I’ll lunge after them and we’ll all fall. I’m bad with heights, but it gets exponentially worse when you add other people. The mind is a strange and wonderful thing

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sometimes, it’s not fully in our control!

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Have a pal who wasn’t able to climb fire towers in state parks or walk across high bridges because of the fear he would jump off. Again, not suicidal, just felt compelled to jump, even looking over balconies etc. As you say, I think it’s more prevalent than people are willing to admit. I found out about this when we were in high school, and thought it was weird, but have heard similar since, so maybe not so weird.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Looks like not given that about half of commenters have the same mental hitch!

  5. David Avatar

    I always have the thought “You know, I think I can fly”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know I can’t, but I want to go over the edge anyway!

  6. Ken Bandy Avatar
    Ken Bandy

    The first time I was on the catwalks at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, I was OK with the height (80′ above the floor below). My concern was looking over the hand rail and my glasses falling off.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Catwalks make me anxious! Not my thing at all.

  7. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Interesting! I wasn’t even aware that people had that compulsion. I think maybe I don’t have it because I have a bit of a fear of heights and my toes start to tingle when I near the edge of a precipice. I’m glad you’re able to resist it!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I am not particularly afraid of heights – it’s just edges!!

  8. tbm3fan Avatar

    Can say that has never crossed my mind and I am routinely up the mast on the USS Hornet. That puts me about 225 feet above the water and am now the tallest point in Alameda. Great views of the Bay Area and could sit up there all day taking it all in.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like a terrific view!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


    2. tbm3fan Avatar

      So I am just the opposite in that I approach edges over great heights cautiously at first. The highest I have ever been, out in the open, was on top of the World Trade Center in 1980. South Tower had a simple platform on top with a single railing around it set back about 10-15 feet from the edge. Single railing!? What were they thinking? The wind was strong, like it always is when up high, and slowly approached that railing to acclimate myself. Once I relaxed I pulled out my SRT-101 and started shooting all of New York from above. Same acclimation for the mast on the Hornet the first time. Looked straight up and swallowed. Thought to myself don’t look up, don’t look down, just look at the mast in front, wrap your arms around the old rungs, and climb one by one slowly. Today no problem.

  9. J P Avatar

    I KNEW that was Boone County! I remember spending a lot of time looking down at that floor when I had a jury trial there in the late 80s. I was never tempted to jump, but could vividly imagine the loud, hard CRACK of my head on that unforgiving floor if I somehow fell. I don’t much care for heights.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yup. I’ve spent more time in that courthouse than I ever wanted to spend in ANY courthouse. :-(

  10. M.B. Henry Avatar

    You familiar with OCD/intrusive thoughts? Perhaps google “Harm OCD” and see what you think. And feel free to drop me a line about it if you want, as an OCD sufferer, intrusive thoughts are more than familiar territory for me :)

  11. Michael Avatar

    For me it seems to be at least partially driven by curiosity about what my last thoughts would be or what sort of pain would I feel. It’s not an overly prevalent occurrence for me – don’t recall thinking of jumping on the precipice of Half Dome, for example.

  12. Dani Avatar

    They are called intrusive thoughts and I’ve had to work hard over the years to deal with them. I used to think I was the only one with these what could be very disturbing thoughts, some similar to what you mentioned. Carrying my small children down the stairs with thoughts of throwing them against the wall, waiting to cross a street with a friend and thinking at any moment I was going to push her into traffic, and I could go on. Some were very similar to what you mentioned. About 15 years ago, I finally got the nerve to share the thoughts with a therapist. I had never shared them before for fear of being “put away”. That’s when I learned that I was “normal” and this wasn’t unusual especially for folks with anxiety disorders. Being able to label such thoughts as intrusive was liberating. She also recommended reading “The Imp of The Mind” by Lee Bear which was eye-opening; I felt that I wasn’t alone.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve done a lot of work with thought stopping, and most of my intrusive thoughts obey now, but not this one. :-( So I just walk away from edges.

      I’m sorry you had to carry that around for so long worrying that you were crazy. That’s a shame.

      Thanks for mentioning that book! I’ll look it up.

  13. andytree101 Avatar

    Hi Jim! I have a slightly different take, I find I’m no good in tall buildings/man made structures at all. For example I got the the top of the Eiffel Tower after about an hour of cueing, was there about 10 mins, and that was about 8 too many! I’m afraid of falling- not jumping! I do however wonder what it would be like to be falling, and what that last 125th of second would be like? Appropriate end for a photographer in a way! It’s been a life long thing for me – I remember a quote, even now, from a stuntman working on a Christopher Plumber film “Highpoint”. There was a “wired” stunt from the top of the CN tower in Toronto. I remember the interviewer asking something like, aren’t you scared – what if the wire breaks? His reply, something like – “I’ll enjoy the ride and they’ll find grit in my eyes!! It creeped me out then, and still does 40 years later! The weird thing is with me, I’m fine on cliff tops and “natural” heights and don’t have that reaction at all! Same with flying, no issue – strange how the brain works! Cheers and all best wishes Andy

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It is indeed interesting that cliffs don’t bother you like man-made tall structures do!

  14. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

    I had similar experiences when I was young. I would fly a lot in my dreams and sometimes mixed my dream world with reality. Railings and strong breezes would ignite a desire to fly like Superman. Now, I look up in the sky when an airplane flies over and remember my dad who used to fly his cloth-covered balsa wing tail dragger airplane in the corn fields.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Isn’t it funny how we confuse fantasy with reality when we’re young — yet our memories of that are clear and sometimes we think even now that maybe these things were possible then?

      1. Daniel Brinneman Avatar

        Maybe we flew before we were born into this world. 😉

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