Sunday, July 7, 2013

Facing fear: High ceilings, by Alissa Grosso

The latest installment in my guest post series on fear is by Alissa Grosso. I have known Alissa for a few years now, and I have never noticed her reacting to the fear she describes below. (I was probably too busy eating chocolate--or reading book jackets, since so many of our meetings occur in bookstores.) Instead, I have noticed that she writes cool YA books. But read and learn about this phobia:

My guess is that most folks participating in this guest blog series on the topic of fear are going to pick something nice and normal like fear of snakes or fear of spiders. Perhaps they will choose something deep and profound like fear of death or fear of the unknown. I've never in my life done things the normal way, and I see no reason to start now. No, my blog post is on the fear of ceilings.

Okay, specifically it's on the fear of high ceilings. In case you were wondering, this is really a thing. There's one of those impossible-to-spell phobia words to go along with it. In this case: altocelarophobia. Why yes, I did just copy and paste that from Google, but my spellcheck still disagrees that it is an actual word.

For as long as I can remember, I've had an irrational fear of high ceilings. Looking at them makes me feel dizzy and lightheaded. Common places that tend to freak me out include gymnasiums, churches, big fancy government buildings and planetariums with the lights on. Since avoiding such places at all costs would put a bit of a crimp in my lifestyle, I've learned to live with this fear and the weird feeling I experience when I am in one of these high-ceilinged buildings.

Of course, living with an irrational phobia and acting completely normal are two different things. The best of course of action seems to be to not look up at high ceilings, to sort of pretend they aren't there. The result is that I tend to cower a bit when I am in a room with an abnormally high ceiling. I spend a lot of time looking at the floor and peoples' shoes.

Every once in a while, though, I get the urge to take a peek at the ceiling. It's my way of challenging myself, or perhaps my attempt to prove how ridiculous my fear is. Invariably this leads to a dizzy sort of feeling and a layer of nervous perspiration suddenly appearing on my hands. I quickly avert my eyes, returning my gaze to something safe and much, much closer to the ground.

As I begin to schedule some book promotion events for 2013, I do not let my altocelarophobia (spellcheck, Google insists this is a word!) determine where I will appear. In fact I'm looking forward to this year's Hudson Children's Book Festival* despite the fact that it's held in a school gym. I'll be there, and if you happen to be there and notice that I spend more time looking at your shoes than your eyes please know it's nothing personal, I'm just trying to avoid catching a glimpse of that big, high, scary ceiling.

*The festival has happened since this was written ... and without visible author panic!

Alissa Grosso is the author of the YA novels Popular, Ferocity Summer and Shallow Pond. She can be found online at Her latest, Shallow Pond, is about a teen girl whose quest to leave her small town is derailed when she discovers a shocking family secret.