Fear 2. Heights

I know it probably seems silly to most people, but anything over 2(ish) feet in the air makes me VERY uncomfortable. I used to have no trouble climbing on counters and up trees, even getting on top of the jungle gym at the playground. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I really actually don’t like to be up in the air. Even if it’s just 3 feet up on the counter.

I can’t even tell you when this all came about. It could just be a result of my anxiety, or a play on my depression where I have an unnatural fear that by being up that high I could die, or if something were to happen to me from that height I don’t think I could survive and if I did I would be either disfigured or dysfunctional. Neither of which is on my wish list for the future.

I have recently been working very hard to get over this particular fear. My boyfriend is a complete daredevil who essentially fears nothing. His strength generally gives me strength as well. Unless he tries to hand it down to me with a condescending attitude. Then I just get frustrated for being afraid, and frustrated with him for not understanding why I am afraid or that being afraid is a totally natural thing to be. I think part of it is his “southern-man-mind”. You know, that mindset that real men aren’t afraid of anything, never cry and are only here to take care of the women folk. Thankfully, after several years with my stubborn self we’ve moved past the last one. I may be a woman, but I am VERY self sufficient.

This year, since January, he has started working with me on my irrational fear of heights by doing things that are up in the air, but safe. We’ve started indoor rock climbing. The first day we went I have never in my life been so afraid, but we took the safety course, they taught us the commands and how to secure the ropes. To be completely honest, rock climbing has really helped our relationship and I feel much closer to him. It’s a trust building exercise. I depend on him to keep me from falling, and he depends on me. Even though he outweighs me by more than 60 pounds and is 7 or so inches taller than me, not once have I ever dropped him and that, in it’s own weird way, has helped me to be more comfortable in the air. Knowing that scrawny, short, weak me can hold him up there makes me infinitely more confident in his ability to keep me safe (not that I was ever THAT concerned, he is super muscled and loves me to pieces).

The first day we climbed I remember making it all the way to the top of the 20 foot wall. It probably doesn’t seem like much to people who are tall, or not afraid of heights, but that was HUGE to me! I was up! In the air! I can still feel that sense of accomplishment. When I looked back over my shoulder at him I remember my moment of panic. One of those, get me down! Get me down! Kind of things. But I made it up there and that was a huge step. I climbed some more that first day, but I never did get back up to the top without panicking or losing my grip from exhaustion and muscle weakness.

The next time we went back to climb, I started on the 30 foot wall. Convinced that I was over my fear and could now climb anything! I was wrong. I made it about 20 feet up and panicked. He lowered me down and even though we climbed for another hour or two that day, not once did I make it to the top of ANY of the walls.

The last time we were there, our third climbing experience, I told him I was going to make it to the top of A wall. I didn’t care which one, but after last time I was feeling defeated and let down with myself. After all, I had done it before! I should have been able to do it last time! We started on the second floor of the facility, they have what’s called a bouldering wall where you don’t tie in or use a harness, it’s heights from 6-15 feet and you essentially free climb. We warmed up by stretching out on the bouldering walls before going back down to the walls. I told him that this time I wanted to start on the 30 foot wall again and asked if he would belay me. He of course said yes and we both tied into our harnesses and I stepped up to the wall. I remember getting my first grip and telling myself to just look up and keep going. They have marked trails on the wall, and you’re supposed to follow those in theory. They lead you up to other holds and foot grips for that “trail”. Well, I am more of a desperate climber, not to mention a short one. Some of the holds were just too far away for me to get too and more out of my way than in my way. After all, I just wanted to get to the top of the wall! I remember only having another 2 or so holds between me and the ceiling. I hit the first one, lost my grip, and asked him if I could try again. He held me there in the air until I got my feet back on the wall and then I hit the second hold and touched the ceiling. I was at the top. I looked down and almost threw up, if I thought 20 feet was high, boy was I wrong! That extra 10 feet was nothing but sheer terror to me! He lowered me down though and once my feet were on the floor, my excitement knew no bounds! I climbed another 30 foot trail all the way to the top that day, and made it about 25 feet up another, then to the top of the 20 foot wall. It was by far my most successful day.

Am I still scared of heights? Absolutely. But this is one fear I can and am taking steps to overcome. This is something I may not ever be able to bet, but I CAN handle it. My next plan (while continuing to rock climb in the meantime) is to take a birthday trip to Las Vegas and an excursion to the Grand Canyon West Rim where there is a sky bridge. A glass bottom and glass walled bridge that swings out over the canyon, 4,000 feet in the air above the Colorado River. I don’t know if I will make it across the bridge, but maybe a change in scenery and a sense of curiosity will at least get me ONTO it! Besides, I won’t be alone! Bobby, my sister Brittany, and her husband Casey will all be there with me! To coax me on, and to support me in my fear and respect of the height that I will be at. As an aside, we have all already been to the Grand Canyon once before, they were like little mountain goats climbing on outstretched rocks that reach into the canyon. I stayed behind the safety rail as far away from the ledge as possible while still being able to see the beauty of the canyon. This time, for me, I’d like to experience the exhilaration of being essentially on top of one of the United States most incredible natural land marks.

Until then, since my birthday isn’t until August, I am going to keep training for heights. I am going to keep moving forward and making progress. I deserve that.

Thanks for reading!

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