Facing My Fear, Two Feet Off the Ground

I don’t take risks, even with two feet planted firmly on the ground. I don’t stray far outside of my comfort zone, which doesn’t extend far beyond home. So when a friend invited my husband and me to a ropes course, I decided I needed a change. I would sign up and worry about panic later.

When I learned the ropes course was forty feet in the air, I tried not to think about it even though I have an extreme fear of heights. I once froze in the middle of a climbing net at a children’s museum, panic locking my ability to breathe or rationalize the fact I was wallowing in millions of germs.

When I admitted I was nervous about my upcoming adventure, my daughter couldn’t understand why. In her seven-year-old mind the ropes course looked like a midair playground. She never knew I was afraid of heights. Immediately she coached me.

“Mommy, you can do this! You have to do this!” she urged. “You always make me do stuff. You’re going to do this.”

Well now I had to do this. As I climbed the rope ladder up to the first platform and reality settled in, it was those words that kept my quivering legs going. Immediate panic overwhelmed me as I stood shaking at the top of the ladder.

I knew I actually might not do this. I could have driven an hour, paid my fee, and climbed that ladder only to turn around and say I can’t. While the other eleven people in the group moved on to different platforms, tightropes, and nets, I fought back tears and an urge to turn and hightail it through the woods.

It became a morning that wasn’t about teamwork. No one could make me do this but me. Could I cross nine squares floating in the sky like rocks in a stream? “Take one step. Just stand on that tiny square and see what it’s like,” I thought. “Good, now another.” I thought a lot of words I tell my kids not to say. I thought about my daughter and how I didn’t want to let her down. I had to do just one obstacle for her. I didn’t want to go home and say that I didn’t.

It’s embarrassing to stand forty feet high, wiping the one tear that got away, struggling with a lifetime of never taking chances. I didn’t think about getting to the other side or how I’d get down. I thought about taking the next step.

Walking these planks were about as hard as I'd imagine walking a pirate ship's plank to be.

Walking these planks were about as hard as I’d imagine walking a pirate ship’s plank to be.

It felt like hours, but I made it across. The only thing that kept me going after that was that I wanted to try the zip line, the way down from this madness. I had to go through two more obstacles to get there.

This little zipline wasn't so bad but getting to the pole at the other end and connecting my hooks to a safety wire caused great panic. Thankfully someone did that job for me. I hugged the pole.

This little zip line wasn’t so bad but getting to the pole at the other end and connecting my hooks to a safety wire caused great panic. Thankfully someone did that job for me. I hugged the pole.

This was tough but quick. Almost at the end!

This was tough but quick. You can’t see the fear on my face. Almost at the end!

Every muscle tense, my palms sweaty, my feet unsure, I did those too.

I knew the zip line would be quick. I wiped my palms, inched off the platform, and in one exhaustive scream, a release of fear, relief. For the first time all morning, I could laugh and breathe and say, “I did it.”

“At least you conquered your fear,” my husband said on the way home.

“Not really,” I said. Faced it maybe, but it still conquers me.

“Well at least you’ll know what to do if you’re ever in that situation again,” he said.

Fear caught in my throat. “My God,” I thought. “I hope I’m never in that situation again.”

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “Facing My Fear, Two Feet Off the Ground

  1. JWo

    That’s so awesome that you were able to do that. I’m afraid of open heights too and would be a nervous wreck as well.

    I can’t ever let Tammy read this or she’ll want me to do something like that just so she can laugh at me. HAHAHA…

    You deserve a drink (or 6) for this accomplishment!!

    • It was rough. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to turn around, but I’ve always wanted to try something to overcome this. Just seeing people in situations on TV makes my palms sweaty.

      I’ll never sky-dive, never ride in a hot-air balloon, but I will say the zip line was awesome. I would do that again if I could find one that’s not too high.

  2. great job!! it’s so hard to put yourself in situations you’re not comfortable with. but you did it.. and hopefully you had fun too? i really think the germs at the children’s museum are way scarier. 😉

    • I’m not sure I can put it in the fun category. It was different. I can’t describe it. I’ve never been in a situation before–that I can remember–where I mentally checked out of the world and went inside my head. I guess it’s good to know I can do that, but it’s really hard to push yourself when you’re used to chickening out. 😉

  3. As a new mom this had me tear up so bad I almost couldn’t read! My 9 month old is becoming more and more a person every day and to think your 7 year old could motivate you to do something so life changing is breathtaking! I am excited for my little one to inspire me in the years to come. I applaud you on your bravery. I have always tried pushing myself passed the limits of my fears. Although I never made it much farther passed them it was extremely difficult breaching the barrier. Well done!

    • As a mom, it’s really cool when you see your kids using the skills they’ve learned. She truly did get me through it and it was good to have something to fight for.

  4. Yay you! Congratulations on facing your fears and setting an unforgettable example for your daughter!

  5. It’s funny how something that terrifies me may be a piece of cake to someone else. That ropes course looks amazing to be, but turn those squares into spiders and you could hear me screaming from three states over.

    • Yes, and it’s hard to be among others who feel that way too. Had we all be afraid of heights, maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard. I swear, some of those people were climbing that course like monkeys. But that’s what I try to tell myself when I’m around people with fears different than my own: I’m that way about heights.

  6. Well done – I could never do this (unless to rescue one of my children)!

  7. May

    That’s incredible, congratulations! I went on a similar ropes course with my school and I did what you managed not to do – I bottled out after the “test run” section and spent the rest of the day reading my book in the car park. I’m awestruck that you faced the sort of fear that those ropes inspire in those of us who are scared of heights, I hope next time I have to do something that terrifies me I’ll remember this and know it’s possible. (But for the record? No one will ever get me back on one of those courses.)

    • I would certainly not recommend this to someone afraid of heights, not knowing how deep their fear is. I couldn’t do it again. But for years I have wanted to try something in the way of facing this. Maybe that helped.

  8. As a fellow coward, I say WE’LL DONE! My family long ago gave up on me doing anything like that.

    • I am also a big baby when it comes to water activities. I’m just not an adventurous person. I’m trying hard to balance that with living a life though. In my mind that’s living, not falling to my death. 😉

  9. I’m very proud of you. I keep threatening to do our local adventure park, but I fall off my own feet and cannot climb more than two stairs without major dizziness and nausea. I know TMI. But, YOU, major proud of you!

    • I was amazed that I didn’t freeze up. It took a long time talking myself into every movement but I didn’t just freeze. I did worry I’d get dizzy. It’s happened before.

  10. I’m with you, lady… I prefer my feet on the ground! We once lived in a high rise apartment in the city… Beautiful view of the Cathedral across the street… Only I couldn’t even bring myself to stand out on the balcony to admire it, because we were so far from the ground. (And looking down does make it worse, but even if you don’t, you still know you’re not on the ground!). Way to go though!! It looks like fun… For someone else. 😉

    • Yeah, I can’t do balconies very well either. For this experience, I had to sit on the platform for a long time and adjust to the surroundings, which meant looking down and taking it all in. I had to get used to the height first or I couldn’t do it. My next adventure will be on the ground!

  11. Congratulations! You set a perfect example for your daughter by conquering your fear (though I’m not sure if she knew that you were afraid of heights). I love obstacle courses, but put me in a dark theme park haunted house, and I have a major freak out session.

    • When I talked to her on the phone afterward, the first thing she said was, “Did you do it?” I would have felt awful if I’d had to say no. It felt good.

      The dark is a scary place sometimes. I especially don’t like being outside at night, thinking campgrounds here, walking alone to the bathroom. Spooky.

      • Well, as mums we have to do what it takes. Your daughter must have been proud of you 🙂

      • I don’t think she knew the emotional effort I put in, but she was happy. If I hadn’t done it, she would have been disappointed. My daughter is young but she’s had to push herself a lot. I actually learn a lot from her.

  12. The adrenaline hit might become addictive. Congrats on your achievement whether it ends up being a once off or not.

    • Oh I will never become an adrenaline junkie! Unless you count finding a great recipe the whole family will eat or getting to school without hitting any red lights.

  13. Well good for you!! My hat’s off to you as I have an irrational fear of heights (as in gets dizzy by simply standing in a chair to change a light bulb), I have never been a risk taker either, but I am so proud of you for doing this. Congratulations on ‘facing’ your fear! 🙂

  14. Well done you. I am willing to bet you have a buzz out of having done it. Not that you actually want to do it again, but that feeling of having actually done it is pretty awesome. I felt that way after psyching myself up to give blood. The after-effect lasted ages and I got so much more done at work!!

  15. Im for you, you manged to get the confidence to so that, more than I could my self, you earned some good brownie points!

  16. Wow! What a way to conquer your fears and think about your kiddos. I am dreading the days when my nugget (she’s only 14 weeks) has me pushed to my limits. I know we challenge ourselves daily to be better for our kids, but that was a major challenge. Nice work, Mama!

  17. I live in my comfort zone too. I am slowly coming out of it. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Lisa

    Glad you tried it. It looked like a lot of fun and this way you’re still cool in your kids eyes. If you did it enough times it really wouldn’t bother you quite as much. Look at me and airplanes – I’m down to only a pill to fly now. Hahaha

  19. That was very enchanting and interesting and congratulation for your tremendous performance:)

  20. That was awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  21. That is awesome!! High-fives to you!

  22. My heart rate picked up just looking at those photos. Am so scared of heights. It must have felt so good to look back and see that you actually did it! Thanks for sharing

  23. rebeccasubbiah

    great job looks fun

  24. Pingback: It Took 40 Years To Be This Person | Mom in the Muddle

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