Thursday, 15 May 2014

Fear's Scary

So I'm not great with heights.

I've always said "I'm afraid of heights" but I don't really see the point in saying that anymore, I don't like heights, I don't feel comfortable with, on, near, or around them.

When Jason asked if I wanted to go for a hike on Sunday he asked if I was ok climbing a bit.  I reminded him that I'm not a fan of heights but then I said something about how I was ok getting up things, it was just sometimes harder to get down them.

An example of this, I'm not a fan of climbing ladders, or ladder like stairs to higher levels of things, for example, but I can manage to go up them (usually...) but trying to get back down said ladder?  Is much harder.

When I'm at a height and don't have to go up or down it I get what I figure is vertigo.  This feeling of falling towards the ground far far away.  I don't know if it's a feeling of my body wanting to go that way, more of a feeling of the ground tilting me towards the edge where I would then fall off.  When I approach an edge (even on the ferries, the "edge" being the railing) I will sort of do a quick glance and then have to shuffle backwards because of that spinning forwards sort of feeling.  It's not a nice one, but I can usually manage it by moving away from the edge, and/or sitting down.

Sitting down is good.  It helps.  Just is sometimes hard to get back up from when the edge is still too close for comfort.


There's that, and then there's the whole getting up and getting down involving heights.

I don't know how to explain it except that I get scared when I'm having to deal with heights and climbing or descending them.

Jason and I had gotten to a certain point on the hike where he wanted to cut off the path.  It was our first adventuring into a real sort of hike beyond walking along some paths, or onto a beach or whatever, so I had no idea what might be ahead, but I know Jason well enough and feel comfortable enough with him that I figured it would be ok no matter what we came across.

We got to the edge of the forest that looked out onto the ocean and Jason pointed out the little sort of island that he wanted us to get to for lunch.  He was happy to see that the tide was out so we wouldn't have to get our feet wet crossing over.

I think I didn't really know quite what to expect, so I just followed him as he made his way to the... uh... cliff?

Yeah, I don't know quite how to describe it except to say that there certainly was no path leading down to the beachy area but it wasn't a steep cliff cliff.  But it was also, I don't know, 40, 50 feet down?

I was scared.

I mean, it's not as if I had that conscious thought it was just this sense of fear all through my body.

I didn't see what looked like a safe way to make it down and I didn't feel like if I tripped or fell I'd have much of a chance of stopping my head from cracking against the rocks below but I didn't want to not go either.

And maybe that's the coolest thing.

Maybe that's part of what's awesome about where I am in my life now and how supported and safe I feel with Jason as a person and friend and stuff.  I was really really scared, but I didn't think about turning back.  I was going to do it.

But man it was not fun.  I inched my way along, following Jason, and ended up semi-crawling a lot of the way.  It probably wasn't even all that steep, he told me later he'd been there with young kids and I figure you wouldn't take kids on something that was actually dangerous.  But for me it was really scary.

I honestly don't remember how I got down and couldn't tell you what it looked like except there was a tree I held on to at some point and some moss at some point and then there was rock and then we were on the ground.

I was a little shaken, but not bad and we sat and I lay down on the rocks and breathed.  I'd made it and I was just a little shaky.

And then Jason pointed waaaaaaay way up at the top of the little island thing we were going to.

You know... the 40 or 50 feet straight up we were about to climb?  Yeah.  That.

I started to cry.

Couldn't tell you why exactly, just that's how much fear I was feeling.

Jason asked me if I wanted to try another way up, if I was ok, and I told him I was fine, he just needed to make executive decisions.  That I could do it.

See, that's the strange thing.  It wasn't mental, this fear.  My brain was pretty calm.  (I think?)  But my body was a goner.  The climb up was not technically challenging but again it was completely terrifying and I do not remember what I stood on, used as a hand hold, nothing.  All I remember is that I got to the top and I was crying and hyperventilating.

Now, I've never hyperventilated before and the only reason I know I was was because I was breathing as if I'd just done some major cardio, like the end of a marathon type breathing and I hadn't.  So, again, the calm brain part went "hey, Victoria, you're hyperventilating and crying, you should take some deep breaths and calm yourself down."

Jason asked me if I was ok (several times, he's both sweet and good at handling crises) and I told him that while, no, I wasn't fine, I was ok, and I was going to just calm myself down.  He checked in again and then gave me some space to breathe.  Literally.

And you guys I think doing the meditation regularly helped me, I really do, because I started taking some deep breaths and it was like my body went "oh, yeah, this, I know this, this is when we chill out!" and my breathing returned to normal super fast and although I let myself cry a bit more (I was proud of myself too, and that deserved some tears of release) I also sat myself down, ate some food, drank some water and breathed.

Mentally, I calmed down, but man oh man, my body did not.  I managed to get the shakes gone, but my legs had turned to jello.

I could barely stand, and it was like...again, I'd just ran a marathon leg-wise.  I guess all the adrenaline or whatever else goes pumping through your body when you're in an intense fear situation has some longer lasting effects.

We sat on that island for a while, took some shots, ate our lunch and then Jason said we were about halfway to where we were heading for the rest of our hike.

I think I may have whimpered in my head.

Not only because I didn't think my legs could carry me any further, but because I realized we had to get the bleep down the damn island again.


We returned back to the spot we'd climbed up and I told Jason that as long as I could scout it, I could make it.  He asked me if I wanted him to go first, but I wanted to be strong and show myself that I could do it, fears be damned.  So I slid on my bottom to the side of the cliff face thing and turned myself onto my belly.

Which... unfortunately meant I could no longer see where I was trying to go.

I told Jason as much, and I think he could see that I'd kind of panic-frozen because he told me that he'd tell me where to put my feet.

I wasn't sure I could do it.  I did, indeed feel frozen, but I was pretty determined.

The fact that I'm not writing this from a hospital bed should be a spoiler alert to you that I made it home safely, but for a while there, I wasn't sure about anything at all, never mind home.

I was trying to maneuver myself into a decent spot when the rock I was using as a hand hold came out of the dirt.


I repositioned and grabbed something else which also came out of the cliff face.


"Are you ok?" Jason asked.

"I would be, if my two hand holds hadn't just come out."

I said maybe it would be better if he did go before me but now I was in his way so I couldn't just stay frozen, I had to at least crawl back up to him so I somehow managed that, at which point Jason said we'd just find another way down.

I was relieved.

So we took what Jason called a "scenic route" and at one point he asked me if I'd rock climbed before, and I looked at where we were going and I may have shouted that yes, I had rock climbed before "WITH A ROPE!"


So I bouldered.  First time for everything.  I think I did pretty well, although I also had to tell myself not to cry a few times.  "Don't cry right now, you're fine, you're fine." And I also babbled to Jason about I have no idea what. (I actually said to him "I'm just talking to talk" and he said "I know.")

And we had to climb back up that stupid first thing we climbed down and it was SO much easier than when we went down it, but still... damn fears man.  They suck!

My legs were indeed done, and so I asked Jason if we could slow down for the rest of the hike as I was concerned my jello legs would crumble.

It wasn't a tired thing it was a "whatever just shot through my system when I pushed through that massive amount of fear" thing.  Adrenaline?  Cortisol?  Anyone know?  (I'm sure I could google it but...)

We got to the lookout place and Jason asked if I wanted to climb down to the cliffs with him.

My response was a polite "not really."  And I was happy to watch him mountain-goat-climb his way down yet another cliff to the water.

I sat there while he explored and took photos and I ate and I drank and I soaked up the sun.

By the time we decided we were ready to go my legs were back to normal.

This time, we were just dealing with the late in the day time tired legs and let's make sure we're picking up our feet and not tripping over roots in the end of the day light.

I know for a fact I'm not managing to properly describe what I physically felt that day.  But I also know I feel incredibly proud of myself for pushing through all that fear and doing it.

I feel like a lot of my fears are like this.  I either push through them, or they get worse and worse because I keep avoiding them.

I know, I know, that's some big life metaphor lesson but man, it's easier said than done.

That was scary.  Super scary.  I was incredibly scared.  But I did it.  And I'm so so proud of myself for that.

I'm really glad I was with Jason.  I'm not sure who else I would have been able to go through that with.  I knew Jason would help me if I asked.  I knew he would take care of me if I hurt myself (and get me the care I needed and back to safety.)  And I knew he wouldn't make fun of me if I had to stop.  It's a strange thing to say, but I felt safe in my fear.  Does that make sense?

I remember Jay saying to me on one of our first hikes (when we came across an area that I wasn't able to descend because of the height) that if he hadn't loved me so much he would have left me to find my own way down.  I won't get into how I feel about someone who would say that or would act that way, but I'll just say it didn't make me feel safe with him or that I could trust him with my life or well being.

It is a wonderful thing to feel that way about someone.

I was talking to a co-worker on Monday about my hike and making her laugh with my stories of me trying to get up and down these cliffs and whatnot and I told her that Jason had invited a friend to come along on the hike with us.  The friend couldn't make it, but as I explained to my co-worker, if someone else had been on that hike?  I don't think I would have made it.  I probably would have gotten to the first cliff and told them I had to head back to the car.  I wouldn't have felt safe or comfortable enough with stranger to be vulnerable (it makes me feel weak to show my fears like that... to cry and lose it in front of someone is not something I do easily or often if at all) and so I wouldn't have gone ahead and tried to climb anything.  I don't think I would have anyway.  Or possibly I would have tried and been terribly embarrassed for the rest of the hiking feeling like I'd slowed them down and embarrassed myself.

I'm so grateful that it was Jason I was there with and that I did it and that he supported me through it, and told me I did really well.

But, yeah.  That fear's a powerful drug, y'all.  I was amazed at how long it had an effect on my body.

Crazy stuff, I tell you!


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