Sweaty palms and racing hearts...what happens for you when you’re afraid?
Every time I start to think about writing about this, my heartbeat races and I get that sick, nervous, weak sensation throughout my body. I’ve begun several times and had to stop. I’m even feeling it again right now.
I’m going to do my best to get some of it out anyway.
Somewhere along the way in my life, I developed claustrophobia. I’m not even sure when it happened. One day, it was just. There. So naturally, there’s no way in the world I’d ever want to go scuba diving. I’ve heard incredible tales of the glory of underwater life and have always said, “that’s awesome” and then completed the sentence in my mind with, “for you...and no way am I ever gonna do it!”
Acrophobia came on similarly. One day, I was just afraid of heights. I don’t know why or from where.
Just as suddenly and without preparation, I started challenging these fears in the past year or so. Facing the heights one started when Olivia was four years old and we went to a rock climbing gym. She got belayed into the harness and I cheered her on as she scrambled up ⅓ of the wall. When she got scared, I encouraged her and also told her she could come down whenever she wanted to. She continued a little farther and then came down.
As an anxious premeditator of all possible scenarios, it makes no sense that I was taken by surprise when the moment her feet touched ground again she said, “Your turn, Mama!” and yet, I was. Nearly a decade before, I had climbed in a gym and felt pretty natural at it, but I knew I wasn’t as terrified then as I’d become now. Conscious that it would be way too easy to pass along my fear of heights to my growing daughter’s psyche, I smiled and took some deep breaths as I casually strapped on the harness and enthusiastically said, “okay!” I didn’t want her to know how I really felt. 😰Sweaty-palmed and racing heart, I gripped onto the first handhold and then the second one as I adjusted my feet onto their miniature ledges. I looked up only. And I climbed that thing. From somewhere far away, I could hear my little girl’s voice cheering me on from below.
With sweat dripping from everywhere, heartbeats pulsing in my head, and breathing so shallow, I probably could’ve hyperventilated, I heard a bell. I looked up and noticed it was my hand ringing it. I made it to the top of that wall! I repelled down and when the instructor said it was safe, Olivia ran over to me beaming with pride yelling, “You did it, Mama! Can I have another turn now?” This time, she went past the halfway mark before she was done. Progress!
Eight years later, I’ve climbed a rock wall with her several more times and even done a zipline. It’s still scary. Now, Olivia knows that I’m doing it to face any remaining fear and she cheers me on even more. She also tells me she never had any awareness that I was so afraid. That’s why I made sure to tell her after her own experience was well-established. It’s important for our kids to see areas we’re working on. And it’s even more fun when we can celebrate together.
It turns out that I’m still not quite ready to write about my scuba diving adventure. Next time, I’ll tell you more about it though. Promise! 😉
Is there anything you’ve had a longtime fear about that you’ve challenged in your life? I’d love to hear about it! Please tell me below.