As some of you may have noticed on my bio page, I enjoy riding my Honda Shadow motorcycle.  The freedom of riding out in the open air often helps clear my mind. 

 A couple of years ago, my husband and I wanted to attend a biker’s rally on the other side of Puget Sound.  Previously, we’d taken the ferry across because of my intense fear of heights.  However, I’d been working very hard in therapy processing memories and emotions and I felt it was finally time to confront this demon.

photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Interestingly, I’d learned that it’s common to funnel various bottled up fears from many experiences and dump them onto one or two fears that are more ‘acceptable.’  This proved true for me, which made my fear of heights much more accentuated.  But because of these dynamics, my fear of heights was also being addressed simultaneously with other issues.

 So, we would cross the ginormous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This bridge is not for the faint of heart.  It is a staggering 188 feet high and 5400 feet across.  (Go big or go home, right?)

My biggest fear wasn’t that it would collapse (as it did in 1940) but that I would literally fall off.  This fear wasn’t completely unfounded, because at age 14, I was pitched over the side of a bridge when my bicycle tire got caught in the wooden bridge slats.  My friend watched in horror as I fell the 15-20 feet and landed on my head in the gravelly creek below.

I also had another reason to be afraid of heights.  Shortly after my 17th birthday, I flew with my dad in his 2-seater float plane on a day trip fishing in a remote mountain lake.  The weather conditions shifted, and to make a long story short, we crashed into the frigid lake on take-off.  The details of surviving this warrant a post of its own, but suffice it to say I was left quite traumatized from the experience.

photo credit: alaskadispatch.com

Note: This is not the plane we crashed in, just a similar situation.

When I consider the years of abuse, those two incidents pale in comparison, but together they contributed to a level of overwhelming fear of heights.

The Narrows Bridge is visible long before you arrive, and my anticipation grew steadily as the bridge came closer.  I was nervous, but not panicking.  As we approached, I could feel the butterflies multiplying and preparing to take flight in my stomach.  Suddenly, the ground gave way to the metal bridge deck and I could feel and hear the physical transition take place.  I had a simultaneous transition of my own.  The butterflies disappeared and a confusing mixture of joy and rage rushed through my body.

I was elated that I could finally cross a magnificent bridge without fear, but also enraged that I’d been imprisoned by such fear for so many years.  Tears ran down my cheeks while I laughed out loud and said (for the first time ever) “F*** you Dad!  I’m going to be ok after all!”  My husband was riding just behind me and I held out a thumbs up sign to let him know I was doing just fine!

That was a pivotal day for me as I took a leap forward in leaving fear behind and embracing my budding freedom.

Feeling Free!

Ready to Rumble!

How about you?  What kind of fears do you want to face, or have you faced already?

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